The relentless carnage continues
Worldwide, another forty million humans were killed by that ghastly degenerative disease that most of us have still not quite learned to see as a disease -- the aging process. Forty million -- that's more than the population of Canada, and twice as many as were felled by all other causes of death combined. Most of those people died slowly and horribly, from a gradual wasting away of all the body's systems (not dissimilar to the ways AIDS weakens and kills its victims), until the final end of existence in many cases came as a positive mercy.
And the same devastating loss of life occurred in 2007, and in 2006, and so on back. And it will happen again this year, and next year, and so on forward.
The fact that this situation does not provoke universal horror and outrage and calls to action, stems from two fundamental flaws in our thinking. The first is that we look upon death from aging as inevitable -- there is nothing we can do about it. Until recently, of course, that was true. It is no longer true. We now understand the problem and we know, at least in general outline, how to solve it. Sustained effort could eradicate this scourge from the world within, probably, fifteen to thirty years, as once-mighty killers like smallpox and polio have been eradicated, or largely so.
The other flaw in our thinking is that we regard death from aging as normal -- as being somehow qualitatively different from the other things that kill us. If a 30-year-old dies, for whatever reason, it is considered tragic; if a 90-year-old dies of old age, that's just the way things are. But until a couple of centuries ago, epidemics and famines that killed millions (of all ages) were "just the way things are" too, and were mostly accepted with the same dumb bovine passivity. We stopped thinking about them that way when our technology became sophisticated enough to protect us against them. It is no more proper or right or "normal" for a person to die just because he happens to have lived a long time, than for a child to die just because he happens to have been born HIV-positive. Both of these tragic phenomena are scientific and technological challenges, not immutable features of reality.
We need, again, to change our thinking. We need to see aging for what it is, and to free ourselves, again, from that dumb bovine passivity. There have always been pessimists and naysayers and those who said we should accept the way things were and not try to pull ourselves up out of the filth and disease and ignorance in which nature (or their God) had left us to wallow. In the end we have always ignored them, and in the end we have always won. If we ignore them now and rise to the challenge, we will win again -- and vanquish the most terrible killer of all.