As the world order changes and the struggles we face are coming from deeper and deeper consequences of myopic decades past, the nagging voice of macro-social helicopter parents will continue to tell us “You’re doing it wrong.”
There is nothing new to the idea of senior cohorts complaining about the way the bulge of the age pyramid is running the show. Crotchety old person is the world’s second oldest profession. But the age pyramid itself has changed substantially over the past 50 years. There were booms and busts of birth rates before, all centered around major world events that either gave heterosexual couples no time to fuck or made them too afraid of bringing a new soul into the hell surrounding them. But the cohort advancing into the crotchety old person phase of their careers had effective birth control and social movements accepting and encouraging smaller families. They’ve also survived to this age in greater numbers, and will live much longer to come.
Simply put, the ratio of crotchety old people to the 20-60 year olds actually doing the work is higher.
I’m clearly biased by the chronological boundaries of my lived experience, so I am open to debate on whether the issues that we are facing now and over the next 30-40 years are more serious or pressing than the past half-century. But whether civil rights, feminism, or fighting the cultural glorification of war were tougher issues to tackle than…further civil rights, intersectional feminism, and fighting a newly branded cultural glorification of war that we face today, the nagging on whether we’re doing it right is louder. The older generation has the Western heyday to wax nostalgia for. They can claim that they managed to defeat the Soviet superpower while we’re letting Russia gain back its violent stranglehold on eastern Europe and central Asia. Americans in particular will face the scorn of the elite who gambled our futures and gave us poor advice on how to get ahead in life, because America shone so brightly so briefly when these people were at the peak of their careers that any future will pale in comparison to their selective memories and biased eyes. The United States will not be such a dominant superpower now that China is fusing its communist autocracy on its billion-plus with a pinch of capitalism; now that India is reaping the benefits of colonization with a middle class of hundreds of millions having learned the lingua franca in school; now that cultural revolutions across northern Africa and the Middle East have them too wrapped up in their own struggles to kiss as much pasty white ass as their previous puppet governments did.
We can’t even airbrush the truth to make it look like the West is successfully sweeping in to help the oppressed in the name of justice, and that was a luxury the past 50 years had when communication was more limited in both capacity and access. Broadcast television exposed the massive failures of intervention in Vietnam; the internet will expose the smaller failures in even more areas as we become more aware of local struggles that we think we have a solution to on account of our wealth and whiteness. The cause du jour of Nigerian schoolgirls is a dangerous conundrum that the West can only hope to help with through support, and not take leadership to fix as we expect our countries to be able to do. The past few hundred years have been packed with white people thinking that it’s our role – that we’re the only ones capable and as such have a duty – to “civilize” the rest of the world, and what the existing elders have done and seen in their lifetimes have built up to the point at which we have fucked it all up and can’t do anymore. It’s come in time to lay the blame on our era, on us as people, for failing to fill their shoes, let alone exceed them, as is the expectations from linear projections of where the world should be.
I’m digressing terribly, and not even getting to the environmental or climate concerns that will plague the whole world. Worse will come when my cohort gets to be crotchety and old, and continue well after. We have better insight and knowledge to project those outcomes, which prior generations did not have – so we appear to be more culpable for our degradation of the planet. They weren’t aware of and weren’t equipped to conceptualize the consequences of the innovations that drastically changed how things were done. Their lives were greatly improved, so they thought they were in the right direction (even though nature doesn’t have a direction, but elaborating on the basics of Darwinism wouldn’t digress terribly from my terrible digression). There were reasons they were able to have their mortgages paid off by 40 and to support kids through college when we can’t even afford to live without roommates at 30 and have to wait even longer to have kids. They’re the crotchety old people blocking any attempt at change through the democratic process. They’re holding back on letting us make the changes we need to, because they don’t think we Amurricah like they Amurricahed, so it’s their duties and in our best interest to let them keep on Amurricahing on our behalf. As they continue to criticize how little we’re doing.
I could write a book’s length on this. I’d say I could write a book, except I shouldn’t because there are many people who are far more learned on this matter and more skillful with words. But there are also people already in, or of this cohort approaching, the crotchety old phase who have no credentials to justify publishing hundreds of pages and yet still do. They won’t stop writing about it, and they won’t stop broadcasting their rants, and they will hover over us when we do get to be in the seat ever so briefly to counter everything we try to say. Even as an average person, working in a job that’s the best one I could get since the economy stumbled, I’m not as good as I should be compared to where someone twice my age chooses to remember where they were at the time.
And because they were born in large numbers, and because they had smaller families so we can’t greatly outnumber them, and because they’re living longer and healthier, they are bottlenecking progress by stopping to complain along the way. Fuck this, man.