« Listen to me! » We all learned this chorus by heart…
At times we’d rather not! Should better deny remembering the parental catchphrase.
Your parents experienced post-WW2 reconstruction, massive economic growth, blind material development and long-term carelessness. Didn’t Keynes predict that « in the long run we are all dead »? Yet our parents went through counter-culture events, such as France’s May 1968 or world famous Woodstock gatherings. With a wish for a better life.
Mostly blinded and apparently innocent, our parents (or grand-parents) often refused to listen (them too!) to attempts to point out the limits of modern material and economic system. Oil crises and alerts launched in the 1970’s by a few visionnaires (e.g. the Club of Rome) didn’t convince general opinion nor political conservative minds. Narrow-minded thinking, general inertia, and must-be politically correct speeches lead us to follow the same « straight ahead » tracks. History repeated itself.
Decades later, beyond dramatic impressions, isn’t there still a continuous flow of well selected optimistic news, well documented and maintained by the mass media? Be it related to US « shale gaz boom », to a hope for an exoplanet where part of humanity (future “happy fews”) could move or another high tech dream called geoengineering? Not to forget techno-optimistic hope for eternal human life (targeting happy-fews until their 999+ birthday?) Ancient people would probably lol about these illusions! How can modern people be so simpy naïve? Has any tree ever grown up to the sky?
Sorry for “sky-is-the-limit” great believers: actually yes, indeed, there is a limit, if not several limits. And indeed, your parents didn’t really do their job. They were lacking motivation. Like showing some reasonable limits to ongoing dominant system. However they could have admitted that, in terms of serious new solutions, in a more sustainable direction, there’s actually “no limit”.
Great news if you’re actually looking ahead… and open-minded! Isn’t that a characteristic of being young?
It’s never been very popular to talk about realpolitik, about down-on-earth current constraints. The most childish the narrative, the most efficient, isn’t it? It’s so much more bankable to sell dreams, even empty dreams! « Change is now! » was promised to every french voters and tax payers during the last presidential campaign. 2 years laters, they’ve found the bitter end.
Our past innocence seems to look like a memory of yesteryear, with abundant economic growth, a « take it easy » employment marketplace, a great combination of material wealth and social progress. All of this wasn’t just a dream, true. But we’re now starting to pay a higher and higher price for this:
– unsustainable debts (financial hot potatoe),
– social inequities (as Thomas Piketty showed to the rest of the world, starting with the USA) and resilient unemployment,
– natural resources scarcity and empowerishment,
– public health « epidemics » of all kinds (both physical and mental ones, often interconnected). Hot potatoe or time bomb?
So here you are, with a strange kind of legacy. Please check the balance sheet, guys, assets and liabilities. Should you take it for granted? Or shouldn’t you just keep on listening to your parents’ speech? Keep on obeying? The generation Y already started to show some distance towards previous generations. They seem to possess a natural awareness both in social and environmental areas. The « Z » could be, under the most promising scenario, the next one actually “taking care” of the whole world, in a reviewed holistic approach. Empathy could triumph then. Just like the most serious doctor would do, sincerely and deeply willing to cure his/her patient, as in a traditional Chinese way!
Sorry to say, but don’t listen that much to your parents. Or do it in a critical, dialogue-oriented, way!
They still can’t understand “growth” was a myth and is, as in old school definition, after expiry date! Politically, they found it comfortable to prolonge a classic « left-right » alternative, while denying that mainstream parties ideological gap actually vanished. And while innovative ideas were kept mostly silent. Meaning the more it went on, the less actual change and reform could anyway occur! As elderly people do, the older generations are often famous for criticizing, discussing and regretting the past, and grumbling. Easy to join the crowd, step on ageing trap, sooner than one would expect to!
Liberal winds, in an era of globalization and opening, enabled the Internet boom. The older generation, as well as several old brick and mortar companies, were taken by surprise. Beyond a simple gadget, the Net eventually fostered innovations, disseminated ideas and changed the distribution of powers. Wow. Hard to admit and to deal with a change when you never expected it to occur!
Internet is a modern promise land for innovators, and may combine nicely with « sustainable development » new dogma (though a few observers treat it as a useless oxymoron). In a way, Internet keeps the most optimistic people to pursue the dream of a better life for all humans. Smart energy grids, local decentralized manufacturing (3D printing) and highly customized services. Smarter, softer, greener cities, reconnected to mother nature at last. Are these just new vital dreams or another wave of illusion, just to keep us all asleep for another 30 years?
At the end of the day, what’s left to parents? Will they end up depossessed, losing control to daily screens of all types? Looking more and more archaic? Or are they going to come back with a vengeance, standing up with a new wisdom, the one any kid in the world actually should receive as an immaterial heritage? Best ever present to prepare! How to remain credible as parents, or future parents? How to put some light on the way(s) forward for the good sake of future generations?