Age and perspective

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land2341's picture
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Age and perspective

My father in law turned 86 yesterday and we had quite a long chat about the state of the world.  His perspective was interesting.  When I posited that the next 20 years would not look anything like the last 20 years he threw back his head and laughed.  He said, "1900 to 1920,  or better try 1920 to 1940!  Twenty years is a long time and think about how different the world was from when I was a child to the 50's."   The depression, WWII, Viet Nam, Korea,  the oil crisis of the 70s,  the boom of the 80s, 9/11 have all happened in his life time.  When I asked him about the leak in the Gulf he talked cogently about the impact of peak oil and the loss of refining capacity and global war over supplies.  He was far more aware than I would have guessed.  But then he told me a story about WWII that I had not known.  

There were 175 ships sunk off the East Coast of the US during the four years of the war.  Because, then, most of the refineries were on this coast,  many were tankers.  He and my MIL remember beaches with a paint bucket with a brush in it full of kerosene so you could wash the oil of of your legs when you were done swimming.  She said as kids they used to pick up the tar balls all over the beaches of the Delaware River point.  The number of ships and the amount are unclear,  but the beaches were this way through most of the 50s according to both of them.  They both believed that ten or more tankers sank in the region off the coast and near the mouth of the Delaware River.

He agreed that the BP leak was awful but he was not impressed with the idea that it could be a tipping point event.  I am not saying he is right,  and neither of them were saying the oil spills then or now were not very bad for the people and the environment.  He was just of the opinion that it had cleared up back then and it would again.  He was clearer about oil dependence and the impact of that,  but overall said that he had seen the end of the world many times and both the world and he were still here.

He has many grand and great grandchildren.  He said if we were to get all upset now it would be for lack of faith in them.  

(I think we have an obligation to help prepare them,  but I appreciate his point.)

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Re: Age and perspective

Good read, thanks!

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Re: Age and perspective

+1!  Great story! Thanks for posting it, Land. Smile

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Re: Age and perspective

land,

Your Dad is a treasure.  Appreciate him while he is still with you.  Ask and ask and ask questions about everything that concerns you.  Both my parents died in 2006 and I miss the chance to probe their history.  Nothing in the history books will ever match real life experiences.

Nate

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Re: Age and perspective

Thank you for sharing. I do miss the wisdom of that generation in my life.

TD

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Re: Age and perspective

  what your  FIL says , But people are now Apathetic ,  Very little pride , and unethical scruples  run amuck .     Plus we are now so soft ... as in Air Conditioned everything ,  Easy jobs . Fast food , and computer dependant .  We will not fare as well as those in the past down turns .   We are just not hardened off I am afraid .    Just My opinion ... not something I would argue against .  And Yes there are SOME here that think they are ready .

 

 FM

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Re: Age and perspective

My mother in law turns 90 in a couple of weeks.  Physically she's pretty stove up with arthritis, but mentally sharp as a tack.  She reads two newspapers a day and checks her email a couple times a week. 

She expresses views similar to what you tell about your father in law. 

She doesn't say it, but I get the distinct impression that she feels that many people hyperventilate over things a little more than is necessary.

Then again, she has always maintained a well stocked pantry "In case something happens and I can't get to the store for awhile".  The store is a mile away.  Perhaps a learning from the depression years? 

 

 

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Re: Age and perspective

Despite living through the Depression, FIL has more faith in the market than I do!  But, he also keeps a larder stored for at least a months worth of food.  He built his own house by hand,  by his own design,  it uses alot of passive solar and air flow.  It also has an extensive below grade storage area that is accessible by tractor.  Pretty cool.

My own parents are also both gone now.  They both died in their early 60s so I really appreciate having FIL around.  His mother died of a heart attack at 96 while splitting wood in her backyard.  (Yep its the truth.  She was a stubborn old woman of the plowing a field and giving birth and getting back into the field variety.)  

FIL says my generation those under 50 now are the weakest.  He thinks today's teens are horrors but that the young people  of his generation were also considered lazy and rude and good for nothing  -  until war broke out.  Then they became the greatest generation.  Darwin may rule again.

