Maybe Boris is Right
If we could consider this virus unemotionally, just turn on our logic, we might think that Boris Johnson, PM of the UK, had a valid point in terms of just letting the virus run its natural course, that perhaps his first thought was best. If we had done enough tests, if we really knew the numbers – who gets seriously ill, who is most likely to die no matter what treatments we try, how many serious cases occur in each age group, how many people as a predictable percentage are in each group. It would be good to know if the seriousness of the virus falls out by age and by underlying health conditions, what those underlying conditions are, and when it is useless to keep trying to save someone.
If this disease is most serious for seniors, do seniors really want everyone to turn their lives, our society, and the global economy upside down on their behalf? Most of us have already signed DO NOT RESUSCITATE orders. Is putting someone on a ventilator part of the ‘do not resuscitate’ protocol? Are we trying to prolong our lives unnaturally, using expensive equipment that actually makes the end of life unnecessarily traumatic both for the dying and for the families? Making someone as comfortable as possible while they are dying is humane, but most people do not want to stay here if the quality of our life is essentially gone. Perhaps it’s time to think about a euthanasia order, similar to the ‘do not resuscitate’ order for people who are mentally able to choose.
Already young people feel that the older generation just will not step aside so that they can have their chance to lead. Already seniors are a financial burden on younger people. We are told that Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable. Perhaps this pandemic is a reminder that humans can’t live forever, and that some of us are living beyond our natural expiration date only because we are being kept alive by extraordinary measures. These measures don’t keep us youthful and allow us to contribute to the richness of life as we would like. They simply sustain us in a state of animation that our loved ones appreciate because we never want to let go of loved ones. But are seniors, so expensively sustained, happy with their lot.
My mom lived to be 100. She had good days, but many days she would say to me, “why am I still here.” I certainly didn’t want her to leave but modern medicine, which could keep her alive, was not doing very well at helping with some pretty ordinary things, like hearing, seeing, eating. When your ears fail (hearing aids cost a mint and often don’t work well, batteries have to be changed constantly), and your eyes fail, and your teeth don’t work and you just cannot face getting a new set, medicine is not performing any miracles to keep us living to an old age that has quality. Life is precious. It holds so much beauty that when you think you might lose it even things that seemed ugly are suddenly beautiful. It is the only consciousness we are aware of. We don’t know what comes next, if anything. Kudos to those who believe that in heaven there are many mansions, but even people of faith cling to this earthly awareness.
I’m reading Patti Smith’s book The Year of the Monkey which seems like just about the perfect book to read right now. It is written in a kind of wacky stream of consciousness style which is sometimes other-worldly, sometimes autobiographical, and sometimes brilliant. “Do not act as if you had ten thousand years to live..” she quotes from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations and my mind says “trippy.” I cling to life as much as anyone. But I also feel that we are trying to hold back the tide. Obviously people with plenty of money will be able to fight harder, use more strategies, more medical equipment to prolong their lives. Either way this seems so unreal at times. Is this really happening? Which way is the right way to handle this? Will the steps we take to keep down the numbers of the dead kill even more people in the end from ‘culturas interruptus’, (a made-up word) but it certainly expresses the tack we are taking at the moment? What to do, what to do? Show us the numbers please and then we can offer educated input.