News and Commentary

KLAVAN: The Culture Of Happiness Is Deadly

On Wednesday’s episode of “The Andrew Klavan Show,” Klavan explains how a “culture that embraces happiness and the end of suffering as life’s chief goal, is ultimately a culture that embraces death.” Video and partial transcript below.

All day long yesterday, I was praying this story wasn’t true. The way it was first reported, a seventeen-year-old girl named Noa Pothoven was legally euthanized in the Netherlands because she couldn’t recover emotionally from rape and sexual abuse. As someone who struggled with depression in my youth, and who has worked on hotlines speaking to suicidal people, many of them teenagers, I consider euthanizing a teen a Nazi-level act of barbarism, and I could not believe it had happened in a civilized country.

And whenever a story seems to play too neatly into the fears and hostilities of conservatives or leftists, I always triple check it because I know fake news is on the march. I try to make sure the story doesn’t just appear on junk sites like CNN or the New York Times but has made it to responsible outlets like the Wall Street Journal or Fox.

Where things stand as I go on the air today, it is unclear who killed Noa. She was depressed and under the law in Holland, euthanasia is allowed where suffering has become hopeless and unbearable in people as young as twelve, with a parent’s permission. After 16, the parent’s permission is no longer needed. About 65-hundred people were euthanized in the Netherlands last year, the government says only a few of them were killed for emotional reasons.

We know that Noa asked the government for permission to die and was turned away last year. We know that a Dutch member of Parliament visited her at the end. But it now seems possible she starved herself to death without the government’s help. I’m not sure.

But whatever happened, I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to say that a nation that permits 12-year-olds to be euthanized is operating under certain assumptions that make the suicide of young people more acceptable. That makes suicide itself more acceptable. I think that chief among those assumptions is that life ought to be happy and comfortable, and when it is not, it ceases to be worthwhile. I think that culture, the culture that embraces happiness and the end of suffering as life’s chief goal, is ultimately a culture that embraces death — because many of the most important moments of life, the life-like moments, aren’t happy at all. I also think it’s possible that the culture that killed Noa Pothoven is the same culture that is killing Europe herself.

About 80-years-ago, a man named Aldous Huxley wrote a great novel about such a culture. It was called “Brave New World.” Hearing about the death of Noa, I can’t help thinking that Huxley was a prophet. And so my two questions are: Can we defend ourselves against the lure of happiness? And should we?

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