Is the ‘Tiredness of Life’ Universal?

We know how to take back control of our lives. We know because we are humans. Not robots or consumers or insipid algorithms. We are humans.

man in black shirt and gray denim pants sitting on gray padded bench
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04 May 2023 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News

Below you will read about a study that has revealed that ‘old people’ who are not seriously ill are often ‘yearning to end their lives. The key issues they identified in such people were: aching loneliness, pain associated with not mattering, struggles with self-expression, existential tiredness, and fear of being reduced to a completely dependent state.’

It sounds horrific, doesn’t it? It must be an old age sickness.

Except that it isn’t.

The tiredness of life is becoming universal among young people as well. And not just in the so-called West.

From China to Canada to Italy to Japan, to the US and Australia, birth rates are plummeting to the point that we a facing a future where there might not be enough people to work, let alone procreate.

Thank god for ChatGPT you might say.

Japan posted the fewest births in its recorded history last year, continuing a seven-year decline that further aggravates the challenges of its rapidly aging society.

The number of newborns fell to 799,728 in 2022, down 5.1% from a year earlier, to lowest since it began record-keeping in 1899, according to data Japan’s health ministry released Tuesday. The number of deaths rose 8.9% to 1.58 million for the same period, it said.

The lack of births means Japan will have a smaller workforce and fewer taxpayers to sustain the world’s third-largest economy in the years to come. The rising cost of caring for its elderly citizens, who make up a higher proportion of the population than in any other country, is draining the nation’s coffers, helping make it the world’s most indebted country.

Japan Times

Many countries believe the answer is mass immigration.

Canada has announced plans to welcome an unprecedented 1.45 million immigrants over the next three years as it looks to step up efforts to curb a chronic labour shortage by welcoming more newcomers.

Immigration Minister Sean Fraser said on Tuesday the country would target 465,000 newcomers in 2023, 485,000 in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025 in the federal government’s new Immigration Levels Plan.

Canada To Welcome Unprecedented 1.45 Million Immigrants In Next Three Years

This might help to a certain extent, but surely the governments must know that they will soon be competing in a massive but depleting ‘pool’ of available humans. Then what?

The truth is that it would appear that young people around the world are simply giving up.

In China they call it Tang ping (lying flat), a ‘Mandarin term that describes a rejection of societal pressures to overwork, such as in the 996 working hour system, which is often regarded as a rat race with ever diminishing returns. Those who participate in tang ping instead choose to “lie down flat and get over the beatings” via a low-desire, more indifferent attitude towards life. It can be thought as the Chinese equivalent of the hippie counter-culture movement.’

To us old folks that might sound quite enticing. Who didn’t love the counter-culture movement?

But…

Perhaps the reasons for these ‘rebellions,’ then and now, are similar. We once thought: Why would young people want to bring a child into this world? To fight in WWIII? To drink polluted water? To work serving fast food?

But nothing has changed in that time. The young have also been conned into believing that the only true meaning of life is war and retaliation and consumer spending and ever-rotating ‘viral’ causes.

Young people know but cannot-yet- prove that these things are not a part of ‘human nature.’ They are manufactured by shareholders and Big Miltary and Big Money and feckless governments who insist that the ‘meaning of life’ is little more than one’s ability to consume and mock and consume some more.

Many have never known a time when the world was not at war. Or rather multiple wars. They have never known a time when the ‘media’ have not dictated what they should eat, what they should wear, who they must love or hate or trust or ridicule.

They, like the rest of us, are fed up with the daily meal of saturated pablum, meant only to fill the allocated ‘screen time’ before pushing us on to the next Big Fabricated Cause.

None of these things are a part of ‘human nature.’ None of us have the power or the desire to start wars or confrontations or poverty. We do not instinctively despise humans from other places on Earth. We do not marvel at the war machines or thank god for the ability to move armaments to the 800+ military bases in the world yet have allegedly failed to ‘find’ a way to feed all the humans on Earth.

So, yes, there is a ‘growing phenomenon’ in society and we know that if they long ago figured out how to ship billions of dollars worth of arms to other countries or send spy satellites into orbit, they know how the fix the rest. They are not waiting for us to help them figure it out.

All we need are leaders who actually want to lead.

We need writers and artists and journalists who are willing to stand up to the madness that is hell-bent on destroying life on Earth.

We need to grow up and remove the responsibility from the hands of millionaire politicians and the vapid media circus that fills our daily lives.

