Before I make a preliminary effort to answer my big sister’s question, there is something I would like to talk about on this blog, something quite personal which for a very long time I have hesitated to bring into this medium. Fifteen months ago I was diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. The original symptom was a tremor in my left hand and also micrographia so bad that I can no longer read my own handwriting and have turned to this splendid program put out by Dragon as a substitute. A second very troubling symptom is something with the odd name “festination.” Sometimes, about two miles or so into my morning walk I start to walk faster and faster as though my feet were running after something despite my efforts to slow down. In general my walking has become more afflicted with a kind of stumbling which is especially noticeable around the apartment but this uncontrollable faster and faster walking is rather scary and threatens to make me fall. Parkinson’s is a progressive and incurable disease, of course, and living here in a retirement community I have seen several people in advanced stages of it who seem, to put it as cruelly as I can, like zombies. Since I am 87, which is late to come down with this disease, there is no telling how long I will live or indeed how long it will be before I am simply confined to a wheelchair. The optimistic projection, I suppose, is that I will die of something else before I reach that point. My mind is clear, or at least as clear as it has always been, my memory is unimpaired, and happily my politics do not pose a threat to my health, so at this point I plan to go on as I have for as long as I can.
I would like all of you to do me a favor. Please do not express the sympathy that I know a great many of you will feel and do not tell me stories about people you have known (or even about yourselves) with Parkinson’s. I have never been one to put my business out in the street, as my colleagues in the Afro-American studies department would have said, and I do not want to start now but I simply felt that I could not go on talking with you every day while keeping quiet about something that so deeply concerns me.
Thank you for listening. I will post this and later today talk about something much more interesting, namely what tendencies in mature capitalism offer the possibility of a transition to socialism.