“The truth of the first decades of the 21st century, a truth that helped give us the Trump presidency but will still be an important truth when he is gone, is that we probably aren’t entering a 1930-style crisis for Western liberalism or hurtling forward toward transhumanism or extinction.
Instead, we are aging, comfortable and stuck, cut off from the past and no longer optimistic about the future, spurning both memory and ambition while we await some saving innovation or revelation, growing old unhappily together in the light of tiny screens.” [By Mike Allen ·Feb 09, 2020]
One doesn’t come across good philosophical writing every day. Mike Allen is a staff writer for Axios.com, a general news outlet. Those two paragraphs catch the mind in a way where there is no room to argue, no room to deny, no room to interpret. It strikes directly into our psyche. His perspective requires no props, no direct evidence but readers know it is true.
And it is depressing. There seems no way out; there is no remedy. Is time the only cure? Is time even a cure? We can only wait and see . . .
Surely, though, the cantankerousness and excessive intelligence of humans will not let this state lie. There is money to be made; power to grab; inquisitiveness to be sated; children to be born who will start a new era. These activities can be believed and even acted upon – if one is under fifty years of age.
Over fifty Mike’s comments strike home too accurately. Baby Boomers and Gen Xs are stuck with a world they did not create, a world they never owned and a world that ended twenty years ago. The GI generation (born 1900 – 1924) matured in a time when the world had begun to change rapidly but they remember when society began at home, before rapid travel, communication and corporate dominance. In those early days, the citizens were their town, were its economy and were the source of its culture. At least today GIs can remember when.
What do the youngsters feel – the millennials and Gen Z (Mariner speculates because he is no Gen z)? Mariner has two married children who are millennials. They live in a world they themselves are creating; that must be a good experience. However, their generation is between what the older generations left unfinished and what the world holds in store for the future. They have a lot on their hands as technology sprints faster into the future, leaving untested cultural mores scattered about. Social change is no longer measured in generations; it is measured in decades. The burden of escaping Mike’s pessimistic view lies with them.
The unfinished business the youngsters inherit is a lack of usable scruples for a new world of instant communication, instant information and old, worn out economies around the world. Political cultures are held back by older generations who are unaware their world no longer exists.
Brand new environments not experienced in living history will be a different challenge for the youngsters. Society certainly will be different by the time they retire. Mariner prays they will leave Mike’s malaise behind.