Updated: Jun 14, 2022
A MODEST PROPOSAL FOR PREVENTING THE PARENTS OF POOR PEOPLE IN CANADA FROM BEING A BURDEN TO THEIR CHILDREN OR COUNTRY, AND FOR MAKING THEM BENEFICIAL TO THE PUBLIC
Earl Fowler (lyrics by Jonathan Swift)
It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and condo doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six wrinkly relatives, all in dad jeans, and importuning every passerby for an A&W chicken strip, a Werther’s Original or the TV remote wedged somewhere between sofa pillows.
These daughters, instead of being able to work 24/7 on cellphones and laptops for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ much of their time in strolling, to beg sustenance for their helpless elders, who, as they grow older, either watch The View for want of work, or feed their Guaranteed Income Supplement into slot machines at the nearest casino, or defile their nails with spongy grey detritus of unknown provenance from Hail Mary Scratch & Win cards.
I think it is agreed by all parties that this prodigious number of seniors, in the bingo halls, or at mall food courts, or at the heels of their daughters, and frequently of their sons, is in the present deplorable state of the Dominion a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap, and easy method of making these burdensome boomers sound and useful members of the commonwealth would deserve so well of the public as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.
The statue, it goes without saying, would be summarily beheaded and ripped from its plinth after the obligatory ceremonial spattering of red paint. All pigs are bastards.
But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the parents of hard-put Gen Xers and millennials; it is of a much greater extent, and shall take in the whole number of the dirty old ginks who gave life to said issue in effect as little able to support them as to those who demand our charity from the relative comfort of their La-Z-Boy recliners and Dr. Ho’s circulation-promoting foot massagers.
As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years upon this important subject, and maturely weighed several schemes of other projectors — chiefly editorial writers given to sackcloth-and-ashes lamentations about our demographic slide into a society of Methuselahs — I have always found them to be grossly mistaken in their computation.
A dive into Canadian census data will show that as of 2020, there were more people over 65 — 18.1 per cent — than children younger than 15 (15.78 per cent). The life expectancy in this country is 82.66 years (or was, in any case, before COVID-19 began helpfully chipping away decimal points).
Though attempts to sustain the cohort’s modified mantra (make love pills, not warfarin) have become increasingly fraught, boomers reaching the age of 60 now have an above-ground standard of 25 years ahead of them. The Pepsi generation has abided and endured like sealed casks of rum in the hull of a North Sea shipwreck. Dug-in denizens seem to believe that bliss is it in this dusk to be alive, but to be old is to be very averse to going to heaven! Oh! times …
As far back as 1937, when the West was sleepwalking toward unprecedented mean longevity of 60 years or even more, the great John Dewey — philosopher, psychologist, educational reformer and, above all, pragmatist — was calling attention “to the fact that there is a problem and one of a scope having no precedent in human history.”
As the always-prescient Dewey warned at the first American conference on aging:
The changes which brought about a great reduction of infant mortality and the lengthening of the span of life for those who survive the hazards of infancy have had important social effects so that social conditions have been created which confront civilization with issues of the most serious nature.
Dewey’s warning was ignored, of course, but the issues he identified boil down to one, really: Mass longevity is deemed a fiscal calamity because entitled old farts are living too long and dragging everyone else down with their unreasonable demands for health care, housing and social services. Money that could otherwise be properly channelled to the military industrial complex and corporate tax cuts for the One Percent is being wantonly diverted instead to greedy geezers who imagine they’re due some kind of payback from the generations they supported for 20 or 30 or 40 years (and counting).
Christopher Buckley was on the right track in Boomsday, a novel in which the heroine proposes paying America’s 75 million aging boomers to commit suicide at 75. In earlier times, the Inuit were rumoured to have harboured similarly sensible, senicidal notions about ice floes and senior disposal.
But no. Not good enough for the I Me Mine Generation (who, as a side note, continue to employ offensive terms like “Eskimos” when everyone else has made a seamless transition to “Elks”).
By keeping fit and eating well, following doctor’s orders, getting vaccinated and taking advantage of medical advances — ironing out the wrinkles, as it were — geriatric grubbers have been stripping years from the clutches of the Grim Reaper as remorselessly as climate change wrests land from desiccated lakes in the Midwest.
