The clown and the chil­dren

In his post­face to the book Il-Liġi, ilMo­rali u r-Raġuni, Peter Ser­ra­cino In­glott spoke of “that sort of schizophre­nia which leads one to act at vari­ance with one’s be­liefs”. Em­bryo freez­ing and abor­tion

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS - Mark A. Sam­mut

Il-Liġi, il-Mo­rali u r-Raġuni is a long con­ver­sa­tion, pub­lished in book form, be­tween for­mer Chief Jus­tice Giuseppe Mif­sud Bon­nici and yours truly; Ser­ra­cino In­glott was prais­ing Mif­sud Bon­nici by im­pli­ca­tion for liv­ing ac­cord­ing to his be­liefs.

Ser­ra­cino In­glott un­doubt­edly had a sub­tle mind, equipped with vast knowl­edge, and it is a pity that he has still not been stud­ied enough. The only pub­lished work I am aware of which analy­ses Ser­ra­cino In­glott’s thoughts is Mario Vella’s Re­flec­tions in a Can­vas Bag, of 1989.

Ser­ra­cino In­glott viewed him­self as a clown, who I un­der­stand as the in­car­na­tion of the joke made in the spirit of the sad­ness en­gen­dered by cu­rios­ity. If you are cu­ri­ous, you set out to seek knowl­edge, and when you find that it is im­pos­si­ble to har­ness all there is to know, you be­come sad, and then joke about it. Or, if you can­not joke about it, you sim­ply fall silent. Not be­cause you would have said all there’s to say, but be­cause you re­alise that some things you sim­ply can­not talk about. Mostly be­cause lan­guage is not so­phis­ti­cated enough to deal with ev­ery­thing.

Some­times, the sad­ness can be due to the fact that you know that there is no real au­di­ence for your joke. A joke is like a neu­rotic ques­tion: it mad­den­ingly needs an an­swer. The im­plied ques­tion is: “Isn’t the po­ten­tially sad sit­u­a­tion de­scribed in the joke in re­al­ity funny?” If the au­di­ence agrees, then it answers by laugh­ing, and a cathar­tic mo­ment fol­lows. If no an­swer is forth­com­ing, then the joke, which was meant to elicit hi­lar­ity, ends up be­ing a ve­hi­cle for sad­ness. Some­times, the joke is not a ve­hi­cle but is it­self sad, be­cause there is no au­di­ence for it, and it re­mains an unan­swered ques­tion.

I think that when Ser­ra­cino In­glott ap­peared be­fore the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee, he could have cho­sen to re­main silent on em­bryo freez­ing. In­stead, he chose to talk and I sus­pect he was play­ing an in­tel­lec­tual joke, which has to be partly un­der­stood in the con­text of his re­la­tion­ship at the time with the party then in gov­ern­ment.

Chris­tian­ity and Catholic dogma

The joke could also be un­der­stood in the light of the fact that in the Mid­dle Ages, for al­most 500 years, Catholic dogma was that the em­bryo joined hu­man­ity only when its limbs had formed. Be­fore that mo­ment, it was con­sid­ered first like a veg­etable then like an an­i­mal. (Re­minds you of the fa­mous “em­bryo is not a hu­man be­ing” in­sight.) In the Mid­dle Ages, there were those who be­lieved this mo­ment hap­pened on the for­ti­eth day, oth­ers on the eight­i­eth. Iron­i­cally, it would seem that it was Martin Luther who be­lieved that hu­man­ity was there from the mo­ment of con­cep­tion. In a clas­sic ex­am­ple The IVF pro­ce­dure ful­fils the wish of peo­ple to beget chil­dren, and this is the most won­der­ful thing in the world. It should not, how­ever, en­gen­der eth­i­cal prob­lems, such as the freez­ing of em­bryos and their des­tiny.

One con­se­quence of freez­ing em­bryos is that it paves the way for the in­tro­duc­tion of, at least, early-term abor­tion.

Many pro-abor­tion ar­gu­ments I have heard or read seem to me child-like. “My body, my choice” and other sim­i­lar bat­tle cries seem like chil­dren who want to play foot­ball but then won’t bear the re­spon­si­bil­ity if they break a win­dow­pane. They are the ar­gu­ments of peo­ple who want to ex­tend child­hood as much as pos­si­ble, who are afraid of grow­ing up.

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