• John Black


Nothing is as certain as death. Except, as the well-known epigram has it, taxes. However, unlike the reaper the IRD has been known to give rebates. Some of us will die in fiery car crashes, some from dickey tickers and some because we thought she said her husband worked Tuesday nights. The risk of death is always with us. But lately our assessment of this risk has got, as my nana used to say, all arse about face.

Yesterday outside my apartment, I saw a fat guy pull up on his motor-bike, pull down his Covid mask and light up a cigarette. A crap diet, smoking and motor-bike riding are three behaviours more likely to kill you than (the extremely unlikely) contraction of the Chinese flu. If he spent an evening at a quarantine hotel licking the floors but gave up the fags, the KFC and the Honda he would actually reduce his chance of dying.

But the Covid panicdemic rolls on, pushed by the media’s fear-driven business model and governments who never waste a chance to cow their citizenry into pliable submission.

According to the John Hopkins/University of Maryland Covid risk calculator I (a middle-aged, middle-brow, middle-sized, fair-to-middling man) have a 0.19% chance of dying from Covid. If my arts degree maths is correct, that’s odds of 1:526. And I’d have to catch the thing first.

As a public service and to take the wind out of the sails of the Covid-doomers, I’ve laid out below eight things much more likely to kill you. True, they are life time odds and Covid hasn’t been round long enough to calculate how likely you are to get it over your life span. But with vaccines and better health care this would presumably decrease over time. Also, the data is American so to make it NZ relevant I’ve omitted deaths from gunshot wounds, opioid abuse and Thanksgivings arguments over Donald Trump.

So don’t lose sleep over dying from Covid-19. Lose sleep over all the other nasty ways you are much more likely to snuff it.

1. Heart Disease (1:6)

The biggest killer for those of us in the Western world is a consequence of our relative wealth. We drink, eat and smoke to celebrate the fact we live in the Western world and are not a street sweeper in Mogadishu. The street sweeper in Mogadishu dreams of having his heart explode at 85 due to a lifetime of eating bacon, downing lagers and smoking a packet of Rothmans a day. He’s most likely to die from malnutrition or a Somalian warlord in a tank rolling over him while he’s trying to sweep the street.

2. Cancer (1:7)

Unlike heart disease, cancer is often completely unearned. Kids get it for pity’s sake. It’s an utter, utter bastard. Seeing how we came up with Covid vaccines in less than a year isn’t it time we really pulled out all the stops on finding a cure for this one?

3. All preventable causes of death (1: 24)

This includes high blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking and drinking. You could probably get away with one of these. Dibs on drinking.

4. Chronic lower respiratory disease (1:27)

Actually chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and asthma.

The common causal factor here is smoking. But don’t worry our government has a plan to help. They are going to make it difficult to buy cigarettes by banning them from dairies and selling them in pharmacies. So about as difficult to buy as Vicks-44 then. Should work a treat. They are also going to monster Big Tobacco and force them to reduce nicotine levels. But the blame should really go on the American Indians. They started this smoking tobacco thing first. It’s one of the reverse flows of colonialism that has really hurt the white man. Kind of like tattoos and pony tails on men. I would suggest a class action law suit against the Navajo and the Cherokee. There’s a lot of money in those casinos.

5. Suicide (1:88)

One of the biggest dangers to yourself is you. Of course these are American numbers where everyone has an assault rifle in their wardrobe. Our numbers are probably lower considering to get hold of a gun involves a lot of time and paperwork and by then you have probably bought a lotto ticket or got into a new Netflix series and want to see how things turn out.

6. Falls (1:106)

Falls can be devastating. They can also be hilarious. After a long interest in the entertainment value of people falling down I can state with authority the absolute best is a matronly aunt on a wet drive way.

Those babies slide.

7. Motor Vehicle crash (1:107)

Some of us will die behind the wheel. Or thereabouts. Thrown twenty metres into oncoming traffic or blasted through the rear windscreen by a head on with a Kenworth.

Don’t worry. You’ll probably be too drunk to feel anything.

8. Pedestrian accident (1:500)

OK. Say you are having thoughts of suicide so you decide to get out of the house. You don’t drive but go for a nice walk, careful to avoid the pub or any cigarette-selling pharmacies on the way and going nice and slow to avoid a nasty fall. You can still cark it if some other arsehole doesn’t see you on the pedestrian crossing when he’s stubbing out his fag on his third can of beer.

You can’t win. It’s almost like this death thing is a natural unavoidable part of the human experience.

Death and taxes. Death is just the tax we pay for getting to live at all.

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