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The generation that’s ceasing to care


TUMBY BAY - Historians tell us we should not make comparisons with the geopolitical situation in the world today with what prevailed just prior to World War II.

This is despite the similarities creating a great sense of déjà vu among many people.

Chief among these is the emergence of a leader with imperialistic ambitions and scant regard for the human cost; a man who is prepared to risk everything to right what he perceives as historical wrongs.

Comparisons between Vladimir Putin and Adolf Hitler are yet to gain traction among the cowed leaders of the so-called free world, but it is not unimaginable that that is what they are thinking as they try to work out how to appease the despot Putin as he sits atop his pile of nuclear weapons.

It is incredible to think that so much damage and suffering could be brought about by the delusional whims of a single human being.

Care 2Unfortunately this development has appeared on top of at least two other existential problems bedevilling our planet: a vicious pandemic and climate change.

World leaders are failing to address either catastrophe with anything close to adequacy.

If you add to this the rampant excesses of neoliberalism that has led to unprecedented and obscene levels of wealth at one end of human society and appalling poverty and inequity at the other, it is fair to say that the human species is in dire straits.

So, even if the facts are not quite the same between Hitler’s war and Putin’s war, it is not drawing too long a bow to compare the mood among many people today with the mood that prevailed in the 1930s when they were emerging from a devastating economic depression and, as the decade moved on, looking at the possibility of another world war.

The overriding sense contributing to our current mood seems to be one of ineffectuality and impotence. Even when one screams the wrongs of the world often and long, it seems there is no one of influence listening.

Care 3This is especially apparent in the weak and futile responses from the planet’s collective leadership of second-raters and sociopaths whose sole interest extends no further than clinging on to power at all costs and extending it where they can.

And so a sense of dread and depression has come at a terrible time for many of the world’s people, and especially for its older people.

These are the folks who experienced and inherited the difficult task of picking up the pieces at the end of World War II and painfully rebuilding their societies and so create what they hoped would be a better world.

Despite many setbacks, they achieved in large part of what they set out to do, and until relatively recently the world was at relative peace and, for many of its people, prosperity was an aspiration they felt could be achieved.

In their old age these people thought they could sit back and rest with a sense of satisfaction that what they were handing to their grandchildren, although far from perfect, was a worthy legacy.

Now we can see more clearly the flaws in that vision. During the 22 years of this century so far, human society has changed profoundly from where we believed it had reached and where we assumed it was heading.

Care 4Many older people are now perhaps thinking about where they went wrong. Some, more self-centred, perhaps wonder why they bothered trying to make the world a better place.

But, if my observations are correct, something strange seems to be happening amongst those who’ve seen the Biblical five score years and ten come and go.

What was a sad, even depressed, mood has shifted to a state of indifference – alienation, apathy, detachment and disregard are other descriptors that come to mind.

We tried. We failed. We no longer care. The world can go to hell in a handbasket. We’re too old to fix it. It’s easier not to care.


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Philip Fitzpatrick

The Greek historian, Herodotus wrote, “Whom the gods love dies young.” in 445 BC. He meant that virtuous people die at an early age because the gods want these people to be with them in the afterlife.

The phrase has currency nowadays as "Only the good die young" and is used to placate the relatives and friends of individuals who meet an untimely death for whatever reason.

This would suggest that Moses, Jacob, Abraham and Isaac were mean old bastards without virtue that God didn't want in his heaven.

Further, it suggests that if you share these sorts of characteristics you might live a long life.

Be mean and grumpy and live a long life!

That aside, I think that the jaundiced view that many oldies harbour about the world going to hell in a handbasket is informed by the apparent greed and stupidity of those now in charge. That is, our benighted leaders have those characteristics in distinct abundance.

There is an old organisational theory that observes that managers always recruit people in their own image and with their own values, thus perpetuating their biases within that organisation i.e. stupid and greedy managers always recruit and appoint stupid and greedy staff.

I think this has probably happened with our political parties whose membership now comes from a very narrow production line of inbred apparatchiks.

As far as I can see there is no way of breaking this hereditary nexus except by voting for independents during elections.

Ed Brumby

Being, as Keith has noted, a pedant, I would note the biblical quote, Psalms 90:10:

“The days of our years are three score years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be four score years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

That aside, and having lived for a mostly fulfilling three score and seventeen years, much of what Phil posits resonated all too well within me – albeit, thankfully, with some positive overtones.

Our generation, as we are often reminded, has been fortunate to live during a period of relative peace (with many exceptions, of course) and growing prosperity (for some...) and have, therefore, much to be grateful for.

It is eminently understandable then that, having had famine/drought, fires, a pandemic and, now, floods visited upon us we start to reconsider our relative good fortune. And with the other horsemen of the apocalypse running rampant in Ukraine, it is little wonder that our emotional buoyancy sags, or sinks entirely.

And, as Paul notes, all of this is only compounded by our frustration with our political ‘leaders’ – who have failed us dismally (yet again, many would argue).

Yet, as Phil suggests, while I am/have felt sad, depressed, alienated and angry, I retain (in a cognitively dissonant manner, perhaps) a strong sense of hope that things can and will change for the better.

(And I am making a small contribution to that end: working with other volunteers to help elect independent candidate, Dr Monique Ryan in the seat of Kooyong.)

Moses was 120 when he died “yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone” (Deuteronomy 34:7).

Jacob was 147 when “he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost” (Genesis 49:33).

“The days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived” were 175 (Genesis 25:7).

But the narrow winner was Isaac with 180 years (Genesis 35:28) because, and note this Ed, he “did not move out of Canaan”.

With that many years on the clock Isaac probably couldn’t move out of his bedroom…. - KJ

Paul Oates

You never said a truer word Phil. The frustration with the political class has reached massive proportions and yet what's the answer?

You can only do your best and never give up.

Bernard Corden

After King Cnut's unfathomable response and belated attempt to turn back the tide, the anger in Lismore and its environs must be exceeding boiling point:

This semi-literate buffoon could not read a book without moving his lips and even makes Dan Tehan sound articulate.

The strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must.

Philip Fitzpatrick

In the Australian political context (and perhaps in the PNG one too) one of the transitory emotions felt by people of my generation is anger.

In that context I think a lot of us oldies still care about what has happened to our country in the last decade or so and that anger at our politicians continues to simmer.

Geoff Hancock

If I live past 110 all I will care about is my next nappy change.

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