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In times of panic it seems that everything is good to exorcise fear. One of the mantras that some governments (heartless) and the media (uninformed) have repeated under different formulas to try to calm the population when the virus was not yet widespread is: do not worry, this coronavirus only kills the elderly !
But that “only” hurts in the soul. It hurts those who have elders at their side and those who have a minimum of sensitivity. Because the greatness of a society is measured by the way it treats its elders. And a society that turns its elderly into expendable pieces has lost all its cardinal points.
The society that venerates the body condemns itself to the decline of the soul
In “primitive” cultures, older people enjoyed special consideration because they were considered reservoirs of great wisdom and knowledge. The decline began in ancient Greece and has only worsened since then, suffering a true free fall in recent decades. The cult of the body promoted at that time has inexorably continued its course. But a society that reveres the body is incapable of seeing beyond appearances.
A society that venerates the superficial condemns itself to the decline of the soul. That society pushes more and more people to worry about – and get scared of – their wrinkles, throwing them into the arms of the burgeoning business of plastic and cosmetic surgery.
Those people don’t really run away from their wrinkles but from what they mean. Because they understand, in the deepest recesses of their being, that these wrinkles are the beginning of a condemnation to ostracism. And if there is something worse than looking at wrinkles in the mirror, it is knowing that you no longer count because throughout your life you have received subtle – and sometimes not so subtle – messages that the elderly do not matter.
What we give today to the elderly is what we will receive tomorrow
The society that minimizes the death of the elderly has forgotten that it has been built by those elderly, those who today have become a number that we look at with a certain stupor and from a distance, feeling falsely sure that it will not touch us. It was these elders who fought for many of the freedoms we enjoy today. Those who picked up the scrap pieces of many families during the crisis and those who are now caring for their grandchildren – although this may mean a death sentence – because their classes have been suspended.
So even though it is the law of life that older people leave us first, I cannot help but shudder for those old people whom no one takes into account. For my elders. And also for myself. Because the most of us will reach the old age, including those who today boast of youth and show their muscles. And while it is true that the death of children and young people is moving, that does not give us the right to minimize the loss of those who have lived the longest. Every life counts. Forgetting about it numbs us and dangerously brings us closer to the dystopian society imagined by Lois Lowry.
So I can’t help but shudder to think that I live in a society that seems to care more about slogans and the economy than lives. In a society where progress is measured in terms of GDP and technology instead of talking about well-being and health for each and every one of its members.
That’s why I also find the chill with which it is said that the coronavirus seriously affects “only” the elderly – an half true since young and healthy people also die, as indicated by the largest study carried out so far – and people with previous pathologies, although under the umbrella of “previous pathologies” are not hiding terrible diseases but problems as common as hypertension and diabetes . “One in three adults worldwide, according to the report, has raised blood pressure – a condition that causes around half of all deaths from stroke and heart disease. One in 10 adults has diabetes”, as confirmed by WHO.
That means this fight belongs to everyone. And it is not a fight for individual survival but for collective survival. For the survival of the most vulnerable groups. And for the survival of what remains of human in each of us. Because although it is true that in extreme circumstances the worst of people comes to light, the best that we have inside also comes to light. The decision is ours.
So today I raise my voice for the elderly. For those old men who may not raise it. Because they can not, or because they don’t want to. Or perhaps because they have that wisdom that years give them and they know that we will learn the lesson, when life takes care of putting each one in his place.
Although perhaps, mine is just a scream that will not echo in a too hardened and individualistic society that has been deaf to everything other than its narcissistic egotism.
Wu, Z. & McGoogan, J. M. (2020) Characteristics of and Important Lessons From the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Outbreak in ChinaSummary of a Report of 72 314 Cases From the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. JAMA: doi:10.1001/jama.2020.264.
Fernández, E. et. Al. (2020) Informe Técnico. Enfermedad por coronavirus, COVID-19. Ministerio de Sanidad y Centro de Coordinación de Alertas y Emergencias Sanitarias; 1-27.
Trejo, C. (2001) El viejo en la historia. Acta Bioethica; 7(1).