ragged edge magazine online



Issue 1




A Modest Proposal
For Preventing Disabled Children from Being A Burden to their Parents and Society, and for Making them Beneficial to the Public

By Peter "Stinker"

Anne Finger found the following document on her hard drive a few months ago -- she thinks it must have been sent there by that worm that picks up documents off other people's drives and sends them on through cyberspace.

"What an interesting coincidence that this should have reached us!" she writes.

It is a disturbing sight indeed, for anyone who has traveled in what we in the industrialized nations euphemstically call "underdeveloped countries" and seen the streets and marketplaces crowded with starving beggars, begging for food and coins. As I have argued elsewhere in my work (especially in my Practically Ethics and Reshrinking Life and Death), our ethical obligations to other sentient beings are not dependent on our geographic proximity, racial and ethnic similarity or any other such extraneous factor.

At the same time that malnutrition and even outright starvation are rampant in the non-industrialized world, the lives of disabled infants are sustained at enormous social cost in the neonatal intensive care units of modern hospitals in the industrialized societies. These infants will, of course, survive only to live lives of which are nothing but pitiable and miserable.

The resolution of this sorry state of affairs would indeed be a positive good in the world. Therefore I propose a two-fold solution which, while it will not completely transform this sorry state of affairs, will be a positive step towards remedying it.

The first part of my proposal is that the money heretofore wasted on the preservation of the lives of these severely and grossly deformed lives be diverted to the care and nurturance of the non-handicapped in the Third World whose lives are currently threatened by malnutrition and curable diseases.

I do not expect that this part of my proposal will prove controversial. No logical argument can be made for preserving one life when a hundred others could be rescued from starvation with the money saved.

The second part of my argument will, I am almost certain, meet with more resistance: therefore, I am going to make a few points before I even offer it. Be aware that many new ideas are initially met with shock and horror. Galileo, Copernicus, and Darwin are but a few of the thinkers whose ideas not only challenged the established order but filled those who heard them with an innate sense of revulsion and the notion that they were "unnatural." I suspect that many of my readers will have the same reaction to my modest proposal, but I urge them to look beyond this initial emotional response and consider the irrefutable logic of my position.

I propose that these same infants, who will perish without this intensive medical treatment, be humanely slaughtered and then eaten. The carcasses could be shipped to countries in need of food, but it would probably be more practical to sell them on the open market, and donate the proceeds to charities such as Oxfam and Care which provide famine relief.

The objection will be made that the practice of cannibalism is shocking and offensive to our sensibilities; that however little one can argue with the logic of the practice, no one will want to indulge in it. Recent practice has shown us that a certain class of consumers be willing to buy almost anything if it is presented to them as a luxury; indeed, the practice will be seen as "cutting edge" and consumers will vie to pay vast sums for the privilege of indulging in such a daring repast, while at the same time comforting themselves with the thought that they are helping to make the world a better place.

While I myself have never tasted human flesh, Jonathan Swift assures us that a young child is "a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricasse or a ragout . . ."

With apologies to Jonathan Swift.

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