Did I get your hopes up, you rascals?
I am still reading about and mulling over Robert Heinlein. In Methuselah’s Children, he envisioned prolonging human life, another science fiction prediction starting to come true a bit. My father died at 43; I am 67 and still relatively healthy (having just gone out into the early stages the big wind/rain storm about to hit Whidbey Island, and survived).
As every silver lining has a cloud, extending human lives creates many problems. One problem is that people don’t know when to quit and when to stop. Think of the worst dictators of all time. Hitler was eventually stopped by outside forces, though at the cost of millions of lives. On the other hand. Stalin (arguably even worse than Hitler) looked set to go on forever, a far as holding power goes, but eventually his health declined (unhealthy lifestyle with habits such as smoking did not help), and eventually he did croak. Even so, there are many rumors and allegations about his death, with claims that he at least was “helped along,” by close associates, such as Beria, head of the secret police. In any case, whatever caused Stalin to kick the bucket was probably a mercy for mankind, as one of the last rumors about Stalin was that he was leaning toward starting World War III. As always a competitive rascal, he might have wanted to outdo Hitler in his final orgy of destruction.
In any case, people who get too old and don’t know when to quit are a perpetual problem. Did Saddam Hussein know when to quit? Probably not. Did Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi know when to quit? Probably not. Did Joe Paterno know when to quit? Probably not. Evander Holyfield, now 48, five times boxing champion of the world and still fighting, certainly doesn’t know when to quit, and is quite likely to have a medical incident right in the middle of the ring.
Are there corresponding instances of women who did not know when to retire? Well, there was Imelda Marcos of the Philippines, who ended up being dragged into a messy court battle, right here in the USA. Or, Catharine the Great of Russian, arguably one of the most successful female rulers in history, about whom one web site asserts, “It was the misfortune of Catherine that she lived too long. She disgraced herself by living with her last lover, Zubov, when she was a woman of sixty-seven, trusting him with power and lavishing public money on him.”
Are there people who know when to retire? Or are we all condemned to carry on too long, wreaking havoc on everyone around us? I don’t think I will quit today. Tomorrow is always another day, not to mention another cliche.