Ageism, plagueism & crazy-making can-sell culture

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:

She dared to look up and the stars were a million darting eyes on the look out for rule-breaking in her story: sexism, ageism, racism, tokenism, ableism, plagiarism, cultural appropriation, fat-shaming, body-shaming, slut-shaming, vegetarian-shaming, real-estate-agent-shaming. The voice of the Almighty Internet boomed from the sky: Shame on you!

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:

… racist values, religious values, nativist values, xenophobic values, homophobic values, transphobic values, cultural and artistic values, ableist values, alloist [sic] values, shadeism, lookism, ethnocentrism, cisgenderism, anti-Semitism, jingoism, sexism, sizeism, saneism … the list goes on and on, and on.

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:

I hope you are well. and the Astra Injections did not affect you to much. I was not so lucky the second one layd me flat I was very sick and no after 12 month it is still in my Body and do not feel 100%

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:

Although the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia on people with dementia is not yet fully understood, they are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 and die from the virus than people without dementia.

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?

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2 Responses to Ageism, plagueism & crazy-making can-sell culture

  1. I have a lot to say about shame vs. honour based cultures. Re: men, I think most men I know, myself included, try to avoid the -isms and have ism fatigue. Especially if un-pc. Like racism, the other isms feel like they’re self-positioning to become new stop words. It’s a gross irony that in many ways the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater. Tired of isms, people are shutting down and becoming increasingly polarised into reactionary camps marked by what gets mocked and how. Ableism? People get oversensitive and reactionaries mock cripples. Sizeism? The politicisation of body dysmorphia is almost unfounded. Ageism? A false generational gap with idiots lobbing insults. Meanwhile under all the public shenanigans, people have quit. Good folk suffer, like your ma. Or my grandpa, or whoever.

    That being said… there’s something to all these isms. Little gems of sense. I guess maybe because asking folk not to be a dick would be too much.

    As to the MooGoo Doom Coof… it’s a magick mcguffin now. And it ain’t just CoVidicus Minimus, either. The slew of trash health articles multiplying exponentially preempting future crises are interesting. Most are potentially vaxxx related, like the one I wished I’d saved about Bayer aspirin now INCREASING potential heart attacks… or specifically Diet Coke being good for sperm (like WTAF dudes, come on) and Gods only know what else.

    Maybe the acid wouldn’t be so bad, where reality seems to me to be pretty goddamn trippy.

    Anywho. Rant over. I’m worry about your ma. That’s beyond the pale. Hopefully you’re doing well besides over in the land of the Kangaroo Court.

    • Thanks, as always, for your thinking response. If ism fatigue is divisible along gender lines, w/ gender identities evolving faster than viral variants, we need AI to plot the stats. Seems to me that an ism emerges when the minority it refers to reaches critical mass: gets massive enough to establish a public presence (like a party getting enough members to register for elections). But it so often tends to centre on identity: digital culture flattens the world into surfaces.

      Just one reason why the suppression of street protest, even when peaceful, bodes ill.

      Yes: the ism as the gem or germ or essence of wisdom; not whatever topical issue it’s tacked onto.

      Apparently, studies have shown that the more repetitious (& disposable) the info, the better it works for subliminal programming.

      Doing well on this east coast, thanks; hope you are too on yours.

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