Jab Me Not

Getting on has drawbacks.

Ten years in, retirement loses appeal. Siblings and friends are losing their health to a degree that starting a phone call with “How are you going” is not a wise idea. The reply might be a show-stopper.

Even if your own health is no issue, something dark lurks around an increasing number of corners. The shadows of life hide malevolence or violence that seems readier by the day to leap out and claim a hapless geriatric. Luck runs only so far.

The complexity of life has become a really big time-waster. You know the old joke, “at my age, Sonny, I don’t buy green bananas.” Well, paper forms that resemble short stories have been replaced by online forms of equal length, except the recording device – once a simple pen or pencil – has become an expensive computer, tablet , or smart phone, with attendant extortionate monthly data plan, router, infernally perverse WiFi or cable connectivity, apps, spyware, data harvesting, Trojans, popups, ransomware, logins, passwords, authentication SMS, captcha, assorted “are you sure” challenges, that – should you survive the assault on commonsense – lead only to poorly or slickly designed pages of incomprehensibility – and no human expert to ask why oh why and what does it all mean?

That is not my gripe.

What’s most upsetting about aging is one’s friends. We were all firebrands, progressives, anti-establishmentarians, analytical thinkers, certain to gracefully age from wiseacres to the wise. But these old fogy mates of mine are hardening into fascist conservatives or crackpot theorists. Shorten is untrustworthy, Trump is sexy, conservatives are better economic managers, carbon trading is a tax, the post office is hopeless, they’re putting stuff in the water, they’re putting nanomachines in the vaccines…

My cohorts and I grew up in a country where labour had achieved some footing in its eternal class war with kleptocracy. A skilled independent public service, government-owned monopoly utilities, universal health care, Commonwealth Employment Service, TAFE. PMG, aka Post Office and Telecom, CSIRO, CSL.. you know, quasi-socialism. Government for the people. A mutual society writ large. A commonwealth.

And that one, CSL, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, was on the ramparts fighting transmissible diseases that had plagued us for millennia. National vaccination campaigns eliminated the horrors of polio, tetanus, hepatitis, rubella, measles, whooping cough, mumps, chicken pox, diphtheria, tuberculosis.

The cost of these vaccines was several, or none, in perhaps 100,000 fell ill or died from unintended side-effects of vaccines that, by design, were ‘denatured’ agents of those diseases. A similar number might be killed by a seat belt or strangled by their crash helmet. Yet back then there was no national panic, no currency of alternate facts, subversion of medical advice, anti-vax campaigns, politicisation, employing consultants, fearmongering, not even stupidity. We – the entire nation – just lined up, got injected, and the disease went away.

Life was simple. Vaccines vaccinated.

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