Sometime ago I noticed the peculiar dearth of young children and elderly out and about. I think this was while riding the Metro. It certainly wouldn’t make sense for the train to be full of infants or the infirm. But I thought how strange it seemed at first when I saw a family with a baby. Then I realized what was strange was not the sight of a baby, but the fact that it was unusual. Where were babies, and old people? The sick and the dead? All put away in their own compartments, safely out of sight.

My elderly grandfather doesn’t live with any of us, he lives in a nursing home. My hometown didn’t have any cemeteries whatsoever. These parts of life are ghastly and accordingly we have separated ourselves from them.

What happens to our trash? We just put it in a rubbish bin and its gone with the rumble of a truck. Our sewage? Flushed away, and we’re reminded only with the quarterly municipal bill that there’s a process to taking care of it. There’s always “someone” to take care of these things so that we can forget about them. Yes, we reap the massive benefits of the division of labor and subsequent economies of scale (usually). But we’re removed from all concern.

I was reminded of this again today reading a post about the “rape penalty”. A disgustingly large number of prison inmates report being victims of rape in our prison system. This is inhumane, a mockery of our judicial system, and pernicious for society as a whole (e.g. HIV transmission, prisoner release, outside tranmission). But does anyone care? Not really. Prisons are another one of those places where we just dump people off and let someone else deal with the problems - and in part with good design. But it does seem to me that the problem is that we’re removed, and we keep removing ourselves from our problems in this way.