"People are stupid," said Jack as we sat down with our lunch-time calories. That statement pretty well sums up Jack's attitude toward Mankind. "Or at least short-sighted," he added.
I said "How so," merely to get Jack talking, so that I wouldn't have to, and could devote 90 percent of my attention to my Greek salad.
Jack said "Remember that old slogan about children being wanted?"
I said: "I presume you're not talking about underage-criminals. So it must be you mean 'every child a wanted child'."
"Yes," said Jack, that's the one."
I said "I've always found that a misleading, mischievous, and even pernicious slogan. For one thing, nobody ever spelled out 'wanted by whom?' For another, is "being wanted" the only criterion to justify existence? Still, it's been getting a lot of play over the years. But why bring it up now?"
Jack said: "Because it's going to bite the people who used it, including innocent bystanders, like us, in the ass. Turn it around!"
I said: "How do you mean 'turn it around'?"
Jack said: "Every parent a wanted parent. Or every grandfather a wanted grandfather."
I said "I see what you mean. And I'm even a great-grandfather!"
"No," said Jack, "I don't think you see what I mean. You think of it as an abstraction, but it's not! If you can get rid of very young people, there's no reason why you can't get rid of very old people. And what with the shift in age of the population coming up, and all the younger people being increasingly sick and tired of having to bear the health care cost of us older folks, I wouldn't be surprised to see a move afoot to save some serious money."
I said "like what?"
Jack said "first you're likely going to see a drop in funding for medication that keeps people alive past, say, 80. Next, no more critical and expensive operations for people over 75. Give it another decade or so, and there will be a groundswell of opinion, suggesting that people over the age of 85 be "put to sleep" to use a euphemism. They're no use to anyone. 'If you don't earn bread, you're better dead', or 'if you don't earn a buck, you're out of luck', or 'if you're not 80 and sound, you go into the ground'."
I said: "It's obvious, Jack, that you've thought this through, including the slogans. But you're not the first one to suggest the permanent dispatch of old people. There was a book 'Logan's Run' that was also made into a movie. And another book called 'Barrier World', where handicapped people were 'terminated' -- another euphemism. But personally, I'm not worried, although maybe you should be."
"Why?" asked Jack.
I said "if any of what you say is going to happen, it won't happen in my lifetime. Public opinion is very fickle, but not that fickle."
Jack said: "Maybe not public opinion, but politicians can change their mind at the drop of a hat -- look how fast they changed their minds about same-sex marriage!"
I said: "Yes, but politicians tend to be older, and they may not be so quick to put themselves out to pasture, or rather underneath the sod. No, it won't happen in my lifetime, but it may happen in yours -- you're ten years younger."
Jack said pensively "There's just no light at the end of the tunnel, is there?"
I said "If there is, it's only the proverbial locomotive coming your way. However you want to look at it, we're going to get it in the end. One way or another."
We ate the rest of our lunch in silence.
Sjef Frenken is a renaissance man: thinker, writer, translator and composer of much music. A main interest, he has many, is setting to music the poetry, written for children, during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. Nimble of mind, Sjef is a youthful retiree and a great-grandfather. Mostly he's a content man, which facilitates his relentless multi-media creativity.
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