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Abandoning the Old

Ubasuteyama, USA

by LINH DINH

Modern industrial civilization weakens the family, which is not necessarily bad, since it allows children to escape tyrannical parents. In such a society, the home is not so much a socializing haven as a motel, where wage earners drive back each evening only to ignore each other. FaceBook has become a hearth and shrine, and independence is having your own flat screen TV. Behind locked doors, the kids chill in solitary confinement, while you and the spouse can have separate finances, night outs and flings, and all is good until everyone grows old, likely alone, which brings us to the question of Social Security.

Until 2010, Social Security had always been a net gain, meaning that money contributed by workers had always exceeded the amount sent to retirees. This surplus means that Social Security, as is, should be sustainable until 1936, but that’s assuming the economy won’t seriously unravel, but even if it will, Social Security should be the very last program to be tampered with. Waste is needless wars and bank bailouts, not money spent on the old and the disabled.

In a traditional society, one must take care of one’s aging parents, and let’s not sugarcoat this. There is a Vietnamese proverb, “One mom can feed ten children, but ten children can’t feed one mom.” In Saigon, an old lady also confided to me, “My daughter pinched my inner thigh out of spite the last time she gave me a bath, so I said to her, ‘Why don’t you go ahead and kill me already?’”

In the Republic of Goldman Sachs, NASCAR and Lady Gaga, however, most kids won’t be around to pinch our inner thighs as we fade into senility. Also, more American women won’t have any children. In 1970, it was only one in ten. Today, it’s one in five. Fewer of us are also getting married. What you have, then, is a huge aging population without any income beyond the Social Security check that arrives each month.

Substituting for the missing children, three workers now support each retiree, but this is only fair, since for decades, these old people were the de facto filial sons and daughters of other senior citizens.

As working citizens, we have no choice but to participate in Social Security, but this has never been a problem, since the vast majority of us has always recognized its necessity. Who’d want to be old and curled up under a bridge?

At $1,177, your average social security check will pay for a one bedroom apartment in a semi-slum neighborhood, plus enough leftover for discount groceries, bought with several fistfuls of coupons. It’s not much, but it’s survival, and not something to be messed with, unless, of course, you belong to the very rich.

The wealthy hate Social Security because they don’t need it. Even the concept of surviving on a grand a month boggles their minds. That is so pitiful! Such chump change won’t even get them three bottles of Pinot Noir at Bistro Bis, a favorite of belt-tightening advocate, Paul Ryan. Never been there, but if I go, I’ll order a Spam musubi. Can I have an extra plate, please? Me and the wife will share.

For the wealthy, for people whose earnings derive mostly from investments and dividends, and not grunting work, it is somehow scandalous that we should get a thousand a month after a lifetime of honest labor. They can steal from us to finance their endless war and banking shenanigans, but it’s not OK for us tapped out lumpens to have a minimum income in old age? Instead of gutting Social Security, we should wipe out the superfluous Department of Homeland Security.

This vicious campaign against Social Security is nothing but class warfare, pure and simple. Unless we do something about it, and soon, the ruling class will continue to rip us off as we sweat, and starve us when we’re no longer useful. They and their enablers, Bush, Obama and Boehner, et al, are not of us or among us. Never on the streets except when hustling votes, they never see the senior citizens already sprawling on our sidewalks.

Old people of limited means are a drag, really, since they can’t be sent to war, and you may have to clean up after them, instead of the other way around, as is customary with the poor. What good is a poor person who won’t clean your toilet, give you a sensual massage or kill and die for the empire?

According to Japanese legends, Ubasuteyama is a mountain where old people are abandoned to die. With each cut to Social Security, we will be erecting our own Ubasuteyama.

Linh Dinh is the author of two books of stories, five of poems, and a just released novel, Love Like Hate. He’s tracking our deteriorating socialscape through his frequently updated photo blog, State of the Union.