So I was thinking about nothing yesterday and I think I had an insight. Or possibly I just realized something that everyone else already knew.
Who are the three groups of people who are most likely to be killed or institutionalized in modern society? The answer, I think, is the unborn, the very old, and the mentally ill. What is one factor which is common to all of these groups?
A large percentage of their members can't speak, either properly or at all.
My theory is that we subconsciously have a hard time recognizing people with whom we can't communicate as human. On a large-scale level, we see people who cannot speak at all, like the unborn, as not human. On a smaller scale, we see people who have lost the ability to talk, or who never figured it out right, or even who speak a different language, as less human than us.
Even Aristotle might agree with this...sort of. He says that the proper function of man (the thing that man can do that other animals can't) is to act "in conformity with rational principle." (For those who care deeply: Nichomachean Ethics, 1098a, whatever translation is on the Perseus project.) What is the phrase "in conformity with rational principle" in Greek? It's the title of this post, μετὰ λόγου. Now logos, as everyone has probably been told seventy times at least, is a complicated word. It can mean rational principle, but it can also mean speech or word. For Aristotle and all the ancient Greeks, the very concept of rationality is tied up with language!
Having said that, I don't know what the next thing to say is. I mean, clearly, as a Catholic, I think people who can't speak are people too. People who can't think are also people too. So I don't know that I have a point here, so much as an observation. Nevertheless, I would be interested to hear people's thoughts. First of all, am I missing a category of people who tends to be killed or locked away that can speak? Is not being able to speak is the reason, or is it something else? (The obvious one that comes to my mind is the weak, but I think--and correct me if I'm wrong on this too--that the physically weak are not discriminated against in the same way the mentally weak are.) Any other thoughts, musings, observations of your own? Does some this suggest some change to public policy? Should it? What about our private behavior? I really have no idea what the answers to any of these questions are. So chime in with your own thoughts!