Textproduktion: Comment "Elective Performance Enhancement Surgery For Athletes"
The above quote by Francis Fukuyama is meant as a warning that medicine should not lose sight of its original aim which is to cure people’s illnesses. Modern medicine has led to a higher life expectancy and the eradication of many diseases. Advances in medical research have made it possible by new and more effective drugs to fight a disease as threatening and destructive as AIDS and to give the people concerned a chance to live almost normal lives, which two decades ago was not thought possible. Battling such and other diseases and improving patients’ health must, in Fukuyama’s mind, still be the first and most important purpose of medicine.
Enhancing an athlete’s physical performance, however, with the help of drugs or surgery is another matter. Fukuyama’s idea of “turning people into gods” evokes the notion of Frankenstein’s monster; a creature of supernatural strength and mental abilities. But Fukuyama warns of the ethical implications of such attempts in medicine. His statement is a reminder that there is a thin line between necessary medical help and manipulation.
Olympic Games, the Tour de France and other big sports events have seen their fair share of doping scandals. Despite rigorous checks and athletes’ repeated claims that they have not taken any illegal substances and that their success is the result of hard training, the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports competitions seems to be a temptation too big to be resisted. Profitable contracts and the prospect of fame are the incentives that lead many sportsmen and –women to take such illegal performance enhancing substances.
But nowadays not only athletes use such drugs to perform better. In our achievement-oriented society many people suffer from the strain and demands of their work-life and family. The number of university students who admit to have tried either performance enhancing drugs because they are afraid not to be able to keep up with their workload or who fear not to pass an important exam has risen constantly over the past decade, just as has the number of students taking tranquilisers to calm their nerves. But not only students feel tempted to dope themselves: managers, nurses and even single mothers are among those who try to keep up with society’s expectations by taking performance enhancing substances.
If the effects praised by the unknown blogger can really be produced in the long run must be doubted. Like other drugs, amphetamines and other performance enhancing substances can lead to addiction and to serious health damages.
The notion that taking drugs or having surgery can enhance our general performance springs from the over-confident belief in the beneficiary effects of science and technology in eradicating alleged human flaws. Some of the science fiction novels that present us with disturbing, dystopian models of society may help to cure our sometimes over-enthusiastic embrace of technological innovations. Two such dystopian models shall be more closely examined here.
Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World presents us with the unsettling futuristic vision of a world in which humans are no longer the result of biological reproduction, but designed in a test tube and categorised into five different castes according to their worth and purpose in society. Foetuses which are chosen to become members of the highest castes, “Alpha” or “Beta”, are allowed to mature naturally from a single egg and are individual while those determined to be members of the lower castes, inferior in growth and intelligence, are identical spawns of one egg. By this process, humans are produced to fulfil certain tasks in society and the birth rate is planned according to how many people are needed to do certain work. Happiness in this World State free of distress or discomfort are not the result of individual pursuit but of a drug called “soma”. Death is not feared as people retain their youthfulness and health until the end and as the lack of family ties makes it unnecessary for them to mourn. Life in this Brave New World is a perpetual cycle of drug-induced happiness and self-delusion at the cost of personal freedom and individuality.
While Huxley visions the horrors of biotechnological and medical science, George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four features a totalitarian surveillance state which ceaselessly controls its citizens via cameras wherever they are and whatever they do. Orwell found inspiration for his novel in the totalitarian regimes of his time and the evolving conflicts of the Cold War. In the novel his protagonist Winston is trapped in a state that does not allow privacy and deems free thinking and individualism as “thoughtcrimes”. Instead, people are exposed to a propaganda machinery reminiscent of that of Nazi Germany or the Stalinist Soviet Union. The epitome of tyranny is Big Brother, the ultimate, faceless state ruler that enjoy an extreme cult of personality, but whose existence is by no means certain. Although Winston is a diligent worker for Ministry of Truth, he secretly despises the regime and thinks of rebellion. In the end his sense of self is crushed by the party’s machinery of brainwashing and torture and he is finally converted back to his love for Big Brother.
In their own ways disturbing, Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Brave New World depict how science and technology may be misused to oppress and dehumanise societies. Through means of medical science people are stripped of their human qualities like love, empathy or fear, bend by conformity and reduced to be mere tools of a faceless state. Yet while Huxley’s dystopian fantasy seems, indeed, to be a nightmare scenario of the future, Orwell’s vision of an omnipresent state does no longer appear to be so farfetched. With the growing number of CCTV surveillance not only in Britain but all around the globe and the large-scale spying operations of intelligence services like the NSA, the idea of Big Brother watching has lost some of its futuristic touch.
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