I don’t want to live to be 100
My dissertation looks at the manipulation of identity by the capitalist system, exploiting anxiety to make a profit and the narratives that are used to do this. I explore, in one section, the infantalisation of society – how we act and aim to look younger, buying into the kidult market. The narrative that we are told is that to be young is to have value and mean something. For Paul Tillich we hold the inescapable anxiety of meaninglessness and one result of this is the anxiety of death. Our tastes, therefore, are manipulated into being more infantile, for instance the increasing average age of video games players or the 50% of visitors to Disney Land who are childless adults. We try our best to hold onto our youth and retain our value. Once we are unable to maintain the narrative of still being young purely trough the products that we buy we are then encouraged to buy age defying creams and cosmetic procedures to attempt to hide the outward signs of our ageing. To get old is to approach death, which causes us great anxiety and so we cling on to our youth for as long as possible.
The human race has invested much time and money into lengthening life through science, medicine, and better quality of life. The expected life span increases constantly, therefore each generation can expect to live longer than their parents. Slowly but surely we are learning to defy death for longer and longer periods of time. This morning on Radio 4’s Saturday Live Sian Williams interviewed 100 year old Violet Coleman as it’s now expected that girls born today can be expected to live to 100. Violet was a wonderful woman who still had much life in her. Afterwards they read a text from a viewer saying that he didn’t think that the generation being born would live longer due to the growing levels of obesity and that the trend of increasing life expectancy will be altered. Rev’d Richard Coles referred to these as “life shortening habits” that we seem to have taken on as a society. This got me thinking, through our anxiety of death we have been trying to lengthen our time on earth and delay it as long as possible, however, we are now confronted with the reality of achieving this aim and experiencing lengthened life; perhaps the thought of living to these great ages, now that is has become a reality, causes greater anxiety than the thought of death therefore we are taking on new habits that will shorten our life expectancy. If getting old causes meaningless then why would we want to lengthen the experience? The anxiety of death is wrapped up in the greater anxiety of meaninglessness and so, ironically, by extending our lives we are actually extending our experience of death as we wait longer and longer for it to take us. Eternal life (at least life experienced as eternal before death) is actually a scarier thought than dying itself. As Richard Coles pointed out on the show “death gives life meaning” and by destroying death we risk removing the meaning of life itself.