Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Political awareness

One of the natural ironies of human development is that young adults who should be very concerned about how their country is being run are distracted by the last tendrils of adolescence, the needs of higher education, the search for a decent income and the urge to find a mate. It's hard to get them to pay close attention to political matters and they lack the life experience to be able to interpret the information they get. As people get older, with less chance that political and social change will directly benefit them, they become increasingly concerned with it.

Everyone mentions future generations when proposing a course of action. How many people really care about these imaginary generations?  Future generations should be the most politically active, and they will be, once they perfect their time machine and come back to dope-slap the current crop of corporate and government leaders. Until that happens, present generations will have to take their best guess at what we should leave for these future people. Would they like a healthy planet with an ecosystem that can support them in the same relative comfort we have enjoyed for millennia? Or would they rather have the smudged, scorched, parched, stinking remnants of an industrial orgy? Will the fortunes created by that orgy survive to give a few of them luxury and the rest of them the illusion that they could attain it? Or will that myth have collapsed? It has to, eventually. The only question is whether we dismantle it carefully, methodically, or have it implode and crush anything beneath it or near it.

How far in the future are we talking here? Born tomorrow? Born next year? Five years from now? Ten? The problem is that future generations don't arrive all at once on some troop carrier. They come sliding in one at a time, even if thousands of them happen to do it at around the same time. They're here and over there and way, way over there, being influenced immediately by all sorts of people who got here ahead of them. They don't know the plan. They may even develop their own ideas.

Some younger adults seem to be getting more involved. Maybe it'll work out. Those who hold power will resist the change, but maybe this time they will not be able to recruit the underlings they would need to preserve their old expressions of dominance. It has to be driven by people young enough to have their most useful, active years ahead of them. Older people can only help or oppose. None of us will see the benefits of a more humane society, should one arise, because too many generations have invested too heavily in inequity for it to disappear before we do. The leading edge of my generation proved unwilling to sacrifice a little 40 years ago to try to set us on a better course. Why should they and their disciples be willing to sacrifice a great deal more now, with their finish line in sight? They'll cling to what they have, grab for as much more as they can get and let those future generations do what they want with what's left over.

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