Mariner has mentioned a number of times that he is an old codger. He is aware that his age has constrained his point of view regarding many of the social, political, economic, ethical and technological changes that are dragging us kicking and screaming into the future. While he considers himself educated, perceptive, and acceptably compassionate, still he suffers from ideological and social isolation in these turbulent times. The most significant indicator of withdrawal is a growing lack of interest in news – world, US, political or otherwise. Even his Scientific American Magazine, subscribed to since 1964, occasionally goes unread.
Another indicator of ‘codgerism’ is a growing lack of interest with groups who identify with causes and community activities. Mind you, this is not absolute in nature; mariner could no more be a hermit than could a herring. It isn’t that mariner disdains the efforts of these groups, some of which are quite wholesome; it’s more that the context for individual participation has changed.
A few examples may enlighten the reader as to the subtle shift in perception that seems to underlie codgerism. (Mariner dare not apply a euphemism to the lovely women of his generation.)
Mariner has older friends who make his age seem juvenile. They remain traditionally religious and struggle just a little with the new role of the church and the ‘loose’ attitude of parishioners. When the friends were growing up and well into their adulthood, the church was the center of theological meaning, morality, politics, social identity, and the center of collaboration with others. In rural areas this was especially true. His older friends are more gracious toward parishioners than mariner; they suffer their current church mates amicably while mariner carries a mild prejudice against do-nothing pew Christians. Another friend is a professed Taoist; today there is no difference in behavior between the faiths.
Another example of attitude isolation or codgerism demonstrates how technology can leave whole segments of a society isolated in their social understanding. The example, well known, is the invention of the automobile, electricity, and steam engines. In the 1960’s mariner was blessed to meet a very few old timers (codgers?) who spent most of their lives on farms with horses for transportation and kerosene for light. This example illustrates well how the speed of life, the confrontation with new technically driven habits and new life priorities can leave a senior person in a quandary about behavior and morality. One fellow mariner spoke with was proud of the fact that even in 1964 he had never been more than 54 miles from his home. So much for modern travel opportunity (How many of us disdain that damned smartphone – talk about a technically driven change in social behavior!).
To finish this line of thought, from 1890 to 1964 was a disruption of morality, social upheaval, human value, technically driven lifestyle changes (telephone, radio, TV, computers, commercial flight, and interstate highways just to mention a few totally new influences on daily priorities) that happened faster and more completely than any era shift in history. The entire shift, unlike the Reformation or the Industrial Revolution, happened well within a single lifetime. If one were alive between 1900 and 1964, there were a lot of lifestyle issues that had to be reinvented several times. Folks who lived through those years, were they still alive, could help today’s generations cope. Yes, we are in the midst of another era change – at the speed of light.
Today’s new era shift began in 1980. As happens so frequently with the birth of a new age, entrepreneurs and profiteers leverage newly turned fiscal opportunities. The entire economic ethic shifted toward corporatism and toward investment profit more than direct business profit. Today, of course, we struggle with a growing oligarchy. From 1980 to today, workers have not participated in GDP; salaries generally are only 40 percent of what they should be if adjusted for inflation. Further, the age of oil has affected the environment and weather; it is not under control. Again further, the Internet has abolished privacy and individuality. Finally, artificial intelligence will completely redefine the meaning of work, income, individual security in all its manifestations and even the international politics we are familiar with today – all in the reader’s lifetime.
So. Mariner’s disdain for the electorate, the pew Christians, and all the nation’s elected officials is the result of codgerism. This is not his era. Where are Nat King Cole, Patsy Cline and Elvis? They sang in English. What happened to union negotiations? What happened to salaries? Want to know why it takes two income producers to sustain a family? They’ve been robbed of their share of income from their nation’s economy. Want to know why an eight-year old narcissist was elected President? The country is screwed up. What all old codgers have in common is the wisdom of living a lifetime, finally absorbing some decent cultural values, and not easily swayed by gimmickry. True, these merits may not take us to the future but they just may help with fairness and grace; factors that aren’t dependent on economic opportunity.
The ancient codger offers some issues the disadvantaged electorate may want to tackle to make life in the new AI age friendlier:
֎ The US will continue to falter until, above all else, we first celebrate our commonality rather than our differences.
֎ Make the redistricting process politician-free and base it on simple geographic and population formulas.
֎ Automate voting to eliminate voting suppression schemes. Anyone should be able to vote at the drop of a hat. Some nations fine voters for not participating and pay them when they do.
֎ Forget term limitations. In times of great change, our leaders must have grown up in the age at hand. The current legislative bodies are full of codgers. Set an age limit for running for office; perhaps 60.
֎ It will require extreme effort but success is crucial. Remove money from elections and governance by imposing caps and limiting contributions to the districts in question. While we’re at it, put heavy penalties on lobby contributions.
֎ Remove the banks from their role of dominating the economy and its profits. Profit must come from the work of the people, not the wealth of the autocrats.
֎ The great abuse of the AI era will be discounting humanness. Today, AI already has made major moves to eliminate human individuality as a legitimate factor in the evolution of society.
Mariner understands the resistance caused by his age. But he ain’t stupid. The electorate shouldn’t be stupid either.