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The value of life

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Life is not before you, life is not behind you. Life, that is now.

Whether you are 5, 35, or 85 makes no difference. Life forms at the moment it is lived. Right now, that is. The fact that older people feel written off, no longer useful or welcome, says more about our society and the way we look at life than we might like to admit. It says that the value of a life is determined by its usefulness. By what it benefits or costs. Something that costs money but is still developing - a child, for example - is an investment. Something that costs money and will no longer yield - an elderly person, for example - should be written off. It is the economic value of a human life.

But can't the value of a life be determined in other ways? The solution of the 'persistent death desire of the over-80s', as Dijkstra calls it, is by ending life. What I am concerned with here is not whether or not euthanasia can be performed morally. Rather, I am concerned with whether or not more and better consideration should be given to how a life can be (again) valuable and experienced, even without economic benefit. There is a distressing loneliness among the elderly. It seems to me a telling sign: our society is pushing certain groups aside. The elderly are no longer part of society; they are a burden to be put away as humanely as possible. The elder does not live in the now - his life is over. His time has passed. No more future for the elderly.

But looking wider than just the elderly: what is the value of an unemployed person, a refugee, a disabled person? Yes, even: what is the value of the working person? I think this question will become increasingly prominent, as opportunities in the labor market will decrease because of automation and increasingly advanced algorithms (AI) that will be able to take over many human tasks at lower cost. It seems to me that a basic income will come ever closer as a solution to a much broader problem: increasingly expensive systems of benefits and allowances and the associated regulations, bureaucratization and rising costs. A growing group of dependents on these systems and a shrinking group of people who can provide the funding.

From that perspective, Dijkstra's solution can be applied to many more groups. Do you have a meaningless life and experience it yourself? Then we can end it. The 85-plus limit is just out of the blue; after all, you have to draw a line somewhere. Or maybe; you have to start somewhere.

In short, the question is penetrating and essential: How can the value of a human life be determined other than merely from economic utility. How can we look at life in such a way that every human being counts, is important, has a function. Making every human life meaningful again. It is the question of life instead of death.

Life is not before you, life is not behind you. Life, that is now.


Erwin de Ruiter

"One man tries to express himself in books, another in boots; both are likely to fail." - G.K. Chesterton

2 thoughts on “De waarde van leven”

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