Sunday, October 28, 2012

Channeling the Spirit of Posterity, Long Dead

For the five or six years this blog has existed I have strongly lamented the demise of posterity in our societies, our economies and  our politics.   In an era in which any perceived fetter on maximized production and maximized consumption was denounced as heretical, posterity was irrelevant, valueless or worse.

Rejecting posterity has come at an enormous price, not to us but to generations that will follow.   We have taken advantage of everything we could exploit and kicked the consequences down the road wherever possible.   Apparently the Europeans have been little different.

"Interestingly, the sheltered existence [today's economic, intellectual and political elite] led, enjoying prosperity and security, wasn’t of their own making. Merkel and Cameron, like former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder and ex-British PM Tony Blair before them, inherited it from their predecessors – and turned out to have been but an efficient “consumer cooperative”, as Zygmunt Bauman puts it, consuming the fruits of somebody else’s work and basking in the glow of successes that weren’t theirs.

Europe was created and built by a generation for which a tragic past – embodied by Auschwitz – had been a living experience. The European Union’s founding fathers – Konrad Adenauer, Robert Schumann or Alcide De Gasperi – understood that only by working together could they build something lasting and good. European solidarity proved a blessing.

Today’s ruling elites lived in entirely different conditions, enjoying security, peace, and systematic improvement in living standards. This was the effect of building a reasonable welfare state. How is it that after such a spectacular success Europe is experiencing today what is perhaps an equally spectacular fiasco? It’s because of the present elites’ belief that they simply inherited the EU from their predecessors, rather than having it on loan for their children. The mentality and spirit of the people leading Europe today can be summed up thus: “Let’s enjoy life as much as we can because soon the EU will be just a memory”.

What is Europe’s greatest, most burning issue today? We see it in the streets and squares of our cities. “We have the right to vote, but we have no work!” cry the young unemployed. We have a democracy, but no bread or homes. A precariat is emerging in front of our very eyes. What sort of people does it consist of? An apt and curt answer is given by Guy Standing, author of The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class: virtually everyone. At its core are young people.

Disdain for posterity is readily seen.  It can be seen in the increasing gap between rich and poor, in inequality of wealth, income and opportunity.  It can be seen in the weakening of the middle class, the essential engine that generates opportunity for future generations.  It can be seen in the carefully sculpted austerity measures the Right favours and, where it can, imposes.   It can be seen in our utter indifference to environmental degradation of all descriptions.   It can be seen in the obscene debts we amass even as the richest of the rich amass obscene wealth.

We are laying the foundations for unrest that can lead to upheaval, revolt.  If the young are the "New Dangerous Class" they are of our own making.

1 comment:

Owen Gray said...

And when they revolt -- for they will revolt, Mound -- there will be hell to pay.