Usurpation and the Loss of the Young

An ethical quandary posed through class discussion asked the question of how we make sense of short lives, even those that are doomed from the start. In the medical field, the question is if you can justify expensive care for a young life that will ultimately be extinguished, even with the care. Think birth defects like lacking kidney’s to borrow the class example. Through the class came the professor’s suggestion that the problem in accepting the finality of young life is our narratives of illness presuppose a long life. We are able to deal with the finality of those who have lived, but have no narratives to give meaning to those who have, ostensibly, never lived and more importantly lack the ability or foresight to place their life in context.

Unequipped to place these lives into a fabricated narrative, we find other ways to integrate these tales of lost meaning, through usurpation. These lives become positive symbols in our own narratives. They are markers of inspiration, of struggle against unfair odds, against futility. The tales told are our narratives of their lives as an effect on ours. The act of usurpation eliminates the lost body and the need to make narrative sense removed.

Going primarily from my own experiences and our cultural practice, I suspect we have a tendency to resist the act of usurpation. The act of burial conflicts the goal. While there is an attempt to preserve the body and with it the person, the burial hides the body away, thus allowing the usurpation to continue. As to whether or not this usurpation and elimination of the lost body is necessary for coming to terms with grief, I lack evidence to say; however, the finality of all life demands usurpation into the cultural memory in order for sustained existence beyond life.

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