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EL ESPECTADOR

Colombia, No Country For Old Folks

What if, instead of pretending to care about the welfare of the elderly, we just wrote them off completely? A dose of satire about public attitudes toward seniors in the era of COVID-19.

Volunteers provide food aid in the center of Cali, Colombia.
Volunteers provide food aid in the center of Cali, Colombia.
Reinaldo Spitaletta

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — Stop with the euphemisms. Let's just be blunt. We already know being old and poor in Colombia can cost you dearly. Evidently, important people have concluded that the elderly are a nuisance — especially for production and consumption. They're like an exhausted gold mine that's cheaper to shut down.

So if you're the government, listen up. Here's my advice: Stop tiptoeing around our grandparents. They yield nothing. They're bad assets. The market wants them written off.

Stop the bulls**t with your "third and fourth" age groups. Why should these "former people" have property when they know they can lose it with a new mortgage anyway. Perhaps in far-off lands people may show respect for their elders' wisdom, but there's no money in that. Not in Colombia.

Here they're useless. In fact, given their inactivity, is it fair to pay them a pension at all? Perhaps at a certain age, like in their 50s, our maturing citizens could be sent to labor camps to produce something of value for the younger bankers, landowners and speculators.

Politicians, banks and real estate dealers: Don't bother softening the persecution. Don't believe Cicero's words, that "an old person cannot do what a youngster does, but what he does, he does better." Disregard the German who said that "the oldest trees yield sweeter fruit." Who actually believes that? The fewer rights senior citizens have, the easier life is for you factory owners and moneylenders. Better if they would hurry up and die.

People in the street of Cali, Colombia. — Photo: Nano Calvo/VW Pics/ZUMA

Stop your philosophizing. There's no money in it. Get to the point. Pay some youths to go knife the elderly. It's cheaper, see? You wouldn't have to put together A Modest Proposal like Jonathan Swift, and waste time arguing in favor of fattening poor children to feed to the rich and make them "Beneficial to the Public." You could make a broth of your elderly — a consomé, enough to fill some pauper's belly.

Our lofty bureaucrats should stop their populist banter and start shooting at will. Or maybe not, as ammunition isn't free and we shouldn't waste it on some old buzzards. No, better to keep legislating and deregulating to make sure the young can never retire or, failing that, reach the ripe old age of 65. Why should anyone retire when the money is much better off in the hands of private funds that know what to do with it?

Even if the pandemic doesn't kill them, they should still be locked up!

Take heed of Sancho Panza's pragmatic reflection: "He who lives long must suffer much." You can avoid that by getting out the way in time. Don't let the "younger" old people live so long. Even the IMF knew how to get them packing by remortgaging their homes. See how long they last under a permanent state of siege.

You can't be sentimental here. There is no room in Colombia for trite ideas like, "The art of aging is the art of conserving hope." It's time the government dealt with this useless, money-sucking lot. Let home owners with no pension skilfully claw it out of their hands. They shouldn't see it as theft or assault, as a favor.

Most of Colombia's elderly are poor and parsimonious. They won't invest in markets or pay into Ponzi schemes, yet still demand extra care! Even if the pandemic doesn't kill them, they should still be locked up. They have nothing that's worth leaving the house anyway. Let's make some room!

Our seniors will thank us, as aging is no fun. As the dandy Oscar Wilde said, "The tragedy of old age is not that one is old, but that one is young."

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Image of Colombian President Gustavo Petro speaking during a press conference in Buenos Aires on Jan 14, 2023

Colombian President Gustavo Petro, speaks during a press conference in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on January 24, 2023.

Manuel Cortina/ZUMA
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