"What enables a nurse to walk past somebody dying of dehydration?"
Well, I think I can answer that from what I have seen in my own village over the past week or so. It is a complete and utter inability to recognise that the elderly exist as human beings; that they are the same as you are. That they think, breathe, and feel.
I have an elderly friend who was the first person to arrive on my doorstep when we arrived in the village. I love her dearly, and she has been a wonderful friend to me. Now her memory is rapidly failing, and she is finding it more and more difficult to get about the village. Last week I walked round our local Co-op with her. Our Co-op is not the largest shop in the world, and the aisles aren't stupendously wide. In the same aisle as us was a young mother with her baby in a buggy. My friend realised the young mother was there, and moved out of her way. This takes her a little while, as she can't move fast, and needs a stick. She turned round to smile at the young mother and say something to her.
She was completely and utterly blanked. And the thing that gets me, the thing that really really upsets me, is that I was watching this young mother, as I was holding my friend's basket and waiting for her, and not even for one second did it occur to this her to wait for my friend to finish what she was doing. It didn't occur to her to smile at my friend; or talk to her, it didn't even occur to her to look at her. She was inconvenient and should get out of the way. It was an utterly chilling example of cold indifference to someone else's existence, and I could have wept when I saw the look on my friend's face.
I was so furious I could have slapped this unfeeling, unsympathetic witch, concerned only with the great god Baby and herself, but I made some flip remark to my friend and tried to inject a little humour. And you know what really makes me want to weep, wail and hit the wall? The self same thing happened round the corner. Different mother; different baby, but the self same thing.
One day, they'll be old. I'm rather older than either of these mothers and therefore closer to my friend's state, so perhaps it's easier for me to sympathise. The better bit of me hopes that something; anything makes this attitude change; makes people recognise people's humanity and look past their decay. The worst bit of me hopes that one day when both those girls are old, that some last dinosaur example of what is then an utterly unacceptable prejudice treats them the same way, just so they know what it's like, and I hope it makes them think back to how they behaved when they were young and I hope it makes them sorry. And I should add that I should keep any eye on my own behaviour too, and never think that what I do is good enough.