Only an Elder Could Write This

Published November 19, 2022 by Nan Mykel

I planned to begin this post with a remark about the movie Little Big Man, released in 1970, with the sentence, “Do you remember Little Big Man, where the elders went out to the jungle to die when they decided it was time?”  Only problem is that I just looked the movie up via Google, and it wasn’t the jungle the chief wandered into but the mountaintop, and he prayed for a different ending and then he didn’t die but returned to his clan, accompanied by Dustin Hoffman.

One thing Covid19 was handy for was culling the population of ancients like me.   In addition to facing the devastation of the projected climate change, our country might soon be staggering under the weight of carrying so many old folks, and even helping them increase their number by research and big tech.  Soon–unless deadly viruses thin my older population again–(the percentages of the aged in our population is growing in the face of ever increasing automation) we the elders are headed for being a heavy burden on our country.  Currently perhaps we are fortunate that so many of our lawmakers belong to the elderly population, and are highly unlikely to sacrifice themselves.

What the Republicans called  “Death Panels” in 2009 –Sarah Palin’s phrase “death panels” derailed proposed provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to pay physicians for end-of-life discussions with patients, a policy designed to make dying more humane, something all Americans desire. Even now, “death panels” has truth-value for approximately half of Americans and is used to paint ACA components as threatening to “pull the plug on Grandma.” David M Frankford

It sounds like your elders are not into self-sacrifice for the good of our younger brothers and sisters yet, and climate change may wipe us all out at about the same time.  However, the spectre imagined by the 1970 movie  Soylent Green tugs at my mind: what of actual food shortages?  I don’t know how contorted my memory is, but I recall the impression the movie made on me when it portrayed a scene of elders willingly sacrificing themselves to be food for the living, but just prior to being harvested were  treated to a rounded surround portraying the former world of nature–verdant forests and trees, pets and other animals in nature.  In my memory of the movie it was an exceedingly peaceful experience as they waited to sacrifice themselves for the good of their younger fellow human beings.

Which brings us to the topic of food shortages in the cusp of climate change.  Can we accommodate the switch to doctored seaweed and fungi, and will there be enough to go around?  See Google entries for creating seafood from fungi and seaweed.  Relieving  agriculture’s percentage of the climate’s pollution would be significant.

All of which leads us to the personal feelings of the elderly about their own death.  Even in the face of great pain, most seem to refrain from suicide–and Sarah Palin didn’t help!  One problem with the thought of suicide is that it imparts a different lesson to offspring about how to solve problems.  Subsequent suicides within the family do become somewhat more common.  Suicide by cop is primarily available only to the younger black folks. Also, there’s the religious element, especially given the reported increase in spiritual concern among the most elderly.

At times I feel apologetic about living so long and inconveniencing the family, but I don’t voice that.  How much do they mind the bother?  Then I remember my dear relatives whose continued existence is important to me, even with the bother.  Something about their continued existence helps fortify me inside.  So it’s a conundrum, and if we survive climate change it will be a growing problem  if we return to the lopsided percentage of the older population.  Of course, I remember now that AI doesn’t need to eat.

As for me, I’m in for the duration, at 87.

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