Coming of Age Past 60

Of all the disruptive suggestions offered by mariner to make life equitable in the coming artificial intelligence age, setting an age limit of 60 rather than setting a limit on elected terms received the most comment. Mariner responds to these comments in today’s post.

֎ Genetic Disposition. As Homo sapiens grows up, lives life, and grows old, both the mind and the body go through distinct changes we are familiar with and about which we compensate in some way. The body certainly is subject to age else professional sports would be filled with old athletes and tenure would become a union issue. Only the most dedicated, ascetic athletes maintain energy levels past 50; mariner suspects few of these few athletes serve in elected government positions. The mind follows a similar path, becoming more pragmatic and less adventuresome in its thoughts.
֎ Role in Culture. Mariner remembers studying the Japanese custom of elevating its esteemed leaders and thinkers to a supernumerary status in their later lives. They were called upon in special situations when their acumen helped with solving problems. Here in the US after notable careers, many US leaders and thinkers continue to shape the direction of politics and other disciplines by belonging to think tanks and consulting with active leaders. Many return to professional careers, continuing to shape the dynamics of society. Many leverage their political influence by becoming lobbyists – perhaps not a best choice from the electorate point of view; some even become university presidents.

The point is this: Codgers (cf. last post) have a jaundiced view. It is jaundiced because times change; the values codgers learned in life are passé or have context that no longer applies. Two examples will suffice:
First example – Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was at one point the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. This committee was responsible for, among other things, developing legislation and regulations related to technology which at the time oversaw the growth of the Internet, computerization and telecommunications. One can research his career on Wikipedia. He passed few communications bills and virtually no meaningful technology bills. Upon his retirement, he confessed he did not understand how computer networks worked. After long instruction by staffers, he grasped the idea that wires transmitting data were comprised of tubes through which data was transmitted – similar to department stores. Senator Stevens was born on November 18, 1923; he was 86 when he left the Senate in 2009. Because the Senate Chair had no comprehension of modern telecommunications or its social ramifications, Silicon Valley runs unimpeded to this very day – allowing abusive data practices similar to Facebook.
Second example – Senator Strom Thurman was born on December 5, 1902. He represented the state of South Carolina from 1954 (age 52) until he retired in 2003 at the age of 101. Notorious for his resistance to civil rights legislation, he was able to prevent universal civil rights in everything from public schools to restaurants. When he stepped down at the end of his career, he had singlehandedly kept states right rule and segregation in the Dixie states even to today when racism is not an idea but a function of daily life. His opinions on race always were 40 years behind that of the general public.

Mariner deliberately cleansed the examples from party inclinations in order to clarify the effect of codgerism. One may challenge mariner for selecting two seemingly extreme examples. Mariner challenges back for the reader to take a list of age 60+ legislators and compare their later advocacies to the needs of the day.

֎ Taking Measure of Priorities. Psychology and pop psychology sources are full of models, comparisons and timelines reflecting the stages humans pass through in a lifetime. Mariner truncates abundant references into five stages of life:

0-20: An age of learning the rules of life; imprinting mores and behaviors that are meaningful for personal integration into society; acquiring identity and role in society.

20-40: The age of the warrior; passion, energy and commitment focus on growth and achievement; establishing family and challenging society are prominent.
40-60: The age of the expert; seasoned experience translates to power in society; peak of insight to mitigate conflict and procedure.

60-80: An age of withdrawal; wisdom replaces achievement; acquiescence replaces challenge; tolerance replaces discipline; physical presence wanes.

80-?: The age of the self; reflection; personal necessities; physical and mental decline.

Mariner acknowledges that moving from one stage to the next or even transitioning within a stage is not driven by toggle switches; the change of weather seasons more closely fits. However, searching for representatives among 350 million citizens, the stages are a stable rule.

֎ Energy to Burn. A marvel we experience is watching very young children burn energy through constant movement, gesturing, animated conversation and otherwise consuming an endless supply of energy. The amount of energy we have, not only at hand but in reserve, dwindles steadily through life. For adults, there comes a time when the energy required for determination just isn’t there. We acquiesce to ‘going along’ rather than pressing our opinion forward. Genuine statesmanship in behalf of others suffers the most as we approach the age of withdrawal.

Given the four conditions outlined above, mariner believes older age is the cause of more dysfunction across a legislative body than having one extremist hang around too long. Mariner suspects that older voters, sharing the transition into withdrawal, are more comfortable with their own kind as a representative. Certainly don’t want those brash youngsters changing everything.

To show magnanimity, mariner will yield on age 60 and replace it with age 65 – if only to match Medicare policy. In return, he submits that cabinet members, too, be subject to the age rule.

Ancient Mariner

2 thoughts on “Coming of Age Past 60

  1. Maybe I missed it, but it seems to me you omit the very real importance of us ancients passing on the fruits of our experience to young folks. I saw the disasterous results of not doing this at the government agency where I worked. In a cost-cutting effort a buy-out was offered. Many employees with 20, 30 or even 40-years experience left. Little effort was made to interview them or to allow them to mentor younger workers. The result was a huge loss of experience. I don’t think the agency has ever recovered. I’m quite sure that this happens across the spectrum of all work.

    • You are correct that bureaucratic managers tend to have no imagination; I, too, have experienced a cost cutting experience. The whole issue of bureaucratic mismanagement is worth a book of posts by itself. For years mariner made a living by visiting corporate organizations that were failing in one way or another. I concur with your opinion about damage to the organizational gestalt by trashing the ‘frontal lobes.’
      Mariner wishes to make a special case for elected officials. They have no manager except the public; they have the liberty of feathering their nests in one way or another – consider the abusive, oppressive treatment of women who were assaulted by Congressmen; consider they allow themselves to buy and sell stock with corporations that are affected by their legislation – and on and on. It is a different work environment.
      Once the privileges of power and job security are dealt with, it is time to run the nation. At this point, it is the inverse of your perception about buy outs. the elected have secured themselves to be around until they die. Meanwhile, reality marches on and they become oblivious to ethics, knowledge, history and importantly, the ramifications of social upheaval. Even in myself, as I explained, I see inadequacy in my judgment simply because I cannot relate to the new environment. As a metaphor, I cannot help but favor Nat King Cole. Likewise, elected codgers will hang on to old mores and practices until they die. As rapid as change is occurring in the 21st century, we cannot afford a codger’s club in place of energetic and knowledgeable youngsters.
      Skipper

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