One of my favorite writers on medium is Umair Haque. His tone is always hopeful, inclusive and plays to humanity’s better angels. So it is with much reluctance when I find that I must disagree with him as I do with his article Does America Have a Future?
The gist of his piece is that America’s more inclusive and idealist youth will save the nation from its predatory capitalism. I desperately hope he is right, but as a self-proclaimed historian and psychologist I fear this will not ensue.
He writes in part:
The greatest divide in America today isn’t between the urban and rurals or the left and right and so on — the usual stories we’re told. It’s between the young and everyone else. And in that divide lies the one hope America has. Maybe it’s last, best, and truest hope. Let me explain.
Young people reject the three great mistakes America made, wholesale.,,,They are against bigotry and racism and various kinds of phobia. And they strongly support better rights for everyone, not just for their own groups — whether it’s women, trans people, minorities, refugees, and so on. Hence, they aren’t nearly as interested as their parents in the individualistic, materialistic status competition that went along with contesting yesterday’s prizes — money and power, or the prices they had: stifling conformity and crushing hierarchy….
The question is why. Why are the attitudes of America’s young so radically different from America’s everyone else?….
Let’s think about that for a moment. You see, what is not often discussed in America is that the young are free in a new and improbable and true way. These are the first generations to really grow up without segregation and apartheid as living memories. They grew up, from the day they were born, without the weight of these profound injustices — which were also grave mistakes — because a hierarchy of humanity is also what made America unlivable for everyone in the end. How so? When some people are not really people at all, then a society will never develop public goods, like healthcare, education, media, retirement — because people will not invest in all of society.
From a historical perspective a nation’s youth has always been idealistic and progressive. In fact one of Winston Churchill’s famous says is “to be young and not be progressive is to have no heart and to be mature and not be conservative is to have no brains. Now there is a lot about my quite possibly botched quote of the British statesman that simply shows how humans manage to rationalize the superiority of themselves as they move though the various stages of their lives — when young old folks are seen as useless relics, and when older youth are seen as impetuous brats.
The reality is that, yes, at some level society does tend to evolve in a more positive direction, but in the main youth are progress until, as they age, they are not. Moreover, the fact that culture may adjust to different conditions doesn’t alter the fact that we humans are hardwired with an underlying bias against the “other.” Meaning of course that xenophobia is always lurking in the wings just waiting for some ruthless demagogue to pull it on to center stage.
Also, by the universal law of probability balance (yes, my law), a law that states that no matter how much creation and good that has been caused to come about, at some point in time it must be offset by destruction and bad. And since the default position in nature is always the negative offset, after a long series of good and bad cycles the final grand daddy of all cycles is not going to be a good one for any of us. This portends that humankind, either of its own doing or via some act of nature, will eventual be made extinct, and with the super destroyer, Trump, in the White House those end times are looking to be just over the horizon. So, yes, I would hope that youth will be our salvation, but I seriously doubt it.