Friday, November 26, 2010

Living Old

It starting to become clearer to me the more that I look at it that a leisurely lifestyle has never before been part of the human condition, but is increasingly a part of every human's expectation in the modern age. I don't know how we came to this, because the truth hasn't been that far removed from us.

<<< Thinking back to my Great-Grandfather. (that be him, on the left) He had his land. His large (by current standards) family. All the food, water, shelter a man could ever use... and then some. Measured according to the standards of his society, he had it all.

He had earned/acquired leisure in their terms. Not the sitting-on-your-ass-collecting-a-check leisure. Leisure was, for them, leisure from struggle. A state of knowing where your next meal was coming from, along with breakfast ten years hence.

Still, things to do every day: Crops to tend. Sheep to graze. Food to process. Enemies to ward off. A man's work was never done.
It was the farmer's life as well as the life of his family. Every person worked or contributed to the clan's prosperity every day. As elders aged and became less able, less was done by them, of course. But even then, 'less' didn't mean 'nothing'.

One night, Nonuzz (as he is referred to) suffered a stroke after a battle with *Gypsies who'd come 'round to steal sheep. He spent his last couple of years paralyzed and mostly bed-ridden, but still not 'out of the game' as he kept his eye on things and never relinquished leadership.
Naturally, as was customary at the time, he was cared for by family who did all those nurse-ish type things that old crippled folks need done for them.

Today, things are different. We have apparently progressed to the higher levels of civilization, where leisure is some sort of old age entitlement: you sit around, collect a check for it, and produce nothing but a need for ever more medical care, for up to 20 years or longer...
We've come to expect that. But I don't know why.

We are moving ever closer to a state run medical system. (I mean, even more state run than it is now.) Nothing but an increase in taxation is going to pay it. I think we all know this, despite whatever promises the politicians are making.

The biggest problem with the whole concept, as I see it, will be the larger burden placed on those who are producing, with little asked from the ass-sitting check collectors.
We can't allow people to sit around living for 20 years after their retirement dates without tossing a few coins of their own into the bank. Perfectly able geezers should not be sitting on the labors of the younger. They need to be giving, as well.

*Because that's what Gypsies do.


RW said...

I had no problem helping to support my Mom when all her income ended up being just her social security. I refused to allow her to pay for anything she didn't have to pay for. She earned it.

Gino said...

same here, RW.
we should support our parents if need be.

my issue is with people expecting everybody else to take care of them just because they reached the arbitrary magic number.

RW said...

But is that an epidemic? All the old people I know get pissed when you just offer to pay their part of the tab at a freakin' restaurant!

Gino said...

but if the govt was paying it, they'd be OK.

RW said...

My 89 year old uncle faced down kamikazes in the South China Sea and was hoisting shells into the turrets for ground support at Okinawa and Iwo Jima in the bowels of his destroyer surrounded by walls of shells. If a torpedo hit them he wouldn't have known what hit him. He put in thousands and thousands of dollars into social security and was always careful with his money. He is on medicare and gets medicaid for his health problems, plus all his senior discounts.

He expects to get his gvt. aid because he figures he's been putting in all this time, I figure he's earned it. So, yeah, he expects the gvt. to kick in because that was the deal. That was why he paid SS taxes all those years.

Me too. So, yeah, I expect to get a check every month from the government when I can't get a job because I'm too old or can't work. Because that was the deal we made.

He still gives me the evil eye when I offer to pay his share of the tab. But that's him.

I fail to see how we can say we DON'T expect people to get a social security check when they retire after they gave money to the system their entire working life.

That was the idea. How that makes people leeches or something is beyond my comprehension.

Gino said...

either you're misreading or i'm misspeaking.

likely the later...

RW said...


never mind...

kr said...

I think people should keep actively contributing for their health (although this does not necessarily mean "working" as such) ...

