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Surplus People
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The old can't work any more, whether initially by choice (retirement) or by infirmity, ultimately they can't work and so they are surplus people. Acute social withdrawal, for this population, is not just expected, it's imposed, by making participation in society and politics harder--or rather, restricting ease of participation to those who can work, can drive, have IDs, etc.

If they're lucky, the old have pensions or savings to live on and so, when being consumers and living independently, are afforded some respect. But the truly old, infirm and immobilized, are out of sight, out of mind. Economy-wise, they're just a drain and better off dead. For these people, withdrawing from society isn't seen as a shame, as an illness; it's what society expects them to do. Hie thee to a nunnery retirement home!

To some extent, women in the home face similar attitudes. It's better for society if you stay home and nurture your children, and when they're grown, the nest enables them to return if unemployed and/or single, and by then a woman is too old to enter the workplace anyway. Surplus people.

With almost 50% of the women employed now, there is great pressure to roust them out and send them back to kitchen and bedroom, where they belong. A woman withdrawing from society and being nearly housebound is not seen as aberrant behavior, a problem for herself or her family. She's where she belongs.

It's different for men. (Should I qualify this by saying "white men")? A man of working age and ability will be responded to quite differently by Adult Protective Services than a sequestered woman or elder. They will try to get counselling for him, job training, medication. Men are not perceived so much as surplus people, but a potential participants in social life.

This situation is why community is so important. If I don't go to church this morning, for instance, I'll get at least one phone call making sure I'm all right. And encouragement, the offer of a ride, whatever, to attend the next social event. Friends have already signed on to visit me when I have my surgery.

I may be retired, and I may be a woman, but thanks to my community, I am not a surplus person.

I'm truly grateful.

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