I know that sounds laughable, or possibly alarming, depending on what direction you tend to react in. Please rest assured, I am not contemplating suicide. I am talking about lifespan extension. We are constantly bombarded with the latest diets, medical treatments, and other offerings designed to extend our lives. I am not necessarily in agreement that this is a good thing.
There is this uneasy feeling that those who promote longer human lives are not really concerned for how that impacts our personal welfare. What do I mean by that? When someone passes, the Gross Domestic Product responds with “Damn it, we lost another consumer!” Forgive my cynicism, but I believe it is warranted. The greatest benefits to longer lives are reaped by excessively affluent and powerful people who get wealthier because we are consuming material goods they produce, for a longer period of time. The same is true of service industries, of course, some of which are dedicated solely to the aged population.
The idea that the only thing we should value in our elders is their purchasing power, should make you angry. You cannot put a price on wisdom, life experience, and familial bonds (provided your family dynamic is a positive one). The marketplace thrives on our isolation, our individualism and, sadly, our naivete. The less we relate to each other in meaningful ways, the more vulnerable we are to exploitation by bad actors in the global marketsphere.
The other aspect of living a longer life is that you are highly likely to witness the continued, if not accelerated, destruction of the natural world. This is unbearable for a great many of us. Why should I want to live longer when it appears the planet is not so inclined? Indeed, more consumerism for a longer period is only going to hasten the extinction of species, the conversion of habitat to agriculture and urbanism, and increase natural resource extraction.
I am exceedingly troubled by the fact that the majority of people do not have time to contemplate what I am talking about in this blog entry. The average life is crammed with daily commuting, appointments, meetings, errands, fast food, caffeine, meetings, and another commute. Once we are back home, we help the kids with their homework, if we do not have our own that we brought from the office. Maybe we manage to sneak in a pleasant distraction like a bath or shower, a television show, social media, a chapter in a book, an alcoholic beverage, or a dose of marijuana. Put that on repeat until the weekend.
We look forward to the day we do not have to work, or at least not have to work for someone else, but fear of financial destitution keeps us toiling away. Ironically, a global pandemic made it glaringly obvious that our psychological health has been in sick bay for a long, long time. Still, we are not managing to harness our collective power as laborers and consumers to fully revolt.
The government is not helping with its constant talk of raising the retirement age, and doing away with Social Security, Medicare, and other resources we earn during our laboring lifespan.
The question remains: Exactly what do I get out of a longer life? More years as a greeter for a big box store? More time to passively exist? More debt? More opportunities to vote for candidates that are serving those powerful and wealthy elites instead of me, and others like me? More time to forget what I know, what I’ve learned, and the people I have met? More time to watch the world burn?
Human life is not something that needs “product” or “service.” It needs community. It requires nourishment that no food or beverage can provide. It demands rest and quietude, for longer periods than anyone is willing to acknowledge.
Personally, I will have greater respect for, and trust in, the medical community when they make quality of life a higher priority than longevity. To borrow a phrase from whiny Hollywood actors, “What’s my motivation?” If all you can offer me is more medications, pseudo-comforts, and the corporate vision of “retirement,” I will pass, thank you.