Wednesday, February 20, 2013
"Eldercare": Proposed Chapter Conclusion
The following is the proposed text for the last section of the chapter on eldercare in my "DADT-3" book.
I felt a certain shame in the way I lived during the 88 months “at home” after I returned to look after mother. It would have been all right had the care taken place in a home that I had set up, under a relationship that I had also established. I felt a bit like a parasite. And I had lost a lot of freedom. In part, I was a sixty-something living with his mother.
I did resent “emotion” and “attentiveness” and even protective combativeness being expected of me when I had never “signed up for it”, by marrying and having children. On the other hand, having my own children would have made all of this make sense psychologically, because then I would have had “my family”. In fact, I recall a conversation, around 2006 or so, when Mother said she wondered if I had much regard for “my” (“your”) family, when I hadn’t procreated one. I wondered she had gotten wind of the online attention I was getting. I was indeed constantly afraid that someone would make a flame and I would have to take everything down. That never quite happened. I survived. (There’s a saying: “I became a celebrity so I could never get fired.”)
In fact, having a family is a natural result of becoming attentive to “the real needs of other people.” It doesn’t cause it. So my problem is that I dropped attentiveness and gone my separate way early in life because “social combat” had proved too shameful. After years of relatively prosperous “urban exile”, much of it (pre-Internet) lived as a double-life, I was needed after all.
It is certainly mistaken to believe that “personal responsibility” is only about honoring promises and “contracts” that one “chooses” to make. Or perhaps it’s a mistake to think that ethics and character are just about “personal responsibility” in that narrow sense. It seems, that both legally and morally, one has certain family responsibility and some duties to community regardless of choice, and that some of this becomes very personal (not just financial) in nature. The scope of that responsibility changes as society and technology change. In the past we had a military draft. Today, we practically have to conscript adult children into eldercare if we want people to live longer. As a corollary, we find a lot more can be done for the disabled than in the past (when I was growing up), but only if ordinary people will rally to support the efforts socially. And we’re finding that we’re having to expect more personal attentiveness from people if we expect to ease growing social tensions and sustain our freedoms. Some of that attentiveness may mean, as a policy matter, that we can no longer afford to shut off a third of our adults from the prospect of having and raising children. All of this has profound implications for how we view the “purpose” of marriage and family, which is increasing becoming a “result” rather than just a “cause”. I certainly learned my own lesson in “demographic winter”.
I do have my own spin on the “equality” debate. Ironically, it has turned out for me at least, the real issue for “equality” matters as much, or even more, for those who try to live “standing alone” as those who marry (for the “1000” benefits), even in a same-sex scenario. As previous generations knew, under different circumstances perhaps, people will always have to meet the needs of others, way beyond what happens in an economic market system. The practical reality is, if you don’t create your own family (and hopefully have fully equal rights), you’re likely to be called on to make sacrifices for those who do. You will feel like “second class”. You will face assignment, expropriation (to support the heterosexual passions of others), even “purification”. I remember that sometimes well-meaning people would ask me if I would feel proud of my mother’s reaching 100 (she reached 97). They “missed the point”.
The “landing” left me relatively well-off, although not forever. Ten more years of productive life would be OK. I can’t see the “morality” in expecting heroic or unusually invasive procedures (like transplants) for me, after age 75 or 80 or so. I can’t see going through what my mother did. Technology, however, is making many life-extending procedures less invasive, and I can certainly see how I could deal with some of them. I still want to be a “good guy” and not part of the Medicare problem. But the real way to become “good” is accepting a little of the paradox of the “Rich Young Ruler” Gospel parable.
As for my own religious beliefs, watching my mother’s passing did make me revisit how I see things. I was impressed with the fact that she had a last supper, a last good day, and months before, a last day where she was free on her own. We would reverse the time arrow and walk back through her life (as a relativistic thought experiment only). I also had to ponder my own attitude toward other generations, and how I carry on after I’m gone, and my previous indifference to the idea of having children. I think that our consciousness carries on a sense where we “know” a lot more, especially about our deepest intentions and the intentions and thoughts of others around us – but we cannot “experience”, unless we are born again (possibly reincarnated, maybe even on other planets). I talked about the Rosicrucians in the third chapter of the first book.
I can see how some people could say that I shouldn’t be spending time writing or on media, but should be involved in sheltering and providing for other people – the intrinsic “poor” – even if from a socially “inferior” position. That probably could have been required. It wasn’t, but I see the point. I can only say that I still have an ego (despite my balding legs) I want to see my music produced, a novel out, and a film about all of this. After that, things won’t be the same.