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Re: Age and perspective

I'm with Full Moon.  Today's elderly came out of a time when most had relatives on the land, if they weren't there themselves, and lived while society climbed to peak everything.  Easy to implement solutions were found because the energy was plentiful, the new compounds/organisms were few and the middle class was huge.  Lately, society is increasingly fragmented, soft and controlled, with some exceptions.

FWIW, I'm 57.

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Re: Age and perspective

People are shaped by events and circumstances.  People are "soft and appathetic" because they are able to be.  The same could easily be said about people during the roaring 20's (and it has been said).  But the 30's reshaped the popular mentality and I have a feeling what we are going through now will do the same.

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Re: Age and perspective

We all fight the giants of our own . ... taking the easy way out , giants of  laziness,carelessness,bad tempers, untruths,selfishness. We are all naturally prone to these . When we quit fighting and  give in  to them as a people  ,decay will rule .  If we do not teach good character qualities and train them to the young ones  ... the seeds will grow fast as weeds .   If we give into building self esteem instead of good character , self gets more powerful very quickly , taking what it wants, when it wants .... no matter who they hurt in the process .

 

 Ok So maybe I am not as old as I thought here (51) .  They still taught morals when I was in school  and I was privileged to have both sets of grandparents close by .  This does not mean I did not get caught up in the sixties and seventies  but that  my base was solid and I  did not stray so far as to not know when to turn back .  We call them "Wild Oats"

 With all my children it has been a life time of training them  to battle the giants .  Especially when they see many taking the easy way out .  People just do not see the trap of a " free handout  from the Govt. "   They  give up  their pride and the reward  .

 On the other hand  , many have been so driven to climb the ladder of success that they care not who they climb over or what they destroy  trying to get to the top . 

  My fathers wisdom  is to  be content with little, enjoy nature  and reap the reward of hard work .  He is 75 and he too still rides his horse everyday ,( loves to race the kids ) and cuts 5 cords of wood for the winter .  I  send  one of the kids out with him because he never remembers his phone and forgets to tell us which way he is going .  It would be a challenge to find him if something happens to him . I think we come from dirt we live through dirt and we return to dirt  soooo ... lets take care of the dirt .  ( this might be the sixties era  in me )

 These are just personal thoughts  and  I am looking forward to hearing wisdom from  you all.

FM .

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Re: Age and perspective

As far as difficult lives go, many of our parents or grandparents, depending on your age, did NOT  live through ongoing deprivation and contraction.  They had it remarkably easy.   Women didn't have to work, housing was actually more affordable. People didn't have to go into ruinous debt to maintain a middle class life style.

They were living in hog heaven, capitalizing on expanding markets, plentiful jobs, etc...If you're looking for wisdom to guide you, I would suggest completely ignoring any sage advice emanating from those who lived through an age vastly different than the one we are living in currently and the one we are about to enter. There is a superficial resemblance, but the underlying fundamentals are vastly different.  The economic contraction we will experience will be permanent. It looks like a massive business cycle downturn, but it's not. This is the big one. Historic examples are not appropriate. Geographic ones are actually better. Russia might be a good example. A very wealthy elite and basically criminal group controls a society of peasants who live in a kind of modern third world state of ongoing entrenched corruption.

The corruption is so deep now, the problems aren't just economic. There is a criminal ruling oligarchy taking shape in the U.S. and this is something that nobody living in the U.S is qualified to comment on unless they have read extensively about it, or spent a great deal of time abroad. Living through the Great Depression which was followed by a magnificent recovery, actually disqualifies a  person from providing an informed opinion.

The oil spill is a hallmark event, a key indicator that society is so off kilter, it beggars the imagination. To heed the advice of the elderly who would encourage complacency over alarm, isn't productive.

My apologies, Land 2341 but I think the elderly are a big part of the problem. Their "wisdom" brought us directly to where we are today. Their oil guzzling, relaxed sense of entitlement is nothing to emulate or admire.

