I have put together four articles looking at specific aspects of the taboo nature of death. They are only short and rather basic, written more for fun and to brainstorm than to actually put something 'proper' together. Basically I have been trying to read through some 'heavy' stuff. Like Merleau-Ponty's "Phenomenology of Perception", which is an incredibly dense book. So I felt like something a bit fun and light for a change of pace. After all, it's the time of year when we should be relaxing a little and having fun!
This post focuses on the separation of life and death, how this appears simple and clean. But is actually blurry and loaded with controversy.
One might not think 'life' has much of a relationship with death and funerals let alone a taboo one. How the two do not even interact as many think of death as simply the opposite of life. Part of how where we define where and what life and death is that death 'occurs' when life 'stops'. Life comes to its end and death takes over. This tends to remain the same for spiritual and religious views as non-spiritual or non-religious.
Yet already we start to see a solid relationship, that life exists in opposition to death. Life is what death is not, and death is what life is not. Further more the two cannot exist in harmony or together, one is not alive and dead at once. We think of life and death as dichotomous and incompatible oppositions, one or the other with little to no overlap. As such we create ridged definitions and understandings of these concepts.
It is here, in this ridged definition and polarisation that the taboo sits. This understanding is not always accurate or applicable, as things are not so simple. As much as we dislike it things and people can be alive and dead at once, which causes tension within us and within our understandings.
I am sure many might wonder how one can be alive and dead at once, that perhaps I refer to zombies or some other abstract and unrealistic concept. But I am talking about tangible things happening constantly right now. The euthanasia debate is one wonderful example of what I am talking about. Here we have extreme cases of people dying, in the process of no longer living. The fact they are 'dying' questions the ridged definitions of life and death. They are at once between life and death, blurring that line and blurring our definitions and understandings.
Now, there is a reason why I picked euthanasia and not just talked about the terminally ill, or death row prisoners, or other many other viable examples. It is because these are people who want to die, at leas the ones I am referring to. These are people we are currently debating whether or not hastening their death is good or bad or practical. These are not just people dying, but people 'actively' dying for various reasons.
They are not just accidentally in-between life and death, they are deliberately here. It is not solely due to their illness that they are here, it is because of the discussion and heated debate about their death. The euthanasia cases are examples of people who are on the way to death, but also want to die or we want to die for noble reasons.
This of course causes issues within society as it is incompatible with our social system as well as our definitions of life and death. Without going into detail society use to be governed by death. Those in power (such as the government) would administer death to those who defied them. For example nations often went to war to defeat a rival nation, or traitors were killed publicly to deter others. However this has changed, we now rule through protecting life. For example we go to war to save our nation, or lock up prisoners to protect society. Society protects life to an almost fanatical level, hence why things like euthanasia become such difficult concepts to adopt. Society is set up to protect life, to kill someone for whatever reason is now a failure.
Society uses the ridged and dichotomous definitions I briefly discussed at the start. People are alive or dead, there is no middle ground. The euthanasia cases, which exist deliberately in this middle ground, are confrontational to our social system. They actively blur the understanding of life and death but welcome death and defy societies' fanatical protection of life. The fundamental way society works and understands is brought into question.
Life itself is a controversial and confrontational topic, especially in relation to death. While we might think of things as simpel one-or-the-other there are overlaps, even in regard to death. Some of these overlaps are quite deliberate.