PROJECT 2016

THE AGES OF MEDICINE

«No spring nor summer beauty,
hath such grace,
I have seen in one autumnal face»
John Donne


I think it is licit to wonder whether at the different stages of life may correspond, even in the physical uniqueness, different “persons”.

Maybe this can be verified also in terms of the physiological evolution of a single person, keeping in mind that many events in life may lead to a deep personal transformation during a single biological existence.
However, what today seeems to be relevant is a long life that the privileged ones, who live in economic and socially advanced societies, pretend to live.

Too many of those who live in rich and developed communities, and for this reason tend a reject any intrusion coming from communities and nations that are not economically convenient, have the idea that it is a kind of right to stop the passing of time. Today it is a common thought that the physiological alternation of the stages of life can be changed, thus existence, which was considered unique for centuries, is now viewed as a plural experience.
Longevity represent an achievement of civilization and therefore it should come as a right to those who are part of a civilized society. In Italy, in a world context where all Nations are growing old, people age more and more, even if there has been a recent minimal trend reversal.

At this point many issues come up, raising awareness particularly in those who deal with medical science: longevity is an achievement, as long as it represents a resource, and not an emergency or a social  destabilization. An anti ageing drug does not exist, even if many people look for it, but the social context, the evolution of thought and the advanced economic and technological development, guarantee a more complete and smooth life.
However, the subject matter seems to be vast and the problem derives from the the numerous and unpredictable emergencies. Above all, how is it possible to deal with this kind of issues, in the context of an advanced civilization, without thinking primarily to young people? And how can we justify a society that only aims at vanity and at remaining always the same since growing old is no longer viewed as a benchmark?
Paradoxically, a large sector of medical research and medicine evolution risk to be blamed.

There is who (Hillman) wonders whether face lifting has to be considered a crime against humanity, “cause the way in which we treat our face has consequences on society”. I feel a strong connection with this attitude, even if it is easier to refer to Anna Magnani who says to her make up artist: “do not cover wrinkles, it took me a lifetime to have them on my face”.
The National Health Care System results to be deeply involved, sometimes with questionable procedures, in spending  exorbitant amounts of money for aesthetic medicine.
This does not represent a great success for Institutions, nor for those who repudiate the temporal limits of life, because there is a large part of the population that, even if with more hope, lives badly and without the support of that formidable shock absorber that is the family. The government tries to find a solution for the lack of support from families, not with a service network managed by competent and dedicated people, but through structures that are extraneous, linked to Institutions, to politics and sometimes even illegal.
A trend that, hopefully reversible, matches the occupation of young people with the expulsion of old ones. However, both categories, young and “old”, in view of the unavailability of young Italian people to do certain jobs, ask for new hands, without realizing that people with their history and culture will arrive and not just robots or replicants.

The story of “scrapping”, evoked too many times, is emblematic, because it contributes to strengthen the concept that old age is a useless and deteriorated state and not a prerequisite of wisdom as it used to be in the past. That is why today no one is happy to be defined as old and the anti-ageing marketing takes big advantage of this. The Government just follows instead of proceeding, it does not invent, nor innovate. It follows the glories of the “DRG” (Diagnosis Related Groups), that was born as a technical instrument of rationalization, but it actually is a stiff mechanism of simplification and injustice.

We will certainly talk about children. I don’t know whether the body is a disposable container, but surely nature has invested fundamental resources and instruments for the reproduction of species.  Ageing removal is therefore “unscheduled” (Vergani e Schiavi).

There is who said that “on the threshold of old age, a therapy of ideas is necessary”. This argument, that included illuminating claims by Italo Calvino and others, is particularly interesting but the brain that consumes the great part of the oxygen destined to the human body  has to include physiological death in the philosophy of life.
“Elderly people have to believe in themselves, in their normality” (Vergani). This is the only way, I believe, to attenuate the lacerations within the social fabric, produced by “new”diseases, like Alzheimer.

The growing individuation of new diseases and the increase in knowledge make evident the lack of sociality in death, disease and old lage.The arrival of exceptional pharmaceuticals, that are the results of the more and more advanced research activity of the Italian pharmaceutical companies, requires an intervention not only on the costs, even if companies are obliged to spend enormous amounts of money in their industrial development, but also an involvement of the entire society.
Disease, death, and old age eradication reinforces a Western gap, based on “every old person wants to be young” towards the Third world, based on “every young person wants to become old”.

Morality, ideology and economy seem to no longer live in Italy, but our hope is that, also through the experience of the Festival, Bologna may again play the important role that it had for a long time in history.

Fabio Roversi Monaco
President of Genus Bononiae. Musei nella Città

* I used many quotations from the book by Carlo Vergani and Gian Giacomo Schiavi, Ancora giovani per essere vecchi, (Still young to be old) published by Corriere della Sera in 2014. I woulk like to thank the Authors.