Yesterday in a private group we were talking about how it’s people under forty, particularly women who are terrified of becoming ill and dying with Winnie the Flu.
This is an almost complete mismatch with those the virus is likely to actually kill, since I believe (haven’t looked recently, so it might be a few percentage points off but surely within the margin of error) something like 98% of all people who even have to be hospitalized — or show any symptoms beyond a mild cold — are over sixty and something like 80% are over 80. And all of them — though there might be a freak case or two here and there, hard to tell because reporting and tallying of deaths has been such a mess, mostly due to the perverse incentive of federal money , who are under 20. But freak cases happen with anything. People have died I’m sure of being pecked by a sparrow. Life isn’t safe nor precise, and we’re not promised a certain amount of years on this Earth, and certainly not immortality, barring a new heaven and a new Earth.
However over the weekend more than one report reached me of people saying their friends/acquaintances in their 30s and 40s have just realized they or someone they love might die. (Of Winnie the Flu they think, which is fairly ridiculous unless their friends are over 80.) This was explained with their not knowing anyone who had died, unless they were very old. Which I suppose is possible, though strange, since in our own family, in the last ten years we’ve been buffeted by the death of friends and acquaintances ranging from their thirties to their fifties. In fact younger son lost a beloved mentor of his first robotics team who cannot have been much over forty when son was in his first year of college.
Maybe most people live such halcyon lives? Older son did report, back when he worked transport in hospitals while in high school that there were any number of people over 100 admitted. I remember when 100 was cause to be on national news and get phone calls from politicians. But it’s apparently…. well, not common, but not abnormal. Kind of like 80 used to be when I was little. (I saw my first 80+ year old when I was 14.) And of course by the time you’re 100 your closest relatives are also very aged, and because of how spread out our society is, your grandchildren and great grandchildren might never have been very close to you.
So perhaps we are lacking memento mori. It used to be everywhere. There is a post around here somewhere about how far we’ve come from death, by isolating it in hospitals or nursing homes, sanitizing it, making it something expected and not terrible. It’s like our loved ones reach a certain point in time, and go on a long journey, and we won’t see them again.
Quite unlike sitting by the bed, waiting for the rattle and the last breath. Or the duty that every woman in the village had performed by the time they were my age (and many might still) many times at that, of washing the dead and dressing them in the clothes you think they’d want to wear at the resurrection. (It was so firmly believed in, as a corporeal and physical event, I remember a family being mortified because — due to illness — they couldn’t DRESS their beloved mother in one of her skirts, so they cut the skirt open in the back and laid it over her for the viewing. But, they said “She’s going to be mortified when she stands up and her skirt falls off.”)
And that was in the mid 20th century, already, itself, an halcyon time of plenty and lack of terrors. Because in the eighteenth century, upper crust young women included at least 3 baby shrouds in their trousseaus for the babies they expected they’d lose in infancy.
All of man’s civilization is arguably fueled by knowledge that though our minds can comprehend the universe, our time is brief. I’ve studied history ranging back thousands of years, and have dreamed of the future (mostly in other people’s books, some in mine) but the truth is, my allotted time is likely less than a century: an eye blink.
We’re all like that which fuels urgency, a desire to be getting on with it, and possibly an attempt to live the best life we can.
It also puts things in perspective. We know none of us are going to live forever. Or even close to forever. So when say someone decides to stop the entire economy and risk a global famine so we can escape a –…. what is the last calculation, now we know that this was probably here since November and a lot more people are infected? (And yes, I know, doubts are cast on each of the studies, and yet across the world those keep corroborating each other.) — 0.02% chance of dying? we say no. We say to hell with that and the horse it rode in on, and the little dog who ran alongside it. We always knew we were here a short time. Let us leave behind a functional world for others, one in which new brides don’t sew and store up baby shrouds.
But the young and frankly stunted — not all of the young, obviously, hence the qualification — don’t understand that. They’d never confronted their own mortality, and therefore now run in fear, because a virus can KILL them, oh the horror.
Well, cupcake, it always could. You just didn’t have a media dedicated 24-7 to telling you about it with enhanced doom porn. (When even Dr. Birx (ah) says that a lot more people have been infected than we thought — which means that the denominator goes way up and the mortality way down — the mainstream media is still screaming about a second and third wave, and oh, the devastation. Btw, Germany opened up and no signs of a third wave. As in at all.)
The fact is that all this might have been exacerbated by our psychopathic-tendencies-enhancing education with its emphasis on self esteem and individual whim.
Individual whim? you say. But I thought you were an individualist.
Of course I am. I also am a realist. I know what humans are — jumped up Savannah apes, or if you prefer, made from the common clay of the Earth. Comes to the same — and that because we live only a blink but can compass eternity with our minds, we must belong to something larger than us, something that lasts…. well, longer than us.
This used to be fulfilled by religion, but even those who are religious have trouble living for eternity in a world that is now largely a-religious.
Then it was fulfilled by nationality, but the internationalists hated that idea and cast their sins onto nationalism, as though a scapegoat, and sent it into the desert. All over the western world, children are raised to hate the land of their birth.
Then there is ideology, but the thin gruel of Marxism, forever disproven in practice, keeps hunting for more unlikely “classes” to protect, thereby fragmenting society, destroying families and generally making a lot of very unhappy people.
Unhappy people who are terrified of dying. And who understand self-actuated life at the level of obeying daily-changing whims and desires. Which in turn makes them more unhappy and more terrified of dying.
I guess some defects are self-correcting, and we’re hastening to either a final downfall of a hollow and ridiculous ideology (Marx really was a total dumbass, you know? BUT really good at narrative. I wish he’d devoted himself, openly, to science fiction instead.)
Or…. I don’t know. Some time of darkness from which civilization might arise again. What we know for sure is that if they succeed in taking the West down, they won’t erect paradise. But what’s more, they won’t hold power for long.
You see, even dystopian communist societies like Cuba or Venezuela survive only because we made such abundance upon the world, that the tyrants can keep just enough food flowing to stay in power….
Well, we’re about to hit the wall on that. Even the mainstream is starting to clear its throat about food shortages, which have apparently become obvious to a bunch of people.
I don’t think we’ll die in the US (or not directly. I mean, if I have to subsist on rice and potatoes, I WILL become very fat and diabetic and die of that. I once gained weight on 800 cals a day because the diet was all carbs. Don’t ask. Like Russian peasants I was malnourished and enormous.) But the rest of the world is going to hit the wall fast.
What happens? I don’t know.
I know our society has been distorted by fear of dying, coupled with having so few children that each of them is essential and we refuse to let them risk themselves (something that has affected everything including the military and space exploration) and that we cosset and protect them way too long.
So what happens when we have that, and then the wheels come off and we have to get back to struggling for our daily bread.
I don’t know. As a society we’re about to find out. The only thing I can promise you is that we’re looking forward to interesting times.