Social Security was funded immediately upon passage back when (what, the 1930s?), not socked away for future retirees, and so we have the situation of unsustainable growth in the older population (health care/overall health means longer lives) with (until recently) fairly low retirement ages. All those people who have "earned" Social Security ... their money already went out of the system. The lie at the beginning set somebody up to get screwed, and a contract only works if both parties weren't lying (the workers weren't lying). I just wonder who gets screwed ...

... on the other hand, like a lot of government programs that probably could be taken care of within communities if people had any remaining moral fortitude, if it collapses I guess we'll find out what Americans are made of ... will we truly let a bunch of older people starve to death, or will step up to the plate and find some solutions?

All that said, an assumption of lie-about leisure I have to in a general way agree with Gino doesn't make sense to humanity. None of our systems (mental, physical, I'd add emotional and spiritual) can be healthy if we do "nothing." I get very frustrated with people who won't admit they are aging and endanger themselves or others by trying to do things as if they were younger, but I definitely think everyone should keep on doing things--useful things, for themselves and others.

Bike Bubba said...

RW, the reason I don't expect to see much in the way of Socialist Insecurity checks despite paying in for my whole working life is....

....quite simply that the actuarial assumptions simply haven't been valid for decades, and they're changing as people.....

....believe the lie that Socialist Insecurity will be there for them. Yes, it's a real injustice that we're forced to pay into a colossal fraud, but.....

....well, what would we expect from DC? Competence? Let's be serious here!

RW said...

Bike Bubba, I knew what you were going to say before you said it. And I still don't care.

Brian said...

Social Security could actually be maintained by tweaking it at the margins (i.e., increasing the payroll taxes at the higher income margins, raising the retirement age, and introducing some degree of means-testing for benefits.) Whether anyone has the political will to institute such changes is another issue entirely, as is whether it *ought* to be maintained indefinitely.

Personally, I'd like to see the goal being maintaining payouts to people nearest retirement, early (and pro-rated) buyouts offered to people in the middle (say anyone under 45 years old who has already payed in) and no new workers entering the system. But that's even harder to make happen, so it won't.

But really, Social Security is nothing compared to the looming catastrophe that is Medicare. The geometric growth in cost of care, the aging population, and the expectation of what constitutes a minimum standard of care are simply not sustainable. Something has to give.

That is the single biggest reason I am seriously considering taking advantage of the relative ease with which I can emigrate before I reach my peak income earning (and tax-paying) years.

Gino said...

its bigger than that brian.
the current generations expect all these things that they 'paid into', but they skip the most important payment of all: providing the next generation.

two kids per family wont cut it for long...

and if you talk about taxing benefits, the geezers all show up to vote that idea down. they think they're paid up.

but my grandfather never was paid up, and never thought he was. there is a difference.

and if anybody had a right to feel paid up, it was him.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Most of the older folks I know would be glad to do a bit more for themselves, but there aren't many jobs that work for older folks that are worth losing your SS check. Basic economics.

(How about we make some sort of pay exceptions for youth, unskilled and retired workers?)

Night Writer said...

Gino - your post reminds me of this Richard Mullen poem:

One Time My Dad
One time my dad said to me, I don’t
see why people complain about how hard they work
or how tired they are. Nobody works hard but
farmers, miners, lumberjacks and foundry workers.
This was before power tools, tractors, and such things, and all
the work was done by hand. When farmers in Upstate New York
left to get away from the stones, what
they found in Southern Michigan were: more stones.
As they cleared the land, the horses hauled the black walnut trees
and stumps to the side of the field and the farmers burned them.
Black walnut was no good to them, too hard to work.
Grandpa Conde, when he finally left the farm and moved
to Milan, got a job in the foundry and walked to work
and back, six days a week, 12 hours
a day, for 50 cents a day. He thought
he was sitting pretty. Whenever the noon whistle blew, people
would say, Well, Hell’s out for lunch. But he would sit
down in a cool place and eat his lunch.
Once, when she was a little girl, Aunt Ida
asked her father, who was working in his garden, why
he worked so hard and wasn’t he tired? Grandpa
straightened up from his hoeing and answered: I never get tired.