Topics

Autonomy, care and functional diversity

The body, in addition to the physical component, with all of its potentialities and limitations, has a culturally produced component. It establishes what is and what is not normal, what is health and what is disease. However, fortunately these constructions can be modified.

The social movements and struggles related to functional diversity strive to modify the imposed categorical discourse. Breaking away from the labels of "dependent" and "handicapped" has been their first milestone. In addition, they have converted diversity into a value to be politically asserted in order to demand the conditions that permit all people to develop their life project. They denounce the fact that the self-named "welfare societies" are still incapable of welcoming differences and hinder autonomy, given their organisation based on self-sufficiency and productivity. On the other hand, they demand recognition of the interdependence inherent to all people, given that any person's life has periods of dependence: childhood, disease, old age, etc. Care and mutual help are essential for all people to be able to develop as a person. And everybody, including those with functional diversity, should enjoy guaranteed respect for the way they want to be cared for.

Film: Gabrielle

 

Black market for human organs

Spain is the state with the highest number of organ donors, with 32 kidney donors per million inhabitants, according to the World Transplant Registry. But this figure pales when compared to the number of people who wait for a transplant in the country.

In most countries demand is higher than supply. More than 1.6 million people across the world receive dialysis, but there are only 67,000 kidney transplants a year according to the UN Organ Trafficking report published in 2009.

In a system that perpetrates and increases inequality between people, and even more so in a context of global economic crisis, black markets flourish, where access to a transplant and improved health conditions –a universal right of all people– depends on the economic capacity of the person waiting for the organ, always at the cost of repeated abuse towards the groups at the greatest disadvantage. Vulnerable people who can be affected by organ transport are largely poor, immigrants, members of the displaced working class, particularly the homeless and uneducated from poor countries. Often the organs on which this "business" is founded are obtained by force, cheating or even theft.

Film: Tales from the Organ Trade

 

The right to die with dignity

Euthanasia was regulated in the Penal Code for the first time in Spain in 1995. Article 143 establishes "sanctions for the crimes of induction and cooperation" in the death of another person and mitigating circumstances are considered to be "the express and unmistakable request of victims suffering permanent ailments that are difficult to withstand, or a serious illness that will necessarily lead to death".

Two years later in 1997, the European Council Member States signed the Oviedo Agreement that, theoretically, led to a new paradigm in clinical relations between medical professionals and patients based on dialogue, information and mutual respect that seem to recognise the autonomy of persons who are afflicted by and suffering as the result of illness, discarding a certain medical paternalism. However, the reflection of these considerations was ambiguous, both in medical praxis and in the law in force. So it remains in the hands of personal professional criteria and not the persons or the families that wish to call upon the right to die with dignity, as condemned by associations fighting for this recognition.

Death is highly present in the medical world; however when death is requested by the person who is suffering, there remains a taboo among professionals. It is known that clandestine euthanasia takes place, using a lethal injection. However, a medical professional who practices euthanasia is usually protected by the secrecy of their professional relationship with their patient, as otherwise they would be exposed to sanctions involving sentences given in the Penal Code, as in other countries where euthanasia is also a crime.

On the other hand, there is the option of drawing up a living will. This does not allow patients to choose euthanasia, in any case, but allows them to anticipate the type of care and treatment that they would like to receive should the moment arrive when they can no longer express themselves. As well as an exercise in freedom, this also represents an act of responsibility towards the people around us; the decisions to be taken at critical moments are too hard to be left in the hands of other people. Thanks to the fight led by different collectives and organisations, we can demonstrate our decisions in writing on which treatment to follow, how far to take risks in an operation or how long to maintain artificial life support. This always respects the framework of the legislation in force, although it is also able to include currently unrecognised practices in case the legal framework has changed when the time comes.

The debate that is taking place in 21st century democratic societies is not limited to euthanasia or to requirements such as who is included or excluded by the rules, or even guarantees that ensure against hypothetical abuse of the practice. The debate looks at the self-governing of the own life and the availability of life itself. This is where two world views collide: one considers that life is an unavailable gift and the other states, with the same conviction, that each person is in control of their own life. These two approaches that can be respected as long as each individual's freedom of conscience is tolerated and nobody has ideas imposed on them. From this approach, penalising the availability of life itself in circumstances where the person requires help from a heath professional because illness is putting them in an enormously vulnerable and painful situation is considered to be a contradiction and an unacceptable imposition in a democratic society based on personal freedom.

Organisations that are working for the right to die complain that there is moral asymmetry between these two points of view. According to these organisations, it is obvious that voluntary death cannot be imposed. However, people who believe in the sanctity of life, in the name of its particular values, attempt to hinder everyone else's freedom to choose. Those who wish to take control of their own life until the end claim the right to decide not only concerning euthanasia but when and how they die, taking a leading role in their life until the end, even taking control of their death. For this reason, they urgently demand that the legal framework should protect citizens who wish to be free to make decisions on their life and also on their own death.

