The Real Future Eaters

The developed world’s extended post-war adolescence is drawing to a close.

Too bad it’s too late.

Adolescence is marked by black and white thinking, a tendency to blame others for one’s own failures or for unmotivated events, overweening self obsession and moral idealism.

It is also marked by continuing dependency, and being faced by choices where there is very little at stake.

Now, just as our adolescent society is facing up to the costs of its choices, the uber-adolescents within it are about to embark on their final orgy of indulgence: retirement.

Tim Flannery’s 1994 book The Future Eaters described the fashionable fear of a fragile earth under threat from rampaging humanity.

But it isn’t the earth or the environment that has been eaten.

Rather, the Boomers have taken both the sacrifice and incredible technological advance of their parents, added it to what finances they could pillage from the future, and pissed both away.

All while claiming to be the responsible, caring generation.

Easy to say when your conspicuous caring doesn’t cost you money. When it doesn’t stop your developing nation from getting the electricity you need to have a halfway decent life. When it doesn’t leave your children with a culture that can no longer sustain the enterprise necessary to fund everything you take for granted.

The last 40 years have been the longest single teenage whine in human history.

What is so galling is that they’ll get away with it. Many won’t live to see the myths they have lived by, and foisted on their children, fall into Ozymandias-style disrepair.

Many won’t face a single threat to their retirement income. Especially those with residual defined benefit public sector superannuation, or that lovely co-contributory 16% per annum. They’ll blissfully glide on ahead, eating the resource we need to rebuild after their vandalism, still chirping little mantras from Marcuse and Carson and Hansen and Gore, still moralising about anything and everything where they don’t have to pay a price. And filling up the spaces the next generation needs to start making real change.

Apologies to all those who haven’t participated in the vandalism. We all know you are there. We all know how frustrating your lives must have been. To see someone like Baudrillard feted and Borlaug left unknown. To see the hydrocarbon, chemical and pharmaceutical industries vilified though they made more difference to more people than any novel or pop star or journalist or visual artist.

In this cultural question, as in science and philosophy, Max Planck comes to mind:

Science progresses one funeral at a time.

Apologies again to those tarred by their generation’s brush. But the sooner you lot are gone, the better.

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