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by Jan Sand
2006-10-02 10:47:13
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The classic solution to creaky parents holding on to life by their fingernails, past the time of their useful strength and tolerable civil behavior, has been presented by Eskimo society that sets up an ice version of a rocking chair on a convenient ice floe, inviting the superfluous parent to have a comfortable seat and, after a short farewell party, giving the floe plus parent a firm shove into oblivion.

International Day of Older PersonsConsidering what I have been hearing about nursing homes in the USA, the inability of oldsters to be accepted into the working force at reasonable compensation, the stampede of health insurance corporations to slough off any responsibility for health maintenance as oldsters tend to be expensive, and abrasive relatives bitching about the old folks, the Eskimo solution comes off as rather humane.

To bring the floe into the modern world with solar panels to set up an electricity source that could power a small television set, a reading lamp, an electric blanket, and perhaps some sort of computer-server setup with a connection to SeniorNet might tempt any old geezer to agree to this solution with a modicum of enthusiasm. The prospect of an endless fishing trip has its attractions. There might even be a problem in weeding out underage applicants with false whiskers and phony wavering voices trying to take advantage of a way to escape the high unemployment in some marginal societies.

The problems of ageing now besetting society are not just those of the old. Nasty as they might be, race problems remain fixed within minority groups and religious intolerance also is restricted to a fixed sector of society. But we all get old and society cannot ignore that the young, who probably retain the cockeyed assumption that they will remain healthy, beautiful, energetic and desired for eternity are nevertheless destined firmly for geezerhood after the length of time that seems shockingly short for anybody who has hung around for a mere five or six decades.

I doubt that anybody favors stopping medical advances fighting diseases, perfecting techniques for remedying disabilities and working out strategies for prolonging life. The attitude is strangely odd in that all this effort to produce viable long living humans has no clue as to what to do with the end product.

This problem is somewhat akin to another problem on the social horizon that is very little considered but nevertheless is starting to be felt in some social circles. Ever since Henry Ford created the production line that dissected the necessary operations to manufacture a complicated piece of equipment and trained workers to be responsible for only one small operation in that process it has become the convention to devise machinery to replace these workers one by one to minimize labor cost and improve precision.

The advent of the computer has rapidly increased this process so that each worker has become tremendously more productive individually. This is true of both white and blue collar operations. Inflation aside, wages have, in general, not kept pace with the increase in value of the individual worker so that, since labor is the overwhelming source of consumer purchasing power, the decrease in general income due to this mechanization will no doubt have a debilitating effect on the market and the ultimate robotization of the means of production may seem a delightful goal but the whole market system will largely cease to function.

There was a funny guy on the radio named Henry Morgan in the late 1940s who told the mythical tale of an entrepreneur who noted that when an office building was demolished in Manhattan the empty lot was very profitably turned into a parking space. So he bought a good number of buildings, demolished them, and created very profitable parking spaces. The richer he got, the more buildings he knocked down until all the buildings were gone and then he was surprised when nobody came to park.

Permanent fixation on habitual social institutions without consideration as to their ultimate effect on the people that make up society will, in the light that methods that people need to maintain themselves are changing rapidly will ultimately lead to the crash of a society badly out of whack. Powerful elements of current society benefit from the current status quo but if the goal of society must be to permit each member to live as long and as well as the inherent wealth of the Earth allows, then life extension and total mechanization of the means of production will require very radical changes in the basic nature of society. Not much real thought has been done about this and it’s about time to get started.

Anyway, global warming is melting all the damned ice floes.

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ina reznicek2006-10-01 17:50:35
This is brilliant...it's serious, & funny, and it makes sense. I'm ready to enroll in a course given by the author of this article.

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