02 August 2009

Thanatoeconomics

Approximately 12 years ago, having recently passed the age of 40, I was thinking about my "life experiences" and about the changes I'd observed in U.S. society since my childhood.

Among the things I'd observed were that:

- it usually requires at least one traffic death to get a new stoplight installed at a dangerous intersection or crossing

- food banks and 'charity clinics' tend to be open, at least in my area, during 'upscale retail' shopping hours only [viz., M - F 10 - 4] while the people who need these places most are generally locked into 7 - 4, 8 - 5, or 9 - 6 subsistence jobs with no paid leave, and lack personal transportation to reach these places quickly even if they were free to make the attempt

- although our society claims to deplore domestic violence, it is virtually impossible for a battered woman to obtain a protection order on any weekend or holiday, because the family court system is closed at those times. However, these are precisely the times when domestic violence is most likely to break out, and women are most likely to be in need of protection orders

- many 'social services' in my area that I had begun to investigate first hand [as someone dealing with multiple simultaneously terminally ill loved ones] operated under 'restrictions' that effectively disqualified me, my loved ones, and others like us, from being able to use them. For instance, hospice, respite, and elder transport care available on a county by county basis only, when my loved ones were dying in one county, and I was living in the next one over.

- while insurance and healthcare costs were skyrocketing, more and more people seemed to be losing coverage for paradoxical reasons - such as actually filing a claim on their policy if, say, a tree fell on their house, or their 11-year-old was diagnosed with leukemia

- and good luck to you if you experience a natural disaster, love your pets, and refuse to abandon them. Years before Hurricane Katrina, a local ice storm knocked out power to the entire two-city metropolitan area in which I live; people metro-wide were risking hypothermia and house fires, because 'official shelters' and 'warming centers' refused to allow them to bring their animals, insisting that they abandon their pets to freeze alone in the dark, if they wanted care for themselves.

Meanwhile, I'd been observing for years that every time a corporation threw employees to the sharks [aka, had layoffs], its stock, obscenely, increased in value [an observation that resulted in my decision not to own stocks in any firm, ever, that did not grant all employees profit-sharing, and did not make layoffs the option of last resort. No, I don't own much stock.]

When I put these things - and more - together, I reached two very harrowing conclusions:

[1] we live in a society that is shockingly abusive and even more shockingly unaware of the fact

[2] and to all appearances, our economy places money and its accumulation so far above basic citizen welfare that it essentially rests on a foundation of human sacrifice.

Lest you think I am being unduly harsh, ask yourself what it takes to get your school district or county to install a traffic light or pedestrian crossing signals. Virtually always, someone must be either killed or injured, right?

And if you were to discover, tomorrow morning, that an identity thief had stolen every penny of your life savings and cleaned out every other account you have on record, then you got pink-slipped in the office five minutes after your doctor told you that it looks like your child has leukemia, who do you think would pay for your mortgage, your health insurance, your child's medical bills? Do you think you'd have a house in three months' time? Would your child survive? Really?

If you're a regular churchgoer, who's the most recent person in your congregation to lose his or her job, and do they still attend? If they do, are they being welcomed and supported, or avoided? Have they been told that they're suffering these things because they're somehow defective - somehow wrong, bad, sinful?

I could not un-see what I was seeing. The evidence was all around me, and it was all-pervasive. I coined the term, "Thanatoeconomics" to describe it.

An economic system that depends on death.

Literally or figuratively.

I will be posting more on this at Potemkin's Office. It's the real purpose for which that blog was originally created.

Meanwhile, for further thoughts on this topic, please see TH in SoC's blog The Well Run Dry in which he discusses issues that relate directly to thanatoeconomics, and I finally get over my reluctance to share my thoughts on this subject, and post a comment in which I use the term. TH has already done a lot of thinking on the topic, and also finds the term "Thanatoeconomics" entirely suited to what he sees. Seeing the term in actual use, clearly respected and taken seriously, brought tears to my eyes.

TH is a brilliant writer, researcher, and expository journalist. And, as an engineer, he has plenty of scientific street cred.

He most definitely does the subject justice --

-- and justice, with mercy, are what we all so desperately, desperately need.

1 Comments:

Blogger TH in SoC said...

Amen! And thanks again for your kind mention.

02 August, 2009 16:24  

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