The Unethicist: Ahoy, Dumb-Ass

"The Ethicist" is Randy Cohen's long-running advice column in the New York Times. Each week, Worker #3116's "The Unethicist" will answer the same questions as "The Ethicist," with obvious differences.

Is it piracy if you take your laptop into a library and download CD's or copy movies from its DVD collection? I travel the country continuously and frequent libraries. Never have I seen a sign that prohibits copying the material on their shelves. Adam Wasserman, Los Angeles

Adam, I've taken the liberty of correcting your letter. "I travel the country continuously and frequent libraries" now reads as "I am a virgin and dream of seeing a woman naked, but how, when I am such a nerd?"

I'm going to answer your question with a question: Do you know the word "duh"? Yes, Encyclopedia Brown, taking your laptop into a library and downloading CDs and copying movies from its DVD collection is piracy. What did you think piracy was? Taking your laptop onto a seafaring vessel and making the galley slaves download CDs and copy movies for you? Did you think that as long as you didn't run your cutlass through the tender entrails of the copyright holder that you were safe from such an accusation?

That being said, I'm not sure I see what the problem is. The internet was created for two things: jacking it, and downloading Beyonce mp3s for free, to play in the background while you're jacking it. Some people argue that free access to cultural product is actually helpful to artists by broadening their fan base and making their art accessible to future potential customers. I argue that paying for "Ring the Alarm" is fucking retarded. And not Foxy Cleopatra retarded, either, just straight up retarded retarded.

As for your confusion over the lack of any prohibitive signage on your "Libraries of the World" tour, here's a solution:

STOP BEING SUCH A PUSSY

Print that out, and you can hang it up your fucking self.

My 90-year-old mother, suffering from Alzheimer's, entered a nursing home. Her written instructions clearly directed that should she face extreme disability with no expectation of recovery, she should "not be kept alive by medications, including nutrition and hydration of any kind, artificial or otherwise." When she contracted a urinary tract infection, her doctor treated it with antibiotics and, since she was dehydrated, intravenous hydration. The doctor thought this a proper response to a curable condition unrelated to her primary disease, and I consented. Were we right? Mark Linder, Brooklyn

I'm not a doctor, so let me use that as a pretext for ignoring everything you just said. Besides, dude, it's seriously bumming me out.

During the Terri Schiavo fiasco of February-March 2005, I made it very clear to Mom and Herb #3116 that if I was ever debilitated by either injury or disease and left in a vegetative state, that I wanted to be kept alive for as long as possible no matter the cost. To quote myself, "I do not care if it ruins you financially or emotionally, I demand that you sacrifice all possible hope of finding happiness in your own life to prolong mine." And when I can afford to actually hire a lawyer, that shit is going to be binding.

But that only solves one half of the equation: what to do with my amazing and important body. It does not make any provision for my non-corporeal life: that of a controversial media celebrity. Much like Ms. Schiavo, and anyone living under hospice care with little to no control of their bodies, I would want to make sure that everyone in the world knows about my condition and feels free to voice their opinion about it. That means starting with advice columns and then moving up into legislative office. I want my every incontinence and suppurating wound from lack of the muscular ability to, say, roll onto my side, to be blasted across the front page of newspapers, magazines, and blogs around the world. If I cannot speak, then let the moral crusaders, pandering politicians, and insufferable know-it-alls speak through me. I would like to be a lightning rod for public debate on whether or not me pissing myself is proof that I want to live.

I hope this doesn't answer your question.

UPDATE: A short time after this, Linder's mother began refusing food, drink and medications. She died two weeks later.

UPDATE: Oh, fuck me.

Earlier: I'll Give You Something to Cry About