This is a piece I wrote back in 2014, when euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide were “hot” topics. The parallel to fin de siecle´ Vienna was never mentioned.
The German term in the title was a commonplace saying in Vienna during the twilight years of the Habsburg Empire. Suicide was quite common in Vienna on the eve of the Great War. Better to overdose on morphine than to stick a Luger in your mouth was the sentiment reflected in the saying. Why all this morose chatter at the start of a new day, you grumble?
The news people have taken up the story of a woman in Oregon electing to take a doctor-prescribed lethal drug to end her life, rather than suffer the last stages of a dreadful and painful cancer. I should add that the lethal dosage of the drug was prescribed by the doctor for the specific purpose of ending her life. Everybody has an opinion about this and, quite frankly, I don’t care what yours is.
Like the Viennese of 1900, the culture has taken on a world weariness, Weltschmerz is the rather poetic German term. Optimism is a rare outlook today. This culture has lost its vitality.