Sacrifice the Old

So far, the Coronavirus has brought only good things to my life

~ S.D.

The COVID-19 crisis is far from over. If we want to save the economy we need to stop this silly quarantine and accept the inevitable spread of the virus. We can expect fatal consequences for many of the elderly population especially. But that is a sacrifice they’ll have to make.

Who, if not Donald Trump could come forward with such an outrageous and unspeakable opinion? Yet, putting those words in his mouth as of now would be fake news. Trump merely suggested that the collapsing economy will ultimately cost more lives than a full-force pandemic and that the elderly will somehow be fine, magically.

It was Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who proposed seniors should put their life on the line if that’s what it takes to preserve “the America that America loves1 for it’s children and grandchildren”, counting himself as part of that endangered population segment. I respect his commitment and willingness to die for a cause he believes in. I just don’t believe in his cause. Putting the blame for a dying economy on the pandemic prevention measures is like holding a virus accountable for the demise of a terminally ill patient just because it was detected in the body at the time of death.

But I do find something remarkable in the statement of Dan Patrick: He laments that nobody reached out to him to ask if he is prepared to die for a higher cause, if that is what it takes? Because dying is the last thing anybody is supposed to ask from an old person. By default it is assumed they are weak and in need of protection. Being asked to die is a privilege reserved for the young and healthy when they get sent to war.

What would happen if we actually dared to ask? Would we hit a brick wall of stubborn senile grumps, outraged at the denial of an ignorant generation that only wants to see them gone? We seem to easily disregard that old people by logic tend to have more life experience and wisdom under their belly than those who eventually have to take care of them. We might find that those who still got their five senses together have come to terms with the reality that their life story is moving towards a conclusion, one way or another. They probably have accepted that, regardless of the life which lies behind them, at some point things simply won’t get any better.

Nevertheless talking about impending death is a hard thing to do – usually tabooed rather than approached in a factual and down to earth manner. How can we fail so monumentally at integrating this integral part of human existence in our culture and upbringing? This counts among the most jarring neglects2 of our praised education system in the civilized world. Some may dream about eternal life – but we are clearly not there yet so let’s be frank: Everyone has to die! It is an essential part of the cycle of life. Refusing to acknowledge that is the only morbid thing about it.

There is also no law of nature for death to be brought upon only through ailments and suffering. What if humans were able to pass on to the afterlife by mere intention and will once they are ready? Most people with some knowledge in the spiritual domain will concur that this is not the stuff of fairy tales but within our capabilities. But who is ever going to be ready for something they don’t engage with anything but avoidance and fear?

That’s why we make old-age provisions, to ensure that someone will be around to cook our meals and wipe our asses once we can’t. Personally I’ll prefer guaranteed access to a death pill to that any day.3 Some gentle poison that ensures the option of mercifully passing away on my own terms when the time is right. Because for sure I can not rely on anyone else to do that for me since moral and legal restrictions have been put into place. Giving someone the ultimate freedom of choice over their life is something only few places in the world deem justifiable.

The church preaching suicide as equivalent to murder and a shortcut to eternal burning in hell might have contributed to shaping this current state of affairs. But those teachings originate from a time before medicine was advanced enough to resist with sheer force whenever god is calling for a soul to return home.

Helping people out of life would also be magnitudes more efficient and economical4 than seeing things through till the bitter end. This may sound cold-hearted. But more lacking in empathy is our current approach of sustaining life no matter what. Claiming that everything we possibly can do is nothing but a continuation of the futile effort to avoid death. Few endeavors have a more reliable guarantee of failure. And I can’t help but wonder what it is that these people are still looking forward to in their lives. Why we need to shackle them to this world until no chains can hold them anymore.

I am not saying that old people should be denied the right to live. They should get every bit of medical treatment that they want and need. My point is that the we should ease the fuck up on frantically valuing the preservation of life above everything else. The German constitution gets it right and states:5 The human dignity is inviolable and needs to be protected by any means possible. Human dignity. Not life. Relentless efforts are being expended around the world to keep already decomposing bodies operational on an endless conveyor of death. Often even against the will of those bodies’ inhabitants. It is undignifying, without sense and at heavy cost.

Now is a time where we can rethink our values. Consequences of the ensuing economic crisis may be daunting. Also my friend S.D.6 is now facing uncertainty regarding his income. But if that equals a truly existential threat then something clearly went amiss within all the prosperity of our economic system. Any government that is truly pro-life would now focus on reassuring us that nobody needs to starve and freeze to death only for not showing up to work on Monday. This crisis actually holds immense potential for a giant leap towards a better form of society. We should take a step back, breath in that fresh Corona air, feel the tension of the constant treadmill loosen its grip. Tune down the constant highly contagious information onslaught of the media and regain some clarity.

The social isolation has already driven many of us to strengthen bonds with their loved ones again. If we can get back to talking and actually listening to each other we may find more profound meaning and solace about any of the tragedies of life and its ends than the biggest possible pension could ever provide. What everyone wants after all is to be accepted for what we are. And having to die is part of what we are. I am wishing for a world where the human experience is valued for more than its GDP and is allowed to end in graceful ways.

We keep hearing and rehearsing and telling a story of humankind dashing headfirst into extinction-threat disaster. For any chance of survival we would have to give up or drastically change our current way of life. But that is too inconvenient. Now a little virus has changed everything. Still, the dominant question being sold to us is ‘when things finally will go back to the way they were?’

What is the real illness here?

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