“You are an apostate, my good older man. Do you know what apostate means Mr Smith? It means you’ve renounced our beliefs; you’ve turned your back on us Mr Smith. I cannot believe that after a rich life of career, fatherhood, wealth and good health, you are unwilling to help us in our quest to cure ageing. And you mustn’t associate aging with death. That notion is fast becoming passé, all thanks to our ingenuity”.
“Death will get YOU one day” the indignant old man replies. “I am old and I want to die. I’ve got too many conflicting shades of memory and my death will be the end of them. I want to move over. There’s too many of us as it is. This planet is crumbling because of us humans and our insatiable needs. There’ll be wars. Terrible wars”.
“Crumble… crumble?” The youngish government official in charge of S.A.A.W.A.D. (Successful Aging As Well As Death) in the Eighth Sector of New Town district slams his fist on his desk. “Death is NOT going to happen to me when I don’t want it; it will happen when aging as a disease is defeated. Look man, I’m here to help you live longer, much longer”.
“I’m eighty nine for Christ’s sake. What do I have to live to 150 for?”
“Well there’s family for a start. Your great, great, great, great, grandchildren will see you in the flesh. You won’t be just a distant name on a plaque or a tombstone”.
“I’ll be withered, demented hippy on a kidney machine. I’ll have a brain the size of a pea. My geriatric bed will be nothing but a coffin lined toilet. That is no life”.
“But by then Mr Smith we will have cured aging. Can’t you see it’ll be you, me, everyone. The greatest disease known to humanity, overcome”.
“There will always be death, damn you”.
“But not from aging my dear fellow. It will be something else, until we find a cure for that”.
“I don’t believe you. If nobody ages then something horrible will happen to keep the human population from getting out of control. Something more horrible than war. Nature will find a way. There’s got to be a balance, otherwise life as we know it will disintegrate. I fear there will be nothing but epidemics, nothing but catastrophes. All because people like you want to live longer”.
“Nature is our constant enemy. We shall overcome Mr Smith. We shall overcome. That’s why we are here. To explore, to conquer, to enslave, to liberate, to steal, to use, to start again. We were all once like starving wolves fighting over rotten carcasses. We just went at it and the hungriest survived. So primal, so uncouth. Now Mr. Smith we are all knowing. And we have the drugs that can solve multitudes of problems, and of course we have research”.
“Humans will probably end up colonising the rest of the universe after they’re done her, and muck that up too! Anyway, what if I don’t want anti aging drugs? What if I want euthanasia instead?”
The official shifts in his chair, stares at Mr Smith sitting opposite and says “You don’t want that Mr. Smith. You’re nowhere near suitable for life release. That would be premature. But if you like we can test you, but just by sitting here you appear well in control of your faculties. By all accounts you had little trouble getting to my sixth floor office here in the left wing of our Panopticon, Mr Smith. But I am a mere official and you have freedom of choice”.
Silence infiltrates the room like a foul odour. Mr Smith is no longer looking at the official. He’s thinking what a daft world he’s living in. Why should a grumpy old hippy like him have to put up with these idiotic do-gooders, and all in the name of science! It was a mistake him coming here. He’d thought he could get some sense into these people. He was wrong. Why on earth can’t they accept aging! It prepares the mind for the big sleep. And death is the pact with nature for having lived. And how lucky are the few who have had a long and fulfilling life. And besides, his body is not the same anymore. He might have his mind, but he’s losing muscle, he’s lost his flexibility, and he’s lost hearing in his left ear. Aging is all about loss. But this is life’s tragedy, loss. Maybe loss is getting too much to bear. He’s just glad he didn’t have to think about aging until it grew on him. These days the young ones are forced to think about it in their teens. And these twats reckon his long life hasn’t been worthwhile! But he’s done what he can with it, mistakes included. How much more can he still do with his life physically waning! The cat is out of the bag. They are going to have to find a way to keep the human foetus cooped up in the womb for a hellova lot longer than nine months. That’s where it’s got to start. Yeah right. And no amount of calorie counting and cell manipulation is going to cure aging. That is the cycle of life. From young to old, me and you sunny boy are born to go. Why do these idiots want to keep buggering up the natural order of things….
“Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith. You’re somewhere else. Don’t disappoint me Mr. Smith. I’ve got big plans for you. As an official I get to recommend. Do you know how it feels to recommend something Mr. Smith? If I recommend you, well, I’m important aren’t I, I mean I get to show that I’ve got a good eye, that I’m here working for the common good, and really, it’s not about me Mr. Smith, it’s about what we can do for you”.
Mr. Smith shrugs his shoulders.
“Let me tell you a little about what we know. We are moving the ‘goal posts’ because we can Mr. Smith. Because we can. We’re all organisms made up of cells, and vulnerable to aging Mr. Smith. Do you know what senescence means Mr. Smith? It means the process of aging. We don’t like that word. It’s ugly. We don’t like the idea of process either. It’s anti-progress. Do you know what a telomere is Mr Smith? I don’t but it sounds awfully good. It’s all about treatment. I’ve heard some creatures like sturgeons and molluscs live long lives and scientists reckon it’s because they live without stress. We have to eliminate the stress gene Mr. Smith. And did you know cancer cells are immortal. Imagine that! People get killed by something that’s immortal. Wouldn’t it be great if we kept the immortality bit after we’ve found a cure for cancer! Imagine that! That’s what science can do man. You’ve got to put your faith in it. What else is there eh? Religion? What’s the point of having a world full of god believers if all they do is put their trust into some being they’ve never met in the hope it will improve their lot? What’s the use of superstition? We’re far better off putting our trust in the company of good scientists. Real people who can help you and me, everyone. At least they show us what they’re doing. It’s all there in peer reviewed research. Any breakthroughs, and we’ll hear about it in the news. And look what drugs can do. They cure, but if they have side effects then other drugs will fix the problem. Simple. And all this good fortune is for us to take advantage of Mr. Smith”.
This guy’s a believer for sure Mr Smith thinks. While the official has been talking he’s been looking out the open window behind where the official is sitting. The sky is a grey blue today. Not much smog. A quilting white cloud is slowly drifting over the peak of a nearby skyscraper.
“And another thing Mr. Smith. Being old doesn’t mean being irrelevant. Youth is wasted on the young they say. Dead right eh. You’ve got wisdom Mr. Smith. Imagine a wise and intelligent old person who is also a relevant old person. Imagine that!” I bet he’s never read Brave New World Mr Smith thinks to himself. The window’s wide frame and askew panel is seductively inviting. Floating bodies could easily get in, or out.
“At S.A.A.W.A.D. it’s all about lessening the odds for older people. We aim to minimise disease, mental illness and other traditional age related problems. We want you Mr. Smith to actively engage with life, with our help of course. And it’s not going to cost you much. We’re still experimenting after all, and we don’t expect you to fully compensate us for our mistakes. We’ve got insurance. But we do have high hopes Mr. Smith. Lofty even. If our executive officers can make it into law, we’ll be real gods. Bureaucrats and scientists united. We’re working on that too Mr. Smith. Now Mr. Smith getting back to your problem. We’ve got new lifespan expanding drugs available. But we’re also a bit alternative here. We have diets tailored especially for you. And another thing Mr. Smith. You won’t need to sleep anymore. You will meditate instead. Above all it’s about attitude. You have to believe Mr. Smith that you too can beat aging. You have to deny it in the same way people deny that wealth is only about money. And if you must have a spiritual role model then look no further than your Jesus Christ. He wasn’t meant to grow old in this world was he! He defied death and now he’s eternally thirty-three! We won’t be so lucky Mr Smith, but we can all contribute something once we’ve cured aging. Defy, Mr. Smith, and you are left with denial. The facts are here Mr Smith, and more are coming. In future years eighty nine will be nothing. Older people who still want children can have them. Any birth damage and reconstructive surgery will fix it. Desire enhancing drugs will be consumed like any healthy breakfast. Ramps and disabled toilets will be a thing of the past. Aged care homes won’t exist. All your vital parts will be bionic. There’ll be no dementia or Parkinson’s disease. If there is a remote chance we can’t help an older person and he or she qualifies for life release, then we will euthanize. It’ll be quick and painless. We have all bases covered. There’ll be no such thing as youth. Young people will be known as pre-older. We are determined to eradicate aging as the cause of death. Of course there will still be other causes. But we can’t predict the future, can we Mr Smith! That’s for the future to come and tell us. But you and I won’t know unless we’re there Mr. Smith. Us together, in the future. Imagine that!”