At What Price

“The truth is like poetry. And most people f**king hate poetry.”  The Big Short

An entirely minor political poem of mine from almost five years ago is beginning to sound more predictive than sarcastic. Any sort of “Final Economy-Boosting Solution” is not the future I want to see.

And yet…we are living in a time when influential people suggest, for real, that elders should sacrifice themselves–should die– for the sake of the economy. Those voices are getting louder and much more alarming.

Yusuke Narita, an economics professor at Yale, has repeatedly advocated for mass suicide of older people. Today the New York Times offered this evidence.

“I feel like the only solution is pretty clear,” he said during one online news program in late 2021. “In the end, isn’t it mass suicide and mass ‘seppuku’ of the elderly?” Seppuku is an act of ritual disembowelment that was a code among dishonored samurai in the 19th century.

It may seem like one professor isn’t likely to have an impact, but Dr. Narita has over 569 thousand followers on his mostly Japanese-language Twitter account. He is also a popular guest on television, and friendly with several wealthy young Japanese entrepreneurs.

Japan’s economic problems have been blamed on low birth rates and longer-lived adults, a situation increasingly common across the industrialized world. Kill-the-elderly opinions may boost shock-based ratings, but rapacious capitalism has increasingly burdened young people with untenable work hours, low pay, exploding housing costs, and unaffordable childcare.

Dr. Narita’s fantasy of matricide may go back to his mother’s brain injury when he was 19, which left him with the unwelcome financial burden of contributing to her care. Maybe counseling would be a better outlet for his bitterness. Or actually working toward sustainable solutions to invigorate a country’s workforce by advocating for paid training and education, workplace policies friendly to parents, and welcoming immigrants.  

Instead, on a recent show, he answered a schoolboy’s question about forced elder suicide by saying “If you think that’s good, then maybe you can work hard toward creating a society like that.” He has also speculated about making euthanasia mandatory.

How close are some in the U.S. to these views?  

In the pandemic’s early days of March 2020, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggested the demographic most endangered by Covid-19 should be willing to lose their lives for the sake of the economy. “Let’s get back to living,” he said in a Fox News interview, “…those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.” Conservative pundits agreed, including Tucker Carlson, Glenn Beck, and Brit Hume. Lt. Gov. Patrick doubled down in April, saying “I’m sorry to say that I was right on this.” At that time, 495 had lost their lives. As of today, 93,699 people have died in Texas from Covid. Across the U.S., the vast majority of Covid deaths have been among those 50 and up, with mortality increasing by age.

This doesn’t include those suffering with long Covid. The CDC says one out of every five people who tested positive for Covid experienced or continue to experience symptoms such as cognitive problems, dizziness, depression, heart palpitations, heart attacks, fatigue, pain, digestive issues, blood clots, strokes, shortness of breath, unexplained fevers, and more. As many as four million people are currently unable to work due to long Covid. The mean age of long Covid sufferers is 40.5 years old with the largest demographic hit aged 36 to 50. Sacrificing for the economy, at any age, doesn’t work here on a planet where all of us are inextricably interconnected.

Here’s the poem I mentioned. It was published by Tuck Magazine in April 2018 and recently reprinted in Mad As Hell: An Anthology of Angry Poetry. Please, let’s not get any closer to this being true.     

Final Economy-Boosting Solution  

Our privatized Congress really is making America great again. 

Who’d have thought the Productive Adult Initiative,

complete with elder joycamps, would work so well?

Consumer confidence is volcanic.

Health care costs, barely a budget blip.

For the first time trickle down works,

a fricking waterfall, old to young.

No more elderly folks shuffling through store aisles,

clogging the roads, saving for a rainy day.

No feel-good stories about some couple married 70 years.

And all those pricey assisted living complexes,

now the place to be for young creatives.

I mean come on, studio rent and chef-driven meals

with services galore. What’s not to like? 

Plus, you don’t have to go home for the holidays

or write thank you notes to your Great Aunt Irena.

Though you do miss her pastries, warm from the oven.

And your children can’t remember her accent,

or the handkerchief she used to wipe tears

from her soft crinkled face. Sometimes you think

answers to questions you forgot to ask

might be the greatest wealth.

