Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Off in the Opposite Direction

Trey Smith

Rank and file Democrats are desperate for a turnaround of their political fortunes, and an end of the Robber Baron era — so much so that they see the recent elections as their deliverance. For them, the last presidential election was a sign that the country is turning to the left, and that Democrats will be able to keep the presidency for eternity. They believe that obstructionism of Republicans will be drowned by the growing numbers of youth, minority, homosexual and Latino voters. Their hope is that the changes will put them on the road to a more communitarian and humane society.

Pundit after pundit predicts that the entrance of large numbers gay and Latino voters will end the culture wars that divide the country. There is only one problem — progressives forget that the “Young Grow Old.”

It is easy to get caught up in the euphoria of the moment. I remember demonstrations in the 1960s, and thinking that we had entered a new era. I did not fully appreciate the seductive power of capital in negating any communitarian or humane transformation. I also underestimated the ability of the ruling class to twist the words of sociologists, and blame the victim with phrases such as the “culture of poverty.”

Nor did I take into account the self-interest of many of the demonstrators who opposed the war; they remained interested for only as long as they were personally threatened. Poverty and injustice was only visible for as long as the young remained young. They became invisible once more as the baby boomers grew old, and took on mortgages. They then distanced themselves from poverty, which again became a non-priority.

Before we enter the World of Oz once more, we should remember that age will not make us wiser; it will not make us more humane. Our system of governing has been taken captive by billionaires who have always been old and count on the young growing old. They count on the individual and the community being disconnected. They have purposely disconnected the family unit from the community, and destroyed any sense of shared history. In this environment poverty and injustice become invisible.
~ from Don’t Forget, The Young Grow Old by Rodolfo Acuña ~
It seems to be common knowledge that, the older a person gets, the more conservative they become. Polls and studies tend to bear this out. In every generation in the US, older American voters are more apt to vote to maintain the status quo or, in some instances, express the desire to turn back the clock.

As seems to be my wont in life, I have steadfastly moved in the opposite direction. I was fairly conservative in junior and senior high school. From college through early adulthood, I was a moderate. By the time I reached my mid-thirties, I began my steady tack to the left. Today, I'm a raving left-wing lunatic! At the rate I am going, I may be a black bloc anarchist by the time I reach retirement age!

While I agree with Acuña that age doesn't necessarily make a person wiser or more humane, it should. If you have spent any time paying attention to what is going on around the world -- not just focused on your own little corner of it -- then you must know there is far too much misery and suffering. How can one not identify with the pain and vanquished dreams of others? If a basically anti-social creature like myself can sympathize with and show compassion for the downtrodden of this world, why is it that people who are far more social than I am can't or, more correctly, won't?

That's the sort of question that keeps me up late at night.

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