The Curmudgeon


Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Interview in a Small Room

"Why did you do it, Mary? Can you tell me that?"
"It seemed the most humane way. Sleeping pills and gas. They just dropped off. I carried them up to the bedroom and they never knew a thing."
"We did everything we could to resuscitate them. Your daughter responded briefly, but unfortunately - "
"You should have left her alone. You should have left all of us alone."
"Why did you do it, though?"
"To spare them worse. And me, too. It seemed just as well to get it over with while things are still more or less civilised."
"You mean your ex-husband, the divorce?"
"Don't be bloody ridiculous. I mean our civilisation. The climate's changing, or hadn't you heard? In a few decades, perhaps a few years, life won't be worth living."
"There are still some scientists who don't believe the climate really is changing, you know. Even if it is changing, there are plenty of people who don't think it'll be all that harmful."
"Well then, let's just say I made a judgement call."
"Do you really think that judgement was yours to make, Mary? We can't dictate the value of other people's lives."
"Remember that man who poured petrol over himself and struck a match outside the Employment Emporium the other week? Burned himself so badly that his insurance barely covered the costs. Do you know what happend to him?"
"They managed to identify him by his dental work. Once his record came up and it was clear he was insured for life-saving measures, he was taken to hospital and treated."
"And died anyway, after three days of agony."
"I'm sure they tried their best. What's your point, Mary?"
"My point is just that, Doctor: they tried their best. He was a hopeless case, not only financially but medically too; but still they tried to save him, and in doing so they inflicted on him seventy hours of excruciating pain. Weren't they setting a value on his life - a quite different value, incidentally, to the value he set on it himself?"
"You can't equate the actions of the medical profession with what you've done. It just isn't the same."
"You're damn right it isn't the same. I prevented pain; they prolonged pain, just as you and your people have prolonged my pain by resuscitating me."
"We can't value life by how much fun or pain there is in it, Mary."
"You can and you do. The question is simply whose pain and whose fun - yours or someone else's? Dragging a suicide back from the brink to face an infanticide trial - don't tell me that isn't fun of a sort. If you didn't enjoy it on your own account, just think of the bigger picture - the media, the public interest, the miniseries next year - "
"So you do think we'll be around next year? And watching TV?"
"Still here, and still getting worse. A little narrower, a little nastier, a little poorer, a little more brutish. Then eventually the collapse - war, starvation, slavery, rape and all the usual - and after that probably extinction. The climate will keep changing, you know; even if we were to stop all pollution tomorrow, we'd still have the worst ahead."
"And you killed your children to spare them that."
"I did."
"And nothing can bring them back."
"...Nothing. Yes."
"And now that you have done this terrible, irreversible thing, Mary - what will you do if civilisation doesn't end?"
"Do you have children, Doctor?"
"Do you love them?"
"What will you do when it does?"


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