Getting Old Sucks

I wasn’t impressed with Ezekial Emanual’s article, Why I Hope to Die at 75.

Arnold Kling calls it “excellent and important” and asks commenters to spare him the “snark about Emanuel, Obamacare, and death panels.”

I’m not sure what annoyed me more, Emanual’s article or Kling asking to be spared the blindingly obvious, and in my opinion, wholly deserving snark.

I’m assuming the snark Kling doesn’t want is something like:

Since, Emanual is an architect of Obamacare, you see, and now he’s writing that he doesn’t want to live past 75 because life just isn’t worth living past that point (according to him), you see, and there was this whole (we were politically-correctly brainwashed to believe) stupid political meme about Obamacare leading to government “death panels” deciding who is worthy of being allocated precious medical resources and who is not and should just die so as to not be a burden on “society”, you see, it kind of seems like…uh…there may have been something that stupid meme, but we are still too brainwashed want to admit that?

The resistance to snark reminds me of the resistance people like Elie Wiesel’s family and friends had to the warning signs that their lives were changing in early 1940s in Transylvania as German troops approached and occupied their enclave.

The secondary title of Kling’s blog is “taking the most charitable view of those who disagree.” Wiesel’s enclave took a too charitable view with those approaching troops and Hitler’s intentions and they suffered mightily for it.

David Henderson is less charitable on Emanual’s article. He found the article and Emanual “troubling”. Thank you! He describes Emanuel’s attitude as:

“Sometimes wrong; never in doubt.” The man (Emanuel) really does seem to think he knows how everyone should live.

In his article, Emanual tries to convince the reader that this whole dying at 75 thing is just his personal opinion and he’s not suggesting anything by it. Henderson says to that, “Basically, I just don’t believe him.”

My opinion on Emanual’s article: It’s dumb.

I think it’s a good example of personal preference bias. At age 57, Emanual holds a personal preference for his life to end at 75 because of some stats that says he has a 50/50 shot have reduced faculties after 80.

While he assures us he’s properly taken his current age and state of mind into account and will not change his mind as he approaches 75 (though he doesn’t plan suicide), talk is cheap.

The rationale he provides in the article affirms for me that he is a dangerous idiot. His view on what constitutes a life worth living at a different age is unimaginative and narrow, and reminiscent of all of us proclaiming at 18 that if life can’t be like it is when we’re 18, it ain’t worth living.

Tyler Cowen is more imaginative in thinking about how life could be worth living at an old age with reduced faculties:

And to sound petty for a moment, I don’t want to pass away during the opening moments of a Carlsen-Caruana match, or before an NBA season has finished (well, it depends on the season), or before the final volumes of Knausgaard are translated into English.  And this is a never-ending supply.  The world is a fascinating place and I fully expect to appreciate it at the age of eighty, albeit with some faculties less sharp.  What if the Fermi Paradox is resolved, or a good theory of quantum gravity developed?  What else might be worth waiting for?

For those who make it another 23 years, look forward to Emanual’s follow-up: Life after 75: I was wrong! Why I was still thinking like a teenager when I was 57.

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Warning signs

It’s been years since I read Elie Wiesel’s book Night and one particular part of it still haunts me. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep it’s this part of the book that I think about.

It’s not his description of the atrocities committed on mankind in concentration camps that haunts me often.That’s so bad I must block it out. Though, now and then I can’t shake the thought about how families were sorted out at the gates never to see their loved ones again.

As frighteningly bad as that is, it’s still another part that haunts me. In the book, Weisel describes his life before Hitler.

It’s remarkably ordinary, but striking. It’s striking in that even though it was more than half a century ago, he made it sound so much like daily lives we lead rather than some historically distant account. You could easily imagine it being not much different that what we do each day.

Wiesel described how his ordinary life changed so slowly and gradually that the changes didn’t seem like changes at. It wasn’t like there was a sudden invasion and they were imprisoned.

At first, it was a far off happening. They discussed it around the dinner table like we might discuss what’s going on in Iran or Benghazi.

Word came in that Hitlers’ troops were coming closer. It’s okay. They’re going to protect us from Russia. It was difficult for them to tell who the bad guys were.

The troops came into town. They were nice and polite. They were there for their own good. Ah, we’ll put a fence around your part of town, but that’s okay. It’s to protect you. 

We often hear this described as the Boiled Frog Syndrome. When his fellow townspeople questioned the motives or heard snippets of what was really happening, nobody wanted to believe it. They even defended Hitler. Ah…he’s not that bad.

One of the crazy guys from his town even narrowly escaped death at the hands of a firing squad in his travels, if I remember right. He came back and tried to warn his fellow townspeople. But, hey, he was the crazy guy. Who would listen to him?

The reason it haunts me is that at time I wonder if we are in a slowly boiling pot, but are too slow to realize it.

Maybe we’ll have a tough time telling the difference between good and bad, like Wiesel’s fellow townspeople did. It’s not as simple and sudden as it’s made out to be in the movies.

In real life, bad people can do good things, good people can do bad things, and sometimes good people can do bad things and never realize it.

I was reminded of this by a stark comment in Thomas Sowell’s column today:

Have you noticed how many of our enemies in other countries have been rooting for Obama? You or your children may yet have reason to recall that as a bitter memory of a warning sign ignored on election day in 2012.