“It’s hard to imagine a more alarming sign of a society’s well-being than an inability to keep its citizens alive.” This quote is from the New York Times’ The Morning team yesterday. Life expectancy in the US has been dropping. Not coincidentally, the article notes, so has the wealth disparity in the country been rising. And guess whose lives are shorter. Isn’t it often the same people who vote for those whose wealth keeps them (the candidate) alive longer, and in luxury? This story struck me as poignant. Have we lost our national will to live? We see politicians who give no mind to what the people want getting themselves elected to further their own means. People know they’re not being cared for. That they’re being lied to. Perhaps it’s working its way into our national mortality rates.
I think quite a bit about mortality. Death is a natural part of life and we seem to have bought into the capitalistic idea that more is always better. The debates in ethics classes were always about such issues of quantity versus quality. Is a good life better, even if it’s shorter? Improving the lot of others increases, we hope, the number of good lives. Not everyone wants to be rich. Part of the problem with our current system is that we’re narrowing it down to one way of existing—the way of earning more money. Those occupations suffused with meaning are disappearing because they’re not profitable. Does the will to keep on living grow when money is substituted for meaning?
Books on “the good life” sell well. Whether it’s stoicism, Buddhism, or feel-good Christianity, people want to read the answers. In a capitalistic system only so many can be rich. They accumulate power to themselves and many have nothing beyond this for which to strive. How many classes are available for finding meaning in life? As universities continue their march towards the status of business schools, the philosophy and religion departments struggle. They don’t bring in money, but they do, I suspect, discuss the systems that give meaning to people. That could instill the will to press on. The article makes the point that although Covid-19 has led to a good part of the decline, it isn’t the only factor involved. We’re all so busy that we don’t have time to think about it and yet, finding a reason to continue to improve might give us what we need. Maybe slowing down a little and pondering things would help.