Having tried in recent columns to comprehend why I’ve had so much trouble keeping on writing in my increasingly old age, and thus far postulated that my problem might be either depression or else pressure amounting to panic at approaching my ultimate and literally last deadline, death, I feel a bit dumb too have missed an even more dire and pressing possibility, fear, or even first signs of, dementia.
As I was sadly reminded the other night at dinner with a friend and her beloved 85-year-old husband whose dementia has now progressed so far as to regress him into what’s commonly and all-too-accurately called ‘second childhood’, this is a terrible situation for families and friends as well as for sufferers.
But thankfully, despite the fact that every memory lapse, ‘senior moment’ or episode of writer’s block I experience makes me momentarily fear the worst, I’m still capable of convincing myself that I don’t yet have any of the senile varieties of the dreaded dementia.
And also still capable of reminding myself of how fortunate I am – and as you apparently are too, considering that you’re sufficiently compus mentis as to subscribe to and read Malaysiakini – to have survived or avoided a good many of the countless juvenile and other dementias that threaten to render every one of us metaphorically if not literally brain-dead at every age and stage of our lives.
Starting from infancy for myself and fellow males with he-mentia, the clearly man-made and culturally if not sexually transmitted delusion that ‘nature’ and even an allegedly omnipotent and of course male ‘divinity’ have privileged our portion of what we presumptuously call ‘mankind’ with some kind superiority over the rest of personkind, especialy womankind.
The root-cause of he-mentia, of course, is the fact that, as a fridge magnet that’s popular in Australia proclaims, ‘every male is born with both a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to operate one of these organs at a time.’
In other words, as smart as at least some of us hetero male members of the species we flatter with the name ‘Homo sapiens’ can be, we’re equally capable of acting like total dickheads.
In fact far too many of us males are total dickheads all the way through and all of the time, seeing he-mentia not as a pathological condition to be suffered or better still, for the benefit of all concerned, overcome, but as a competitive edge to be celebrated.
Thus the poisonous pre-eminence, at least so far in human history, of the patriarchies, phallocracies or whatever else you choose to call dick-headed dictatorships founded on the he-mented fallacy (phallusy?) that male might is right.
Big dick-headed dictatorships today ranging from ruling regimes in countries like the Communist Party’s China and Putin’s Russia, to their countless small dick-headed counterparts all the way from al-Assad’s Syria through Umno/BN’s Malaysia to the Zanu-PF’s Zimbabwe.
Then, of course, there are the dick-headed ‘religious’ dictatorships running so-called ‘theocracies like Iran’ as well as most of the world’s so-called ‘faiths’.
And, perhaps most pernicious of all, dick-headed domestic or family dictatorships sustained by verbal, psychological, economic and sundry other forms of abuse or outright violence against women and children.
Thank goodness that in my own case, the state of he-mentia into which I was born was curbed if not cured, first by the example of my father, who was far from he-mented in the way he treat my mother and other females, and later in my teens and twenties by the advent of militant feminism.
Traces of he-mentia remained, however, until I finally received a massive dose of the kind of kill-or-cure shock-treatment meted-out by the Gender Studies department at Sydney University, an institution that now, thanks to its growing majority of female students and staff, is gradually turning from patriarchal to matriarchal.
Or, as I might have put it before I got my he-mentia under control or at least learned to politically-correctly keep such sexist and/or genderist remarks to myself, is morphing from an ivory to an ovary tower.
Which to my mind is a significant improvement, because while females are undeniably prone to prementia and other symptoms of what can justly be termed shementia, this syndrome, as evidenced by spectacular lower rates among its sufferers of everything from crimes of all kinds to suicide, is far less destructive than he-mentia.
Not that I’m denying that there are serious mentias that seem to afflict people of both or rather all sexes and genders equally.
As appears to be the case with cementia, for example, a condition in which the contents, attitudes and aptitudes of sufferers’ minds set like concrete, never, ever to be changed; and the closely-related sedimentia in which ‘beliefs’, opinions and prejudices all settle to the bottom of minds like so much sludge until something occurs to stir them back up.
Certainly I can feel myself sliding dangerously close to cementia, sedimentia or both from time to time, but fortunately know I can almost always achieve relief, or, if you like, rementia, by resorting to a regimen of such tried-and-true remedies as reading, writing and stimulating conversation.
But when even these fail to cure what’s ailing my mind, as they sometimes have recently, I know I can always resume the university course from which I suspended myself two semesters ago when I overdosed on it to the point of what felt like a case of acute if not terminal academentia, and restore my flagging faculties with some shock-treatment in the form of lectures, tutorials and assignments.
Speaking of ‘terminal’ as I did a couple of lines ago, I see that I’m dangerously close to my word limit. So in closing I’ll confine myself to discussing just one final example of the many dimentias and d’ohmentias with which life confronts every one of us sooner or later if not constantly: doughmentia.
Love of money may or may not be the root of all evil, and I can’t tell either way from personal experience, because most of the money I’ve had and loved I’ve more or less carelessly lost.
But to judge from my long observations of Malaysia’s Umno/BN regime and the antics of its money-mad members, supporters and current misleader, Najib Abdul Razak, in attempted denial that they’ve sold themselves, the reputations of the race, religion and royalty they so fraudulently claim to support, and the good name and self-respect of the nation at large in return for greater or lesser shares of the countless billions allegedly misappropriated from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) so-called ‘wealth fund’, doughmentia seems about as dire as pre-senile dementias get.
And I heartily hope it will prove as politically, financially and personally deadly to them all as the dementia that I and far too many of my fast-ageing fellows around the world fear might be our fate.