Halfway through her novel Nine Perfect Strangers (2018), Liane Moriarty flirts with metafiction for six pages. Risky in mainstream lit, but the novelist heroine is tripping on acid: an excuse for the fourth wall to fall away. Anticipating criticism, Moriarty has her say ‘How tacky’ and ‘How very gimmicky’. But then we get a glimpse of the author:
Indeed. You needn’t drop acid to see why the novel, while not extinct, is dying, as repressive messages riddle the screens of the omnipresent devices that confine our consciousness to a world with pixelated skies. Stricken by the scourge of political correctness, authors self-edit the contents of their heads until all that emerges is purged of offensive potential. But no offence = no conviction. How to write convincingly (let alone excitingly) without portraying the shades of grey that pervade human behaviour?
Nor is the affliction confined to fiction. Political satirist CJ Hopkins, in an essay inspired by ‘sensitivity editing’ (or the cancellation of literature), reels off a litany of values that global capitalism, trading as Democracy, is bent on suppressing, the better to enforce ideological conformity:
That Hopkins omits ageism (is it less of an issue for males?) reflects its low profile on our cultural radar. Old age means reduced visibility. But hey, stereotyping and prejudice can cut both ways, so isn’t it discriminatory to side with the aged? Even if our ageist society is a total mindfuck for anyone over, say, 50 (when Australians get their first free bowel-cancer home-test kit in the mail). Because medical science is obsessed with prolonging life. Apt for a capitalist economy: the older you get, the more disorders develop, and the more drugs you can be talked into taking – why else try to keep tormented people alive at all costs? (Though hospitals, not just nursing homes, contrive to lose a few due to lack of staff and/or beds.) So our healthcare system tells seniors to get regular checkups, take their meds and guard against falls – even as it nudges them closer to the inevitable: living death in an aged-care ghetto. Better to willingly swap your house for a unit in a retirement village (conveniently adjacent to an aged-care facility).
My mother said she’d rather die. And I think her instincts were right. Despite healthcare-professional pressure to pack her off to a nursing home for her own safety, notably falls prevention, I strove to keep her out of hospital or, when not possible, to get her discharged asap. And not until securely institutionalised did she have a bad fall, breaking her pelvis despite daily bone meds, which led to dreadful pain and prolonged, disabling immobilisation. Months later I had to demand a review of her painkillers: she couldn’t stay awake, let alone make conversation. The effects of the drugs had been mistaken for those of ‘dementia’.
Speaking of clinical blind spots, a kind former neighbour of my mother’s has kept in touch. Still independent at 89, she wrote in her last note:
This is just one example of countless ‘vaccine adverse events’ that went and continue to go unreported, often by old folk who lack internet access and/or a nuanced grasp of English official doublespeak, however compos mentis they may be. And good luck resisting the demographic drift towards dementia – a disease as widespread, confusing and elusive as COVID-19, yet suspiciously overdiagnosed, given that complex causative factors defy reductive analyses and futile pharmaceutical solutions. Much as, say, advancing bone loss and a progressing spinal curve can compound one another without radical intervention, cognitive loss in the aged and institutional machinations can and do combine to fuel a downward spiral.
Which reminds me… Has anyone else noticed a raft of waffling health-themed online articles that never mention chronic vax side effects or hardship caused by pandemic mismanagement because their facile focus is the mysterious curse of ‘long Covid’ (so keep your jabs up to date!) or of BPSD: ‘behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia’ (agitation, aggression, insomnia, anxiety… among other normal responses to abuse and/or trauma)? Why would this relentless and demoralising commentary on ill-defined conditions with indistinct symptoms rate maximal mainstream media space? Spend enough time testing for viral infection and/or fearing cognitive decline, then meekly seeking expert advice, and you’ll miss the diagnostic bias and fail to ask who calls the journalistic shots while Big Tech monitors the blogosphere. People want easy answers. That’s why Google rules. But what intrigues a few of us more are questions. Which could start anywhere. For instance, according to a 2021 report from the Australian Institute for
Hell and Warfare Health and Welfare:
Or so suggest stats on ‘deaths among people with dementia recorded on their death certificate’ during the first ten months of 2020. Such meaningless factoids are doomed to be put to dubious use. But here’s the thing: doctors (and even nurses or carers) often aren’t there when someone old carks it. And even if they are, ‘dementia’ recorded as an ‘antecedent’ cause of death tends to be shorthand for something else. In my mother’s case it includes the effect of lolling in a chair designed to reduce pressure on bedsores, but reclined too far for her to sit up to spit out excess drool or regurgitated food. Had she not been gaga, she might have complained, and had visits been allowed, I might have realised sooner. Instead, I got to watch her demise in weekly instalments via Zoom through months of total lockdown, while smiling staff kept deflecting my raw concern with half-baked assurances that ‘mum’ was ‘so comfortable’ (despite her worsening cough)… until she inhaled enough of her own spittle or spew to turn blue, and died wearing an oxygen mask, attended by dismayed staff concealed behind face shields.
One last thing (and no, it’s not a plea for donations)… If by chance I’ve used any ageist or ‘insensitive’ language (as countless online guides to PC-speak accuse), is that worse than mindlessly turning a blind eye to socially sanctioned abuses?