Monday, September 12, 2011

Plastic Morality

I don’t like plastic surgery. In plenty of cases, it is necessary, and I obviously appreciate its value in corrective situations. However, the plastic surgery craze has gone well beyond helping burn victims and children with cleft palates.

I frankly don’t understand why anyone would get plastic surgery. It’s better to look old than to look like you got work done. And trust me: even the best plastic surgery looks horrible. Unless your goal is to look more like Michael Jackson, I don’t think there’s really any reason to do it.

I could dedicate an entire post just to how stupid breast augmentation is. There are serious ethical problems with these doctors who make their living off the flat of the land. There is no greater example one can point to where people are making mountains out of molehills. Risking the health of a patient so that she can fill out a blouse is not really in the spirit of the Hippocratic Oath.

I keep hearing from people who advocate for plastic surgery that “We are a beauty obsessed culture.” I couldn’t agree more… but plastic surgery is just perpetuating the myth that superficial appearance matters. What’s more, plastic surgery isn’t beautiful, and it is deeply offending my obsession with only looking at beautiful people. Trust me when I say that hooked noses, flat chests, and face lines are much more pleasing to the eyes than those jack-o-lantern grins on plastic surgery victims.

If you ask me, it is immoral and unethical to get, pay for, or perform extraneous plastic surgery.

And yet, I hope it is never made illegal. This is a perfect opportunity to bring up an important point: there are things in this world you can disagree with, even passionately, which you still believe should be legal. This is how I feel about a great many things, from those which are currently illegal, like drugs, to things which are currently legal, like tattoos. Just because I think it’s a self-defeating decision to partake in either one doesn’t mean I think we should be sending people who do drugs or get tattoos to jail.

Writing this sort of gave me the idea that my morality is essentially plastic. It is entirely artificial. I don’t claim to have lofty justifications for much of what I decide to do or not do, it’s just the way I am. But like plastic, I am willing to bend my morality for others, to be accommodating, rather than rigid and unforgiving.

Christians might call my stance “forgiving,” or “merciful.” I tend to look at it as, “If it’s none of my business, then I have no business telling them what to do.” I think it’s a pretty common thing, actually. In fact, almost everyone I know is pretty much “live and let live.”

This leads me to wonder how we got to a point where so many individual choices which affect no one else are either prosecuted as criminal, or are on the block to be outlawed.

I guess you can kind of see it in the drug war. Drugs are said to be bad, not just for the user, but for those around them. I mean… I agree, drug addicts aren’t much to look at… but have you seen people who have had plastic surgery? There are even people who spend their kid’s college money on plastic surgery, people who are “addicted” to plastic surgery.

But you know what? Even if plastic surgery was illegal, people would still either get illegal (and therefore more dangerous, unregulated) plastic surgery, or they would find some other way to mask their unhappiness. Maybe gambling, if that is legal. Maybe seeing prostitutes, if that is legal. Maybe buying shoes… until that is illegal and we all have to walk around barefoot.

It doesn’t make much sense, really, to try to take away everything that might cause a problem. The end result of that is a society of people in their own personal cage, so no one can get in or out, and no one can make any mistakes… or decisions for themselves.

I will never get plastic surgery, but if you want to get it, go for it. After all, I might be completely wrong. Ultimately, however, I think you would have been happier just eating some make-up. At least then, you might finally be pretty on the inside.


  1. How exactly do you define the line of "doesn't affect others" ? Some people claim that a an associate's life decision "affects them", which is aguilt tactic meant to control them. Where should one draw the line?

  2. My measure:

    Does it make them bleed or bruise? Or, does it break something that belongs to them or cost them undue expense?

  3. You basically described moral relativism. And I agree (except with the part about tattoos being "self-defeating").

  4. Regarding tattoos: no one can know what symbols will mean over time, either to themselves personally or in society as a whole. I would argue every tattoo is a risk, and I tend to reject frivolous risks. At least it's a risk that only affects the the tattooed person.

    And I wouldn't say I'm a moral relativist. Maybe I am a moral relativist, but I was more focused on the difference between morality and the law. I am very much certain I am correct in my views, but unless a person's decision adversely affects others directly, I can't find a justification for stopping someone from doing something, even if it's stupid.

    If anything, it's convenient that so many people self-select into various classifications through choices.

  5. What about braces? Are they classified in the same class, because people can live with crooked teeth.

  6. As a general rule, a lot dental work is not only cosmetic, but also functional. Braces can correct problems that exist at the time they are worn, or which may occur long after.

    I'm not a big fan of teeth whitening, caps, or other purely cosmetic procedures. There are risks of getting braces or dental appliances, though, even if they are correcting what could be a legitimate medical problem, so I would say the decision is really up to the individual involved (or often, their parent). Sometimes getting braces early can prevent a major problem later, other times it may be unnecessary.

    But if it was someone getting tooth implants to replace their perfectly healthy teeth with huge, more noticeable chompers... then yeah, I would say that the patient and doctor did something largely unethical. Fixing a chipped or broken tooth would be a different matter, akin to skin grafts for a burn victim.

  7. Just as an example of when I totally agree with "breast augmentation":

    Suppose a woman had very disproportionate breasts, one being two cup sizes smaller than the other. If she goes to the doctor, she will be given the option of getting a breast implant for the smaller one, or breast reduction in the larger one. I would argue she should get the reduction, if only for the sake of her back later in life, but I certainly wouldn't fault her if she had chosen the other route, because her goal was not enhancement, but an appearance of normalcy.

  8. Sorry to make yet another addition, but taking it in another medical: I would be fine with someone getting a heart transplant, but I wouldn't be okay with someone getting a second heart somehow added so that they can run the marathon in record time.


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