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Re: Age and perspective

this is so true... and funny... i'm now 64, live in the city instead of the country (which i did from 76 - 97) and have stated an orgainic, edible, community garden, called whinot garden?

i was s survilalist in the 70's and bought 83 acres and learned how to grow my own food, field dress a deer, forage for morel mushrooms, tap a maple tree for sap amd make syrup, heat with wood (and learned which wood actually heats and which one just makes a pretty fire), rode horses and cooked on a open fire...

and now i find kids don't know what vegetables are... they don't recognize them by site... let alone know how to grow them... so my goal is to feed myself and some friends, volunteers and neighbors, and to teach how to grow dirt... i live on the central west coast of florida, sand land... and have had to grow healthy soil... and i have done it... now i want to teach others... the first step to resilience is to provide food for one's family...

so i agree whole heartedly... let's take care of the dirt... ;0)

 

 

 

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Re: Age and perspective
agitating prop wrote:

There is a criminal ruling oligarchy taking shape in the U.S. and this is something that nobody living in the U.S is qualified to comment on unless they have read extensively about it, or spent a great deal of time abroad.

I thought Capitalism:  A Love Story did a good job of conveying something like that.  Was I mistaken?  Was Moore?  Or do you feel it's so much worse than he dared show?

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Re: Age and perspective

Great thread.  I really enjoyed reading all of the thoughtful posts.

I think it's possible to learn and gain a valuable perspective from our elders, but also agree that much of what went before is not applicable to our times for real, technical reasons.  It's always good to get a little slap on the face when you're starting to panic.  I try to provide that service to some of the younger people I interact with.  But there's also a danger of having been through bad times, in that one starts to discount whatever the present danger might be.  I think of all of the people who rode out Katrina because their house had made it through Camile.

To address the FIL's story of the spills on the east coast, the base condition of our environment is not the same as it was prior to WWII.  The current Gulf catastrophe is happening at a time in which the Gulf is already affected by overfishing, agricultural runoff, unprecedented urban development and pollution, a long list of industrial chemicals that didn't even exist in the earlier times, and a half century or more of oil drilling out there.  In addition, this country's and the world's populations have exploded since WWII, putting more strain on and placing a much higher demand on the environmental services a clean ocean provide.

I would also be very interested to see any numbers allowing us to compare the scale of the WWII spills with the current gusher.

As has been said too many times to ignore, people just don't get the effects of exponential growth.  Growth of pollution inputs, resource depletion, environmental degradation, and population-driven pressures.  At some point those healthy biological resources that provide resilience to ecosystems will break down.  Maybe not forever, but close enough for any of us.

Edited to add:  That all being said, I found value in the story of the recovery from the WWII spills.  I am currently seriously considering moving my vegetable operation back down to the MS Gulf Coast from where I am right now, upstate in the MS Delta.  I won't have as much land to work with there, and the environmental issues are critical, but I think it might be more economically viable, and I might be more needed down there.

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Re: Age and perspective
deggleton wrote:
agitating prop wrote:

There is a criminal ruling oligarchy taking shape in the U.S. and this is something that nobody living in the U.S is qualified to comment on unless they have read extensively about it, or spent a great deal of time abroad.

I thought Capitalism:  A Love Story did a good job of conveying something like that.  Was I mistaken?  Was Moore?  Or do you feel it's so much worse than he dared show?

If Moore  resists describing the  thugocracy as anything other than a deeply criminal enterprise, in his film, he's not grasping the big picture. The title of the film and the basic message seem to indict capitalism, alone. In fact, if free market capitalism had prevailed in the U.S. banks would have been allowed to fail.  There  would would have been little support for non competetive practices and mergers and acquisitions, that have allowed oligarchic power to flourish, would have been challenged in court. Rackateering, conspiracy and fraud charges would be laid, en masse. All members of congress would be frog marched to jail along with most CEO's of major corporations, particularly in the financial industry.

  The problem is crime. Are capitalist societies and economies more vulnerable to this kind of behaviour? Perhaps, but it can flourish under any ideology and warp the original ideal upon which the ideology rests.

 

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Re: Age and perspective
agitating prop wrote:

There is a criminal ruling oligarchy taking shape in the U.S. and this is something that nobody living in the U.S is qualified to comment on unless they have read extensively about it, or spent a great deal of time abroad.

Does growing up in the 1960s in Mississippi count?  My earliest involvment in politics came in my teens helping my stepfather campaign for a fellow deputy sherrif who was running on a reform platform to get out the corrupt Dixie Mafia-linked incumbent who had grown rich working for the gambling and other gangland bosses.  (This was before legalized gambling and the casino boom.)