Film: Honey

   

Sandinista guerrillas and revolution

Augusto César Sandino was the leader of the guerrilla army who fought in the Nicaragua of 1926-1933 against occupation of the North American Army which, under the pretext of peace and democracy, in fact brought transnational exploitation of the country's resources. After US withdrawal from Nicaragua, Sandino was in the process of negotiating the reinsertion of guerrilla fighters to civil life when he was killed as a result of betrayal by Anastasio Somoza García, leader of the National Guard. This gave rise in 1937 to the start of more than four decades of military dictatorship by the Somoza family.

The 60s saw the birth of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), a guerrilla militia determined to forcefully overthrow the dictatorship with very obviously fewer means. In the 70s the rebel movement grew in strength thanks to the complicity and support not only of the workers, peasants and students, but also of the international community. On 19 July 1979 the revolution won, forcing the Somozas to flee, and a socialist, Marxist-Leninist government was composed. The National Guard on the run formed a counter-revolutionary paramilitary army in Costa Rica and Honduras, funded by the USA, known as "La Contra", who fought the revolutionary process in Central America for several long years.

Film: Red Princesses

 

Echoes of violence

Normally social or political uprisings don't happen because someone has come up with a great idea to improve a situation, but because of confrontation brought about by the pain of unbearable suffering. Understanding someone, knowing them as a person and, having listened to their experiences, achieving civilised debate, is generally an arduous task.

In this society where democratic culture does not have particularly deep roots, the argument has mainly taken the shape of pointing the finger at the bad things done by others: attacks, peer pressure, revolutionary tax, torture, indiscriminate arrests, dirty war, etc. By creating social taboos, individuals accept that actions against the enemy are decisions taken in good faith.

Oiartzun is a town peculiar unto itself. If, like in the first pages of an Asterix comic, we were to hold a magnifying glass over the town of Oiartzun, we could say that it looks like a place impossible to conquer. An island surrounded by nature, a freehold of the nationalist left. A land nurtured by warriors who, now and always, have fought the enemy with the Basque language and the fatherland as their magic potion.

I believe that my ideology corresponds to the nationalist left, understanding the term as a coming together between numerous flexible ideas: from music to language, politics to industry, etc. Voluntarily or not, necessary or "ex post facto", suffered or provoked, violence, in all its forms and expressions, has been closely linked to the nationalist left, just as shadow is to light. And, unavoidably, to my life and the town of Oiartzun.

All significant events to have taken place in the nationalist left movement have had some kind of an echo in my beloved town. From the first of ETA's attacks until the process under which the nationalist left has renounced violence, someone from Oiartzun has always been involved.

The purpose of the documentary Echevarriatik Etxeberriara is to analyse the connection to violence of the nationalist left, to understand and discuss it. During this exercise, it goes without saying that the self-same limits of the term "violence" will be called into question. Violence is nothing but a term and, like any hermeneutic interpretation, can be understood to mean different things depending on where the understanding is made (ETA, police, politics, citizens, Spain as a whole, psychology, etc.) until it becomes a double-edged weapon to suit the theory of choice.

From a very young age this has weighed me down, not because it had an influence on my everyday life, but because I have been unable to discuss the subject in depth. Sacred taboo, in Oiartzun and in Barcelona. The answers to the debate had been written way back in the collective minds, assumed opinions that authorised the protection of ethical and moral securities. Those opinions are also tied to suffering. The greater the pain, the greater and more important the need for protection offered by these opinions.

ETA's decision to renounce the use of violence lent a new spark to my personal desires. It is time to talk; today when the past is stuck to the present, on the threshold to the new era, talking is necessary. Essentially because we must discuss all versions if we are to give shape to a new future.

It is obvious that at some point Spain and France will have to hold a debate on the Basque Country, just as the Basque Country must hold its own debate. But I believe that, before this, every movement, and particularly the nationalist left, must look inwards to make analysis in order to bring an end to the divisions and animosity of recent years. People are ready for it, as can be seen from the results of the last elections, and Echevarriatik Etxeberriara is my personal contribution. I chose the environment with which I am most familiar to act as a mirror, with the idea of throwing a little light, from my town, onto a phenomenon of much greater entity.

Ander Iriarte

Film: Echevarriatik Etxeberriara

   

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  • San Sebastián Donostia 2016
  • Donostiako Udala. Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián
  • donostiakultura.com. San Sebastián: ciudad de la cultura
  • AIETE: Casa de la Paz y los Derechos Humanos