Jorge Coloma’s lonely death highlights our society’s true poverty.

Just how isolated we are all becoming is highlighted today by the sad fate of Jorge Coloma. Even though he was still receiving his pension and his rent was being paid by direct debit, he had been dead in his bed one year before he was finally found.

At times like these the recriminations come thick and fast. Where was the Department of Housing who have a twice annual audit to contact its elderly tenants, or the Meals on Wheels mentioned on a note on his door? Why did his neighbours not notice his absence or those that he may have had some contact with miss him?

It is an indictment on our society that individualism is so rampant that we no longer notice loneliness in our community nor are bothered to reach out to these marginilised people.

Before we rush to judgement we should ask ourselves what are we doing to recognise these people in our own midst? Have we dropped in on an elderly neighbour just to share a moment? Do we notice what is happening in our own street and try to make contact with those around us through polite conversation when we pass our neighbours or do we just come and go ignoring their presence?

It is not good enough to pass this responsibility on to governments or agencies, landlords or charity workers. This duty of care to our fellow citizen, in fact, belongs to each of us and Jorge Coloma’s fate should make each of us examine our own lives.

As a society we may consider ourselves affluent and civilised but when Jorge Coloma can die alone and abandoned without a thought from the society he lived in, then we are actually much poorer than we ever imagined. Even the poorest societies look after their own. It is only in the 21st century that we have become so self-centered and selfish that one of our own can become lost, even in the teeming city. Do we really live in a society?

Perhaps today we can do something positive, talk to a neighbour, visit that lonely friend, contact the estranged family member, chat to someone in the street as we go about our lives. Let each of us make a difference and make sure that the circumstances of Jorge Coloma’s death do not happen again!

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~ by abstraktbiblos on Thursday, 10 January, 2008.

2 Responses to “Jorge Coloma’s lonely death highlights our society’s true poverty.”

  1. I am really saddened by Jorge Colomas death and I wish there were something I could do. I will be really sad if i find out that no one claims his body to give him a proper funeral. If i had the financial means, I would give this poor lonely soul a decent departure to our cold, mean world.

  2. I think your concern is admirable. But I would really prefer if you would propose some sort of actual solution to this dilemma. We can guess that Mr.Coloma was alone, in the sense that he had no contact with any family members. He lived alone in a low density housing community where they probably keep to themselves. He didn’t have a telephone. So we can say he seems to have slipped through the cracks of the system. We might like to blame the automatic debit banking system paying his rent and utility services. But it a system we are all encouraged to deploy in this corporate state. It also appears that this man may have just lay down and gone to sleep and never woken up again. Or perhaps his death was a suicide. Dying silently in your sleep is something many people seem to desire!
    So what is it that I am saying. That this man’s circumstances meant he was socially cut-off from his immediate community. That this is an unfortunate aspect of migration culture in Australia. To suggest a general disintegration of normal care exercised in our society does not seem to be an accurate assessment. That neighbourliness means checking up on anyone living alone who is older than 60. I wish it were that easy. To regulate care in some way – even through your hopeful prayers is utopian. But in reality I cannot see post-60 year olds registering to a group of accountable neighbours. It might be that there will be Age Wardens who go around to post-60 year olds households and get the old folk to bundy-on once a fortnight – with these records being entered into a central computer so that statistics can be generated & monitored. This sort of updating and checking the vulnerable has serious ethical implications. Maybe this is the product of the post-modern period we live in. We don’t intrude in these people’s lives because of the civil liberty issues at stake.
    One simple solution would be to install free landline telephones for 50,000 public housing residents over the age of 60 – allowing free metropolitan calls only- so that at least the suffering Mr. Coloma would have the option to call somebody or seek assistance.
    I see a social conundrum where we are faced with a security versus insecurity paradox. But isn’t the problem that the modern social structure has changed due to economic rationalism and digital management systems. One of the products of this change is something we might call “the social obsolete”. Mr Coloma lived and died outside a tangible society to a greater extent. Perhaps society for him was virtual – a trace of our traditional social structure but now maintained by the media industry – the social spectacle fully translated to his television. It is really difficult problem to resolve.

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