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Corpses that do not rot

Theme of the week: why do we mistreat the elderly so much?

As we are

In this last note of the theme series of the week (you can see the first here and the second here), I want to run a bit of the analysis of why Argentines despise and abuse and underestimate the elderly so much to try to ask me more specific questions. First of all, how are we going to do when the old — at least what we understand today as “old” — are the most important percentage of society? There is a novel by Bioy Casares called Journal of the Pig War, which I strongly recommend and can illuminate this question a bit. But beyond that, there are concrete facts that I think deserve attention.

First of all, life expectancy. There is an old urban myth (which reproduces more and more) that says that the man who will live a thousand years is already born. It is based on the following postulate (erroneous, but useful for thinking): science progresses at uncontrolled pace, in a century we achieved more innovations than in the previous thirty. Thus, life expectancy does the same: in 1900 it was about 55 years old and today it is 70. It's a hell of a change. Specialists claim that by 2100 it should exceed 120 years. But then, suppose a person is born this year, when he reaches 70, he's already going to run the line to, say, 120. When I get to 120, 150. And so on. I insist that scientifically it has no hold, but it is useful to think that, whatever the number, humans are going to live more and more years. And this phenomenon is accompanied by another perhaps even more worrying: advanced societies (especially European societies) are experiencing serious birth problems. Young people directly do not want to have children (they prefer to devote themselves to their professional life, travel, or simply enjoy their freedom), so they are generating real bottlenecks in social security terms: there are more and more people receiving pensions and less and less economically active population contributing. At some point the equation is not going to give more and, quite simply, States are going to have to take care of their old. At that point the war is not going to be conceptual anymore, it's going to be economic, and then let's hold on. Because it's gonna get really complicated.

One last comment. Investigating for this note I learned that a very particular phenomenon is occurring: as a consequence of the amount of preservatives we eat (people no longer boil a corn, prefer to buy a can), the corpses take much longer to break down. That is, as a civilization, we have managed to keep the dead from rotting. What we have not yet achieved, unfortunately, is that we do not rot the living.

Publication Date: 12/01/2019

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