In what Theodore Roszak (who coined the word “counterculture” back in the Sixties) describes in his book The Making of an Elder Culture as a “corporate-dominated, market-based, highly militarized economy,” well, let’s just let him say that “the entitlements and the life expectancy now available to the many (are) the antithesis of a Social-Darwinist ethic that serves the few.”
Besides being ravenous leeches on the supple skin of government coffers, older people tend to be savers, prudent investors and lousy consumers. Adds Roszak, who, ironically or not, dropped dead accommodatingly at 77, two years after Elder Culture came out in 2009:
Hardly a week goes by but the evening news or the op-ed pages takes up the drum-beat: “Be warned! Old people are coming! Old people are coming!” Gerontocracy, in the judgment of many pundits, threatens bankruptcy, backwardness, and stagnation. They ask: “How can we afford all these people?” And, less audibly, they ask: “How are we going to sell them i-Phones, HDTV, flashy clothes, new movies, the next American icon?”
Aging boomers, as we know, are smugly content with music from their epoch (when all sales were vinyl) and remain as stubbornly impervious as half of Justin Bieber’s face to passing fashions and fads. (If you don’t know who the Biebs is, keep reading. You’ll do.)
Think of today’s inflexible, politically incorrect, perpetually unwoke seniors — who remain skeptical of gender dysphoria and in the main supportive of Enlightenment principles — as the constipated counter-cancel-culture. I know from talking to my children how this irrational belief in reason and evidence of the senses rankles the soon-to-be middle aged. As Buffalo Springfield put it so memorably back in that 1967 high-fi hit: “Old people speaking their minds / Getting so much resistance from their own behinds.”
(For what it’s worth, by the by, does anyone have the faintest notion how the Summer of Love gave way so quickly to the Winter of PPE Gloves?)
But enough senescent rambling. I shall now therefore humbly propose my own (or rather, a putatively misanthropic 18th-century Irish churchman’s demographically adjusted) thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.
I have been assured by a very knowing Republican National Committee official of my acquaintance that a typical, pickle ball-adoring senior of 75 can be a most delicious, nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that he or she (or they, if in a fluid state) will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.
Though I mark no distinction as to colour or creed, there is plenty of scope for culinary creativity. Polk salad Rajasthani, for example, comes with more of a spicy tang than shrunken Swedish meatballs (which tend to be stringy and chewy). Chiquitita, tell me what’s wrong.
I’m here till Thursday. Try the Bob veal.
The latest Canadian census counted 9,212,640 baby boomers, and with legions suitable for freezing joining the over-65 brigade every day, the population could conservatively sustain the offering of one hundred thousand per year in sale to persons of quality, and fortune, through the nation, always advising the caretakers to let them suck Halls Mentho-Lyptus plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good table.
An elder will subdivide into eight dishes at an entertainment for friends, and when a family dines alone, the fore or hind quarter will make a reasonable dish, and seasoned with a little pepper or salt will be very good boiled on the fourth day, especially in winter. As one can well imagine, longer stewing and cooking times apply for particularly sinewy octogenarians and nonagenarians. Microwave-safe containers and a splash of distilled water are advisable for convenient reheating.
I grant this food will be somewhat dear, and therefore very proper for landlords, who, as they have already devoured most of their pension cheques, seem to have the best title to indigent Golden Agers.
Those who are more thrifty (as I must confess these inflationary times require) may flay the carcass; the skin of which artificially dressed, will make admirable gloves for ladies, and summer boots for fine gentlemen. Light flaying is always recommended when withered feet present with corns, bunions or ingrown toenails.
We may be assured that butchers trained in the rules of nature, red in tooth and hand, by that independent-thinking herd of National Post and Sun Media columnists will not be wanting, although I rather recommend buying the boomers alive, and dressing them hot from the knife, as we once did roasting pigs. As a matter of interest, I am reliably apprised by that self-same GOP source that this very enthusiastically remains the Sunday high tea practice at the humble(r) abode of Baron and Lady Black of Crossharbour KCSG (not to be confused with KFC).
While the overall societal benefits are clear, it may be acknowledged that the odd elderly guest will find the prospect of being eaten by the rich initially unappetizing. Guess who’s gumming all the way to dinner.
But given half a chance to simmer down, an opportunity for calm reflection from that traditional retiree perspective vantage point on the back burner of life, most will readily concede that there are worse fates than being a cheeseburger in paradise. Have you visited a run-of-the-mill assisted-living facility anywhere in Canada lately?
As for you younger folk: Keep your fork, Duke. There’s American Pie.