Can We Talk About Cemeteries?

It has recently come to my attention that municipalities all over this dumb planet are using taxpayer funds to beautify and maintain corpse piles. Perhaps it’s a bit misleading to state it this way, but cities all over the world are wasting public money maintaining cemeteries, something that essentially amounts to housing for the dead. How is it that we still haven’t divorced ourselves from this archaic practice? For Americans it’s a First Amendment issue as we’re essentially using public funds to pay for what amounts to religious superstition: the petty, primitive idea that it’s important to preserve the inanimate husk of matter constituting the atoms that happened to make up your body when you died. Religious crap aside, though, Western burial practices are enormously wasteful. Besides the upkeep of the cemetery itself you have to pay thousands if not tens of thousands for a cemetery plot, a casket and a tombstone, in a vain attempt to make something permanent out of the impermanent. Why?

For one thing, you’re not preserving anything. You’re simply delaying the inevitable total decay of your dead cells for maybe a few thousand years (assuming nobody disturbs your “eternal” resting place). Even if you encased that thing in a perfectly vacuum-sealed diamond it would eventually decay back into dust. And even if your body lasted a million years—an eternity by human burial standards—that’s the blink of an eye on the scale of the age of the Universe. Not to mention, if we’re preserving one set of dead cells, why not preserve all of them? Maybe we should start saving the hair from our haircuts and our nail clippings so we can add those to our vacuum-packed burial containers when we die?

The stupidity of this whole pointless exercise is compounded by the fact that we’re effectively letting the dead leech off the resources of the living to accomplish this crap. Burial is the lowest, pettiest form of Ozymandias’ problem. At least that asshole presumably made a few local kings jealous at some point. Our average cemetery dweller, on the other hand, has a two foot tall chunk of rock with his name and the dates he started and ended. Most likely he’s just some schmo who worked in a cubicle, kept a well-tended lawn in suburbia and had some unremarkable kids to give his life meaning. Not that there’s anything really wrong with that, but bragging about it is ridiculous. Behold my TPS reports ye mighty and despair!

But really, even if you were Speaker of the House, CEO of Megacorp Disruptive Synergy Technologies 2.0 Corporation or the king of ancient Egyptian kings, who gives an actual flying fuck? Most people you know now are probably pretending to care about your greatness. People in 100 years won’t even bother with the pretense. Think about it this way: Rutherford B. Hayes was one of the most powerful, well known men in America in his day just a century and a half ago. He has a sick tombstone. Nobody cares. Embrace your meaninglessness by blowing the $10,000 you would have spent on your tombstone on a sweet party for your neighborhood or something. If it’s people you’re trying to impress, they’ll probably like you more for that. If it’s your ego you’re trying to impress, it can’t be done.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem using city funds to dispose of bodies. That’s a public health issue. We can’t just throw them to the curb, after all. I wouldn’t even have a problem with city funds paying for a funeral. Losing a loved one is hard. There’s nothing wrong with remembering them and saying goodbye in a little ceremony. What pisses me off is all of the seven goddamn billion people crammed onto this rock thinking they’re so special that we need to permanently reserve a little corner of the planet for their formaldehyde-soaked flesh sack and its marker.

I just don’t get how in this day and age people still think they need to spend thousands of dollars for a pretty box to put in the ground, or worse, for some SUV-sized memorial to get the graveyard’s high score. I get people way back when who thought it was necessary to get across the River Styx or impress Amon Ra or whatever the hell the point of that stuff was, but that was a time of a much foggier existence when the world around them could have been full of Lord of the Rings shit for all they knew. Why/how now? In this day and age, thinking you need to for religious reasons is up there with thinking the world is 6,000 years old in my book. And if you think you need it just because of some vague fear the thought of destroying your body invokes, grow the hell up. When I die my first choice would be to get thrown out with next week’s trash. Since that’s generally frowned upon in most cities because of the whole health issue thing, I’d settle for cremation or an unmarked, casketless grave. That’s it.

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