Do not go gentle into that good night…

Dylan Thomas told us, “Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” As old age slips his hoary fingers through my graying hair and holds my hand in his, I sometimes think of Thomas’ words.

However, many years before Thomas’ time on earth, another character expressed somewhat the same concept to death’s approach. As Gilgamesh’s BFF Enkidu is facing his imminent demise, he curses the gods with this pithy series of suggestions:

“May wild dogs camp in your bedroom,” Enkidu rants. “May owls nest in your attic, may drunkards vomit all over you, may a tavern wall be your place of business, may you be dressed in torn robes and filthy underwear, may angry wives sue you, may thorns and briars make your feet bloody, may young men jeer and the rabble mock you as you walk the streets…”

For those unfamiliar with Enkidu and Gilgamish, they’re characters in an epic narrative written sometime about 2200-2500 BCE, or slightly more than four millennium in the past. That’s about a thousand years before the Trojans and the Greeks hacked and whacked each other in Homer’s Illiad.

Well said, Enkidu. (From Stephen Mitchell’s translation, A New English Version: Gilgamesh)


Death: An Uncomfortable Factor of Life We Can Eliminate

03-03-NYPD-carsLet’s wander away from the heated polemics of firearms control and consider other ways of eliminating or at least minimize that nasty bugaboo, DEATH.

Well, not quite so fast. One more look at guns. Banning assault weapons, firearm magazines with capacity of more than 10 cartridges and ending the manufacture of primers, powder, cases, assembled cartridges and importation of ammunition (other than for use by Our Protector, the government, and its duly authorized representatives) will certainly have an impact in knocking down the number of folks who die by the gun, which currently amounts to between 30,000 and 35,000 fatalities each year in the US. A significant number of Americans–at least according to polls released in the mainstream media, favor stringent gun control. OK, if not this year, at least a few years in the future, firearms will be part of America’s ugly past, rather like domestic abuse, date rape, racism, homophobia, dishonesty, poverty, pimples and bad breath.

Once all firearms except those owned by the government are safely melted, not just those horrible black rifles that look as if they belong in the hands of Sly Stallone (who has publicly stated that he doesn’t think the public should be allowed to own such weapons) but all automatic and semi-automatic guns (to include both rifles and handguns) or rifles and handguns that look like they might be automatic or semi-automatic (for example, guns that feature a black protective coating), we can move on to eliminating or minimizing other sources of DEATH.

No, we’re not going to start with fat or sugar or white flour or chronic wanking. Those will come later. Let’s examine: alcohol.

More than 100,000 deaths are connected to the use of alcohol in the United States each year. Drinking and driving contribute to more than 12,500 deaths most years, at least according to the NHTSA web site ( Like most statistics, figures can vary widely each year. For example, Bloomberg News has been projecting that within a few years, firearms related fatalities will exceed traffic deaths. The projection is based on an increase in gun deaths and a decrease in traffic fatalities. Bloomberg’s number likely went out the smashed windshield last year when road killings were up 12% in just the first six months of 2012.

Back to booze. How can alcohol be blamed for 100,000 deaths each year? Try this:

  • 5% of all deaths from diseases of the circulatory system are attributed to alcohol.
  • 15% of all deaths from diseases of the respiratory system are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30% of all deaths from accidents caused by fire and flames are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30% of all accidental drownings are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30% of all suicides are attributed to alcohol.
  • 40% of all deaths due to accidental falls are attributed to alcohol.
  • 45% of all deaths in automobile accidents are attributed to alcohol.
  • 60% of all homicides are attributed to alcohol.
  • (Sources: NIDA Report, the Scientific American and Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario.) Also see Alcohol Consumption and Mortality, Alcohol poisoning deaths, CDC report

Those are NYPD cruisers in the image at the top of this post. The guys (or girls) who drive the cars would like to stop you (and anyone else who imbibes, that leave me out, I don’t drink alcohol) from driving while under the influence. So far, police efforts have mostly come to naught. Maybe an outright ban on alcohol is the solution. Maybe? Didn’t we try that for a few years, a failed experiment known as prohibition? If what I read is somewhat accurate, prohibition created an entire class of gangsters who smuggled or sold booze and an entire class of criminals who drank the stuff.

So, prohibition was ended. It didn’t work. Will banning certain popular firearms–or maybe all firearms–work much better? Has any of the governmental efforts to end anything from acne to war ever succeeded in doing much other than creating gangsters and criminals and a much larger government that intrudes more and more on people’s lives?

Maybe we should consider other ways to lower the American mortality rate. We could package DEATH in a box and ship it USPS Parcel Post. Yeah. Then, even if DEATH does arrive, it will be so overdue it won’t matter.