But hey, nothing’s better than 

consumer spending power, am I right?

Laura Grace Weldon

14 thoughts on “At What Price

  1. Comment in attached pdf file (poem).

    ~ B. Lynne Zika ~ 🎎 I’m a poet. What you’re about to read is not necessarily in good taste. Photography site:

    Liked by 1 person

      • Imbedded formatting probably won’t fly here, but if you’ll forgive me, Laura, I seem to say things more easily in poems.

        The Map


        The toes curl over and under each other,
        frozen tributes to the dance: ballet
        at first, then:
        Goosestep, Tw i st

        and the great one
        they longed for but never claimed:
        The Waltz.


        The belly was crosshatched for growth
        (a thing which mistakenly was believed
        to disappear once baby came).
        Ah, wear ‘em proudly, Doc said.

        Let him wear them instead.

        Appendectomy tightened his belt
        and got outta there
        with a couple puncture holes.
        Caesarian burrowed her line
        into pubic hair,
        though times have changed:
        Camouflage by fur is out of favor.

        Buncha old dames useta sit in folding chairs
        along the breakwall, drinking Manhattans
        and courting sun.
        You should see the mess they made.
        …flat on my back for three —
        Insurance wouldn’t cover nothin’.
        I told my husband Mark—

        Shuffle, shuffle, add to those
        Endoscopic biliary stent placement
        Carpal tunnel decompression surgery,
        cleverly located along the lifeline
        of a once-elegant right hand.

        Hey, nobody’s bitchin’.
        Good conversation for old age, right?


        At the supermarket clerks smile tenderly
        at the old woman, back bent, face lined,
        and say, as if addressing a child,
        “May I help you?”
        The woman smiles sweetly and delivers Yeats:
        “THOUGH leaves are many, the root is one;
        Through all the lying days of my youth
        I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun;
        Now I may wither into the truth.”
        Then she says,

        “For spiritual reasons,
        I once maintained abstinence for a year.
        Someone told the lead singer of a group
        playing at our favorite club.
        He successfully set out upon a quest
        to change that. At a certain moment,
        our eyes locked, I said,
        “It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter.”
        He smiled: “Here comes the sun.”


  2. Hi Laura, WordPress did not accept my response. I’m still looking for a possible old password. Here is what I wrote. Marijo

    Laura, You’ve done it again – presented us with a thought-provoking response to this cynical news. I wonder if Professor Narita would be willing to be the first to make the sacrifice he is suggesting? I doubt that even the most loyal Japanese would welcome a return to Samurai values in this respect.Cynicism is not what the world needs now. Imagination on behalf is so much more appealing and effective in the long run.



  3. Old age is what happens when our accumulated experiences outweigh the body’s strength to carry them. A treasury of knowledge is piled upon us, year after year, and it becomes harder to move, to be flexible, to respond quickly. Under all that bent back, wrinkled face, twisted fingers and swollen feet lives the supple young brain we were born with, imprisoned by its own flesh. Older people are not disposable. We are carrying treasure the young have yet to be burdened with. Rather than sentence us to death, be creative and find a way to mine that treasure. Prof Narita is not original in proposing the disposability of a whole chunk of society. Jonathan Swift was there before him with A Modest Proposal in 1729 ( Equally abhorrent.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. At the very beginning of the Covid pandemic there was frightening news about the lack of sufficient numbers of ventilators for those struggling to breathe. I am 77 years old and have asthma. I instructed my son that if I got Covid and there was still a shortage of ventilators, others should get one before me. I believed then, and still do, that this was the most ethical thing I could do. I also believe that this was a personal decision and one that I would never impose on anyone else.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The baby boom reached older age during the technology boom. That technology has done much to strip the culture of good jobs, strong relationships, thoughtful behavior, and mental well being, and yet, no one suggests we sacrifice the technology for the good of the young.


    • Oh, my friend, I’ve not been able to comment on your blog posts in forever, but I have to tell you my heart hurts for however many months your dear baby self spent in an orphanage. The same church-run orphanage that charged your birth mother for her stay at their maternity home. No words. You are precious, valuable, and essential. But you’re right, in this eugenics-leaning culture, you and I are not needed.

      Liked by 1 person

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