A snapshot from Dick Puddlecote:
It’s the same sort of thing as the BMJ editorial on Climate Change.
WHO has shown important leadership on climate change but has stopped short of declaring a global public health emergency. This may be understandable with Ebola raging. But it is what WHO should now do. Deaths from Ebola infection, tragic and frightening though they are, will pale into insignificance when compared with the mayhem we can expect for our children and grandchildren if the world does nothing to check its carbon emissions. And action is needed now.
I think they’re crazy. They inhabit a separate reality to mine. How did that happen? Because I remember when we used to share the same reality.
I was thinking today that, in the first half of the last century, vaccines and treatments were found for a great many infectious diseases, and the result was that people started living quite a lot longer. Rising living standards helped that too.
And that made the medical profession redundant. Or rather, instead of finding themselves treating people with polio, typhoid, diphtheria, and so on, as they had been since time immemorial, they found themselves treating diseases of old age, like dementia and cancer.
And people were still dying. So they had to stop thinking about the old diseases, and start thinking about new diseases – diseases of which they’d not got much experience or understanding. And so they started treating these like they were infectious diseases that could be prevented, just like the old ones. And they started looking round for causes. And somehow or other they pretty soon decided that they were all due to eating, drinking, smoking, etc. And so instead of measles and cholera epidemics, we have tobacco and obesity “epidemics”, which were just as serious, and just as much in need of doctors to treat them.
And maybe one day there will be vaccines and treatments for dementia and cancer. But I don’t think they’ve found them yet. Leastways I’ve never heard of a dementia jab, or a cancer jab.
I think they’re groping in the dark. I don’t think eating and drinking and smoking are the real culprits at all. I think they’re just “the usual suspects” that have been rounded up to make a show of being in control.
I don’t think they even understand why people age.
I don’t think they know very much about anything. Ageing. Cancer. Dementia.
When I was young, I was taught that “threescore years and ten” was pretty much the maximum lifetime I could expect. And these days I’m pretty nearly there. And that’s still what I expect to be my lifetime, even if male life expectancy in the UK is something like 78 years.
And I find it odd that, just when people do actually seem to be living longer, instead of being grateful and celebrating that fact, we’re being urged to try to live even longer. And as a matter of the greatest urgency! No more “Live fast, die young.” It’s becoming a crime to die young.
Perhaps it comes down to losing our religion at more or less the same time. A hundred years ago, most people believed (or seemed to believe) that after they died they’d enjoy an afterlife of some sort. And that made the prospect of death bearable, and in fact maybe even welcome. But now that most people don’t believe (or don’t seem to believe) in an afterlife, the prospect of death has become unbearable, and something to be fought tooth and nail, even if that means giving up smoking, drinking, eating meat and sugar and salt, and taking up jogging.
But they all still keep dying anyway. Maybe I’d feel differently about it if lots of these diet and fitness freaks actually did live a lot longer than smokers and drinkers like me. Like if they were typically living to the age of 150, while jerks like me only made it to 70. But I’ve never heard of anyone making 150.
Anyway I’m not sure that I’d want to live forever. The kind of life where you get born, live for a while, and then die, is a life between two distinct book-ends. And that is how
most all books are written: they have a beginning and an ending. What kind of story is it that starts, but never ends? I can’t imagine one.
Instead I drift round to the idea that maybe we need to die, just like we need to be born. And that without that frame around it, life would become shapeless and meaningless. And we would go mad. And that a long life is no better than a short life than a long book is better than a short book, or than a big painting is better than a small one. And living fast and dying young is just as good as living slow and dying old.
The Yardbirds got mentioned in the comments a few days ago, and I got to watch a few videos of them playing their numbers. It reminded me that I’d not heard of their lead singer, Keith Relf, for quite a long time. I soon discovered that he died at the age of 31, not very long after the Yardbirds split up, electrocuted by an incorrectly earthed electric guitar. At first it seemed rather sad that he’d died so young. But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe he’d sung everything he was going to sing. Much like Jimi Hendrix had played everything he was ever going to play. And Bill Hicks (who I’ve also been watching) had got all the laughs he was ever going to get. And that was the right time to call it quits.