Deborah Orr of The Guardian has been suffering from breast cancer. I recently lost my wife to that disease so I am primed to sympathise with her. But I can't. Because an idiot with cancer is still an idiot and a villain with cancer is still a villain. Consider Orr's words (please, because clearly she hasn't);
As a recent breast cancer patient, I've made many "choices", and have sat in many rooms having my choices outlined to me, by many consultants. I wanted to opt for "I'm in your hands. Whatever you think best." But I had no choice, except choice.
She wants to be told what to do about her own life or possible death. She doesn't want to be treated as an adult. She wants "daddy" to decide. Because she doesn't understand her choices, she thinks that choice is an illusion. God forbid, that she should try to improve her own understanding so as better to exercise them.
If she were content to flutter her eyelashes and let the nice doctor decide for her, that would be fine. But no, she is a Guardianista and therefore opposes choice for others. Because, you see;
Choice is a driver of inequality. This sad fact has been illustrated very clearly in Britain over the last few decades. The more money and education you have, the better the choices you can make and afford, and the more your position of strength and privilege is bolstered. This is seen mostly clearly in education, not just in terms of state v private, but also, since the Conservative reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, in state education.
To you and me, choice may be the very lever that operates the mechanisms of economic and political democracy. But to Orr, it is a "driver of inequality." She does have one valid point though. It's certainly true that many making economic and political choices are ill-informed. She sneers;
Who, really, is expert enough in olive oil to make an informed choice between 200 olive oils?
Quite, but never mind Italian pasta-lube; watch this video and consider how well-qualified some people are to vote.
Certainly, it's embarrassing how dumb many of our neighbours are. But over time the wisdom of crowds can prevail. Sensible choices can be made, via market and democratic mechanisms, from the collective choices of groups that include large numbers of fools. Even fools can sometimes see when their friends and neighbours have made better choices and then make the wise choice of following suit. Given enough time, the best products, services and financial institutions will prosper and the worst - unless propped up by some Keynesian (or Kenyan) - will fail.
During her illness, Mrs Paine and I went through a long hell of ever-diminishing choices. We listened, took advice, thought hard and decided. Sometimes we decided to do as were were advised. Sometimes not. Those choices narrowed until they came down this question; "If we can get you stable enough to endure another horrid treatment that probably won't work do you want to try it?" It was a choice to buy with pain (and a large cheque, as the treatment was unlicensed and neither offered by the NHS nor covered by insurance) a lottery ticket with a one in millions chance of the prize of life.
Though we chose to buy that ticket, Mrs P. was never well enough. But she was making choices - and was therefore a free woman - to the very end of her life. There is a value in that. There is a joy and a dignity in freedom that Deborah Orr will never understand.
I wish her all the best for full recovery from her illness. Nonetheless - shame on her.