Keeping retirement weird. “Life is trouble. Only death is not.”

There is a scene in the great movie Zorba the Greek with Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates when the town’s people strip the old lady’s house once she was dead.

There are times in our fight for pension rights when I think about that scene from the movie that I saw decades ago and I feel like the people in that Greek town are a metaphor for the politicians in Illinois, only the they don’t want to wait for us to die.

They are pillaging our homes now.

You do know that they say we are living too long and that our living is the root of the pension problem?

In a January post, my friend and fellow perfection caucus member John Dillon wrote:

Mayette Epps-Miller, born on April 15, 1901, was 111 years old.   Identified in surveys of the elderly as a “supercentarian,” one who lives beyond 110, Mayetta was considered by her remaining family to have been the “rock…who pulled everyone together.” Such an obituary would leave most of us smiling for the lady.  You go, Mayetta.

On the other hand, if you are a lawmaker in Illinois, this is as frightening as a constituency version of “The Walking Dead,” except the zombies are feasting on much-needed dollars.  Never mind that the dollars were owed them to begin with.

Talk to any legislator in Illinois, he or she will be quick to remind you that we are living too long now.  They say that such changing actuarial demographics make the continued payment of benefits into later years impossible or injurious to payments to later public sector workers.

Of course, an Illinois legislator won’t tell you that the real issue is the colossal sums money diverted for nearly half a century, funds owed but not paid to public sector workers.


It surprises many that there are industrialized nations in the world, in fact most, that take care of their older folks. And their children. And provide universal health care.

All of it is considered a social good. Even when conservative governments win elections they wouldn’t dare threaten to take these social programs away.

And they haven’t gone broke by doing it.

This is not to say that in the United States  we baby boomers, older folks and retirees aren’t a profit center for some. Have you watched the commercials on the network evening news? Clearly the only ones watching Lester Holt are over 65.

Then there are green funerals.

What? You didn’t know?

“I want to propose a different way of thinking about death that moves us toward death acceptance,” she said. “I think death acceptance is a critical aspect of protecting our environment.”

Ms. Lee is among a growing group of entrepreneurs trying to disrupt death. She offers her mushroom suit as an alternative to what she calls the “death denial” practices of the funeral industry — which is still embalming bodies then putting them in coffins entombed in concrete liners — and the cryonics field, which aims to preserve dead people for later revival.

Her pitch: Why not just accept that we’re going to die, and do less harm to the environment in the process? Happy Earth Day!

Green burials were considered a niche alternative as recently as a decade ago, but consumers and funeral professionals are warming to the idea of burying the dead without the use of embalming chemicals, formaldehyde or cremations that release metals and gases back into the environment. According to a 2015 survey by the Funeral and Memorial Information Council, 64 percent of respondents indicated an interest in green funerals, up from 43 percent in 2010.

There is even a Kickstarter for bio-urns.

Bernie Sanders, the old guy, may have generated an interest in socialism among many voters, young and old. But I have to give capitalism some grudging credit for coming up with a way to create another profit center with a green way to go. Death and dying was doing pretty well making people money already.

I don’t mind becoming a mushroom, but I think we need focus more on fighting to take better care of the living.

When I was the union rep in my building I sometimes would hear a complaint from a teacher about some issue and I would offer to file a grievance.

“I don’t want to get in trouble,” some teachers would say.

“Get in trouble?” I would say. “We’ll make trouble.”

Or as Zorba would say, “Life is trouble. Only death is not.”

5 thoughts on “Keeping retirement weird. “Life is trouble. Only death is not.”

  1. Making trouble these days begets trouble. Ask Troy LaViere. Sad…but true…when someone in the system points out its shortcomings and works for change they are silenced.

  2. “…What is this world? I wondered. What is its aim and in what way can we help to attain it during our ephemeral lives? The aim of man and matter is to create joy, according to Zorba—others would say ‘to create spirit,’ but that comes to the same thing on another plane…

    “I stood up. ‘Come on, Zorba,’ I cried, ‘teach me to dance!’ Zorba leaped to his feet, his face sparkling. ‘To dance, boss? To dance? Fine! Come on!’… We threw ourselves into the dance. Zorba instructed me, corrected me gravely, patiently, and with great gentleness. I grew bold and felt my heart on the wing of a bird…

    “One night on a snow-covered Macedonian mountain a terrible wind rose. It shook the little hut where I had sheltered and tried to tip it over. But I had shored it up and strengthened it. I was sitting alone by the fire, laughing and taunting the wind. ‘You won’t get my little hut, brother! I shan’t open the door for you. You won’t put my fire out; you won’t tip my hut over!’ In these few words of Zorba’s I had understood how men should behave and what tone they should adopt when addressing powerful but blind necessity…” (Kazantzakis, Nikos. Zorba the Greek. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952).

  3. I have to give capitalism some grudging credit

    Capitalism is also the source of contract law/rights (which are pretty minimal in a socialist economy). I have noticed you are pretty willing to accept those (at least when you’re doing the enforcing).

    Kinda like the child on Hallowe’en night who is asked to share his huge haul with another kid who only went to a couple houses. Kids aren’t very socialistic; good thing you are around to change human nature, eh? If only we could get rid of those pesky contractual obligations . . . then you could share with the State (that apparently hasn’t done enough trick-or-treating).

  4. Golly! If these smart people knew all along that we were living longer, then the prudent thing to do would have been to “religiously” fund the pension fund every year. As they are supposed to do, anyway.

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