Friday, 16 December 2011

The List of Death

You may have noticed that death has become an adjective as well as a noun. Things are now described as ‘death’. Situations are described as ‘death’. People are ‘death’. Its no longer only death that's death.

Either this is a fairly recent development or I haven’t been paying attention. You could always be ‘scared to death’. It wasn’t uncommon to ‘feel like death warmed up’ or to worry that something ‘would be the death of me’. But language here seems to have switched up.

For evidence of this deathly evolution search for #death in Twitter.  Here are some examples:

Unsurprisingly, things described as ‘death’ pretty much always suck. The examples above are pretty typical. Death is mainly used to describe the small annoyances of life. Death always seems to be popping up and getting on our nerves. Exams and studying are particularly prone to being death. Death is also frequently used to describe tiredness, sleeplessness and illness. This all makes sense - death reminds us that we’re mortal, physical beings and that life is not perfect.

But linking death to these small annoyances is a bit unambitious for something of death’s ubiquity and power. Death is identified in the small things, but surely it must lurk in the big things too? If, as many claim, death is one of the things we’re most scared of how does this manifest in our world?

As a way of investigating these questions I’ve started to compile a list of things that are ‘death’. The criteria for inclusion in this list are unclear and debateable, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. Here are 3 big ones to get started.

1.    Politicians

Politicians are, in general, total death.

No doubt many go into politics to change things for the better. To do this they conclude they have to get into power, and to do that they have to join the party. And then, if they’re going to rise through the ranks, they have to follow the party line whether they believe it or not. Before they realise it they’re fundamentally compromised.

Politicians lie. They have to, it’s the only way for them to go. In theory it is possible to have a politician that has integrity, and I’m sure that you can think of examples. But just look at who we’ve got. In general the political system seems to favour total asshats.

A good politician is one who knows that he or she is lying. It’s the ones that believe their own bullshit that you’ve really got to watch.

Politicians are number 1 on the list of death.

2.    Bureaucracy

This one I know about – I can even say I’ve lived – after a long and undistinguished career in as a bureaucrat.

Who likes filling in forms? Who likes having to navigate impenetrable systems in order to get simple things done? Who likes having to co-ordinate a range of services that seem unable to co-ordinate themselves?


And having observed bureaucracy close up I know why it’s like this. Its simply because bureaucrats design systems to suit themselves rather than the people that they’re supposed to work for. And the more complex your needs are – meaning the more you need help – the worse the systems work for you.

That’s bureaucracy. Total death-on-a-plate.

3.    Poverty

Its rubbish being poor, it really is total death. Of course the link between poverty and death is sadly quite literal. Death rate rises significantly during a recession and, on average, the poorer you are the earlier you die.

Our culture prioritises acquisition and (yuk) ‘wealth-creation’. Those who are not fervent wealth-creators can feel, in the best-case scenario, like rebels and outsiders. In the worst-case scenario they can feel like failures. I know I do.

Its one thing to be poor oneself, quite another to have poor kids. Especially with Christmas coming and them being force-fed greed.

Perhaps the worst thing about it is that the game is rigged. The riches of this planet are shared so unequally. The systems that circulate wealth function to enrich the already rich at the expense of the rest of us.

Its no joke. People die because of this.

Poverty is death death death death death.

So, that’s the first part of the happy list of death. There are hundreds more things deserving of a place. Please feel free to argue, or suggest others things that should be included.

The list may sound like a list of moans but its not just that. It’s worth identifying these bastards as, although we can’t do much about real death, the things on the list of death CAN be changed. 

How do we change them? Working with our thoughts and feelings about death might be a good place to start…


  1. War is even more death, death, death. And difficult to equate death as a descriptor of minor traffic wardens problems or school examinations with the total horror of modern warfare.
    I agree that thoughts and feelings about death are a good place to start, though I would start higher up the scale of things that suck.

  2. @ Kristie - Thanks! :)

    @ Songster - totally agree with you about war. Not sure I understand your statement "I agree that thoughts and feelings about death are a good place to start, though I would start higher up the scale of things that suck." Could you say more? Either way thanks for reading and commenting, big up

  3. Good article. I appreciate the Bureaucracy image as it is the cover from the text adventure game designed by Douglas Adams (Deceased) by the once amazing company Infocom (Deceased) which is cool and appropriate. Good people and good things don't last but the death bringers - politicians, bureaucracy, poverty, etc seem to go on forever...


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