It would appear that, in between long stretches of time spent simply thinking in the dark and silence, I’m somewhat unusually productive tonight, so let me try writing this now as well instead of waiting for next evening as it seems to be the rule lately. Oddly enough, though I was far from certain that I’ll manage it, I actually was planning to write a post to file under Health this week, so it adds up, even though this was really not what I had in mind.
Sleeping on issues is generally a very good idea, but this could very quickly and very easily become too complex if I dwell on it, in which case I’d end up setting it aside and then possibly never get around to writing about it, so better throw something out here while it’s still fresh. For full disclosure, I probably should mention that this train of thought started after I learned this evening that my uncle was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Connecting that to the fact that my grandfather was also diagnosed with cancer last year, that I may have heard of one or two others as well shortly before that, though I’m not sure where they fall on the extended family tree, and that there have been some other recent scares related to that as well, this paints a very suspicious picture when you take into account the fact that cancer was nearly unheard of in this family until now despite most members that I know of living past the age of 80.
One needs to wonder why are we not only allowing but actually encouraging this to happen these days. I mean, from my point of view, bar a few truly terrifying brain conditions that reduce a person to a mere shell of themselves, cancer is the scariest and worst illness I can think of. It’s not just the fact that it’s often deadly and always painful, nor that subjecting yourself to the existing treatments for it may well be worse than dying, particularly if it’s not caught early on, but also that it implies that your body has simply decided to destroy itself.
Granted that certain autoimmune diseases, those that make your body literally decide to destroy certain parts of itself that it still needs in order to function, are worse and more unusual in that aspect, but the truly serious ones are also far less frequent and can often be traced to certain conditions or flawed genes, whereas cancer looks more and more like a worldwide epidemic that few can consider themselves safe from. And it certainly looks like we’re determined to pour more and more substances into the world and into ourselves and use more and more devices that are at least suspected to increase the risk.
There was a piece in an old article from National Geographic Magazine where someone was saying that, while it’s true that the incidence of cancer and heart disease has tripled over the past two centuries, the average life expectancy has also doubled. I really don’t find that an improvement. I’d much rather have 50 years of perfect health and then quickly drop dead from an injury or a massive infection than somehow have my life stretched on to 100 years but need to struggle with all sorts of treatments and keep going through hospitals starting in my 30s, and even earlier for some unlucky souls.
Seeing as all of us usually have a certain number of cancerous cells inside our bodies, due to various errors our bodies make while growing and repairing themselves, it could be argued that those errors accumulate and therefore cancer is an unavoidable outcome past a certain age. However, while that is quite true, there are plenty of young or relatively young people affected by it and the increased average life expectancy is far from sufficient to account for the rest because it’s largely thanks to far fewer children now dying at or soon after birth, modern warfare claiming far fewer lives and certain parts of the world where disease and poverty were historically rampant benefiting from some medical services, so you may well find that, if you’d adjust for those factors, the real increase in life expectancy hasn’t been all that significant. Besides, while it admittedly is not a new problem for old people, the incidence seems to have significantly increased among them as well in recent decades.
In general, it seems to me that animals with much shorter life spans and much more rapid metabolisms are more prone to developing cancer, which should make it highly uncommon among humans, considering how long we live compared to most other species. That even makes perfect sense, assuming you consider it to be just an accumulation of errors and not something caused by external factors as well, because it’s much more likely for a rapid metabolism to generate such errors, just like it’s much more likely for a person who rushes to make mistakes. However, considering the current rates and, more importantly, the estimates for the future, that hardly seems to be the case…
Interestingly, what we’re doing to our metabolisms can actually play a big part in this terrifying outcome. After all, the human body isn’t exactly meant to always be active and burn through sufficient amounts of food on a daily basis, but mainly, like most other animals, to alternate between periods of intense activity and long periods of rest, periods of plenty and periods of dearth. Yet modern society, particularly in the developed world, has taken that away and forced people into this highly unsuitable rhythm. And let’s not even mention all the attempts many make to hasten their metabolism in order to lose weight…
So what do we have in the modern and more or less developed world? Unsuitably high and constant demands from our bodies, unsuitably high supply of nourishment, dangerous substances all around us and dangerous devices frequently in use. It’s no wonder we’re ending up here! The question is only what are we going to do about it.
In the end, the powers that be probably do not mind reducing the population in this manner instead of the far more difficult method of drastically reducing the number of births, no matter the pain and suffering caused, and the pharmaceutical companies make too much money from treating this veritable plague of our age to be particularly interested in preventing it either, so it’s all down to us, the regular people. Who knows, if logic, reason and ethics are obviously not enough, perhaps fearing their own death and suffering and the death and suffering of their loved ones could somehow make enough people act before it’s too late.