The world hasn’t changed that much. Apparently we have become more selfish and more utilitarian. I remember the disgust in my mother’s eyes, when she told me that in the 1950s and 60s farmers in the rich parts of Upper Austria brought their ailing wives to hospital shortly before they were dying. When asked why they had not come earlier, they said, “I call the vet for my cows, because they are a valuable asset, but I can find a new wife and possibly gain some more land by marrying a rich one”.
I have heard of older men who don’t allow their wives to switch the light on when it is dark or use a fan when it is so hot that they might succumb to a heat stroke. For these people saving money, and believe me, they are well off, is more important than the wellbeing of their loved or shall I say hated ones. Yes, and there are mean and greedy women, too.
There is something that is called “Altersgeiz” in German; perhaps one could call it penny pinching in old age.
It could be one of the expressions of dementia. It could be plain nastiness or that these people had been mean well before they aged. It could be that fear of dying manifests itself in not letting go of valuables and money by hoarding them and not sharing them.
Having too many assets is valued in this society. Look at Rupert Murdoch, the octogenarian, who wants to swallow up Warner Brothers to become even richer and more powerful! So sycophants can become even more sycophantic. It is control and not being able of letting go, in Freudian terms an expression of being anally retentive, that is valued and celebrated. If people like Murdoch would eat too much, they would become immensely obese. They would be judged as unhealthy and anti-social in today’s society. But people who amass more and more assets, often by exploiting cheap labour or weak laws, or even by cheating, are seen as role models in a sick society. Though, society has been ill and money has been the main value for quite a while.
Austerity does idolise money. It has become a form of life itself. It has become so important that one sacrifices people, citizens and children under the pretence of having to reduce debt and refilling the treasure chest. Money is more important than people. The term “human capital” is telling. Everything is capital in a neoliberal society. All is material and all can be capitalised. Human capital is here in abundance, while oil and diamonds are rather rare. I’d like to refer to the dire working conditions on some oil rigs and in most diamond mines. In a neoliberal society human capital is not worth a lot with the exception of the crème de la crème, the self-nominated leaders, gang masters and masters of exploitation. They know how to run the show and keep the masses in the circuit of self-exploitation.
So many people are lonely when they age; and so many ageing people, who are lonely, have been so before and don’t share and don’t let go. Too many people value materialistic stuff, their houses, their cars, and their status symbols. They moan and groan about being lonely, but are still not willing to share, even if it is only a cup of tea or a smile.
I am not ageist. I am ageing myself and observing the world around me. I am not lonely, but alone sometimes. And I do not mind being alone. I still love life and people, not always, but most of the time. I still have a mission, and I have desires and targets. I am an artist. I have a life. Getting older does not mean that one has to succumb to loneliness; and it also doesn’t mean that one has the right to be nasty and bitter and angry (especially towards others), just because one has lived for quite a while.
Music: Money by Pink Floyd, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkhX5W7JoWI
Photo source: Central Park from the Mayflower on the Park Hotel, N.Y.C., © 2004 by Gudrun Bielz