Six months after being elected, the new guy built himself a mansion.  But my SF had a good job in the Sherrif's Dept.

I know, the new oligarchy is on a much bigger scale, more like the perfectly legal money behind those mega-casinos and the condo development, but I think the future also harbors a lot of Boss Hawgs.

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Re: Age and perspective

I so disagree with you about the elderly Prop. Perhaps it is about age. But I can tell you from experience that people in their late 60's and up are full of wisdom. They lived through some horrific times and they were not made of plenty. I have spent a lot of time with my parents over the last year. (Dad's sick) and they are a wealth of information. I remember my mom stayed home with us in our early years. She made our clothes, shopped for deals and worked very hard to live within their means and have not changed their ways. I feel very fortunate to spend time with them and am thankful for their very informative knowledge. I think the problems began with generations that came along later. (spoiled brats) we call them.

 

Respectfully

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Re: Age and perspective
green_achers wrote:
agitating prop wrote:

There is a criminal ruling oligarchy taking shape in the U.S. and this is something that nobody living in the U.S is qualified to comment on unless they have read extensively about it, or spent a great deal of time abroad.

Does growing up in the 1960s in Mississippi count?  My earliest involvment in politics came in my teens helping my stepfather campaign for a fellow deputy sherrif who was running on a reform platform to get out the corrupt Dixie Mafia-linked incumbent who had grown rich working for the gambling and other gangland bosses.  (This was before legalized gambling and the casino boom.)

Six months after being elected, the new guy built himself a mansion.  But my SF had a good job in the Sherrif's Dept.

I know, the new oligarchy is on a much bigger scale, more like the perfectly legal money behind those mega-casinos and the condo development, but I think the future also harbors a lot of Boss Hawgs.

Oh yeah. There may be some clear parallels between regional corruption, in the past and the slurry of crime hardening into a concrete barrier between corruption and conviction, right now.  I think that  the best people can do is to move as far out of and away from mainstream society as is possible, or keep a careful and skeptical arm's length away from it. It will self destruct, in some fashion, but what replaces it is unknowable. Might be worse--if that's possible.

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Re: Age and perspective
agitating prop wrote:

Oh yeah. There may be some clear parallels between regional corruption, in the past and the slurry of crime hardening into a concrete barrier between corruption and conviction, right now.  I think that  the best people can do is to move as far out of and away from mainstream society as is possible, or keep a careful and skeptical arm's length away from it. It will self destruct, in some fashion, but what replaces it is unknowable. Might be worse--if that's possible.

One of my points was that corruption happens at all sorts of levels, and the local ones might be worse.  Those who have studied history in my part of the world have an advantage in that we have seen a major war and occupation, Reconstruction, the Klan/night riders, etc. era, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement (along with the resurgence of the Klan and that whole reign of terror.)  I don't think there's anywhere you can run to get away from some Boss Hawg.

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Re: Age and perspective
agitating prop wrote:

As far as difficult lives go, many of our parents or grandparents, depending on your age, did NOT  live through ongoing deprivation and contraction.  They had it remarkably easy.   Women didn't have to work, housing was actually more affordable. People didn't have to go into ruinous debt to maintain a middle class life style.

They were living in hog heaven, capitalizing on expanding markets, plentiful jobs, etc...If you're looking for wisdom to guide you, I would suggest completely ignoring any sage advice emanating from those who lived through an age vastly different than the one we are living in currently and the one we are about to enter. There is a superficial resemblance, but the underlying fundamentals are vastly different.  The economic contraction we will experience will be permanent. It looks like a massive business cycle downturn, but it's not. This is the big one. Historic examples are not appropriate. Geographic ones are actually better. Russia might be a good example. A very wealthy elite and basically criminal group controls a society of peasants who live in a kind of modern third world state of ongoing entrenched corruption.

The corruption is so deep now, the problems aren't just economic. There is a criminal ruling oligarchy taking shape in the U.S. and this is something that nobody living in the U.S is qualified to comment on unless they have read extensively about it, or spent a great deal of time abroad. Living through the Great Depression which was followed by a magnificent recovery, actually disqualifies a  person from providing an informed opinion.