We know how to do these things. We know because it actually part of human nature. Because we are humans. Not robots or consumers or insipid algorithms. We are humans.

And yes, I know I am barking up a very tall tree. No one will see this, let alone read it. That is part of the secret sauce that works to keep everyone in line. Well, not everyone. Those calling the shots do not have to worry about such things, do they?

James Porteous | Clipper Media News


Tiredness of life: the growing phenomenon in western society

Published: May 3, 2023 5.07pm CEST | The Conversation | Sam Carr

Molly was 88 years old and in good health. She had outlived two husbands, her siblings, most of her friends and her only son.

“I don’t have any meaningful relationships left, dear,” she told me. “They’ve all died. And you know what? Underneath it all, I want to leave this world too.” Leaning a little closer, as though she was telling me a secret, she continued:

Shall I tell you what I am? I’m strong. I can admit to myself and to you that there’s nothing left for me here. I’m more than ready to leave when it’s my time. In fact, it can’t come quickly enough.

I’ve interviewed many older people for research. Every so often, I’m struck by the sincerity with which some people feel that their life is completed. They seem tired of being alive.

I’m a member of of the European Understanding Tiredness of Life in Older People Research Network, a group of geriatricians, psychiatrists, social scientists, psychologists and death scholars. We want to better understand the phenomenon and unpick what is unique about it. The network is also working on advice for politicians and healthcare practices, as well as caregiver and patient support.

Professor of care ethics Els van Wijngaarden and colleagues in the Netherlands listened to a group of older people who were not seriously ill, yet felt a yearning to end their lives. The key issues they identified in such people were: aching loneliness, pain associated with not mattering, struggles with self-expression, existential tiredness, and fear of being reduced to a completely dependent state.

This need not be the consequence of a lifetime of suffering, or a response to intolerable physical pain. Tiredness of life also seems to arise in people who consider themselves to have lived fulfilling lives. One man of 92 told the network’s researchers:

You have no effect on anything. The ship sets sail and everyone has a job, but you just sail along. I am cargo to them. That’s not easy. That’s not me. Humiliation is too strong a word, but it is bordering on it. I simply feel ignored, completely marginalised.

Another man said:

Look at the condition of those old ladies in the building opposite. Gaunt and half-dead, pointlessly driven around in a wheelchair … It has nothing to do with being human anymore. It is a stage of life I simply don’t want to go through.

A unique suffering

The American novelist Philip Roth wrote that “old age is not a battle, old age is a massacre”. If we live long enough, we can lose our identity, physical capabilities, partner, friends and careers.

For some people, this elicits a deep-rooted sense that life has been stripped of meaning – and that the tools we need to rebuild a sense of purpose are irretrievable.

Care professor Helena Larsson and colleagues in Sweden have written about a gradual “turning out of the lights” in old age. They argue that people steadily let go of life, until they reach a point where they are ready to turn off the outside world. Larsson’s team raises the question of whether this might be inevitable for us all.

Of course, this sort of suffering shares characteristics (it’s depressing and painful) with anguish we encounter at other points in life. But it’s not the same. Consider the existential suffering that might arise from a terminal illness or recent divorce. In these examples, part of the suffering is connected to the fact that there is more of life’s voyage to make – but that the rest of the journey feels uncertain and no longer looks the way we fantasised it would.

This sort of suffering is often tied to mourning a future we feel we should have had, or fearing a future we are uncertain about. One of the distinctions in tiredness of life is that there is no desire for, or mourning of, a future; only a profound sense that the journey is over, yet drags on painfully and indefinitely.

The global view

In countries where euthanasia and assisted suicide are legal, doctors and researchers are debating whether tiredness of life meets the threshold for the sort of unceasing emotional suffering that grants people the right to euthanasia.

The fact that this problem is common enough for researchers to debate it may suggest that modern life has shut older people out of western society. Perhaps elders are no longer revered for their wisdom and experience. But it’s not inevitable. In Japan, age is seen as a spring or rebirth after a busy period of working and raising children. One study found older adults in Japan showed higher scores on personal growth compared with midlife adults, whereas the opposite age pattern was found in the US.

Surgeon and medical professor Atul Gawande argues that in western societies, medicine has created the ideal conditions for transforming ageing into a “long, slow fade”. He believes quality of life has been overlooked as we channel our resources towards biological survival. This is unprecedented in history. Tiredness of life may be evidence of the cost.

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