The oil spill is a hallmark event, a key indicator that society is so off kilter, it beggars the imagination. To heed the advice of the elderly who would encourage complacency over alarm, isn't productive.

My apologies, Land 2341 but I think the elderly are a big part of the problem. Their "wisdom" brought us directly to where we are today. Their oil guzzling, relaxed sense of entitlement is nothing to emulate or admire.

Thanks for squashing maudlin reminiscence. Converging global crises not faced by any past civilization are bearing down on us. To think that any of our current problems share any resemblance to hardships of our grandparents is naive. How's that saying go?... Past performance does not guarantee future success.

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Re: Age and perspective
green_achers wrote:

I don't think there's anywhere you can run to get away from some Boss Hawg.

There is somewhere, but it's a PTB-frightening frontier in each locale:  communities in which the truth of individual uniqueness is honored and celebrated, where strengths, therefore, are made productive and weaknesses are made irrelevant, where all control is directed at self.

There, the Boss Hawg persona, which serves the PTB, finds no satisfying niche.

I'm not the only one.

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Re: Age and perspective

 

xraymike said:

xraymike said:  

Thanks for squashing maudlin reminiscence. Converging global crises not faced by any past civilization are bearing down on us. To think that any of our current problems share any resemblance to hardships of our grandparents is naive. How's that saying go?... Past performance does not guarantee future success.

__________________

 

Mayhaps Mike,  but the other saying is "Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Every generation thinks its teens are horrible.

Every generation thinks the issues it faces are worse than any faced before.

I'll bet the Romans could teach us a thing or two about resource depletion, overextended military and governmental corruption.  

And, I think the boomers have the most to answer for in this crisis.

 But, I think the elders amongst us can teach us a great deal about being self reliant and managing with limited resources and no electricity or supermarkets.  I am getting FIL and MIL to teach me how to design a in ground cold storage.  I am also taking (more) canning lessons and sustainable pest control lessons.  

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Re: Age and perspective
land2341 wrote:

 But, I think the elders amongst us can teach us a great deal about being self reliant and managing with limited resources and no electricity or supermarkets.  I am getting FIL and MIL to teach me how to design a in ground cold storage.  I am also taking (more) canning lessons and sustainable pest control lessons.  

That is valuable info. No doubt we should show respect for this sort of knowledge our forebears hold.

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Re: Age and perspective
deggleton wrote:

There is somewhere, but it's a PTB-frightening frontier in each locale:  communities in which the truth of individual uniqueness is honored and celebrated, where strengths, therefore, are made productive and weaknesses are made irrelevant, where all control is directed at self.

There, the Boss Hawg persona, which serves the PTB, finds no satisfying niche.

I'm not the only one.

Well, when you find that place, let me know.  I've spent time in some pretty edgy communities.  On the road, among the street people of Berkely and SF ca. 1972, Rainbow Family, Earth First! camps, and cohousing.  I haven't found any place the oligarchy can't penetrate, disrupt, damage, or marginalize to the point that they slink back themselves.  I don't expect things to change too much with the decline, just for the Boss to become a more local figure than has been in my life.

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Re: Age and perspective

And all, I don't think we need to get into a fight over whether to listen to the elders or not.  Of course we should listen to them.  They have a lot to teach, especially if they lived before the days of cheap and easy power delivered to your closest socket.  But many of them... probably the majority I talk to, have nothing but loathing for those days and can't imagine the prospect of going back.  Other than a few sentimental reminisces, they like their modern conveniences.  Heck, they suffered for them.  They have the experience of having been through, and being rescued by progress.  How should they think the future will be anything but more of the same?

As I tried to say before, it's all about exponential growth (and decay, actually.)  Most of history before us was on the flat part of the hockey stick.  We're blasting into the steep part.

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Re: Age and perspective

I agreed with green_achers completely.
The elder generation had it though with very little means, but societys progress (much thanks to cheap oil) made things soo much better.
In fact everyone got it a lot better.

Today we have great times (in almost all western countries), with a rather easy life. The main difference is that the future is likely to be very dark and most of us sits with big loans on our houses, cars etc.
For the young generation who got most things served of a silver platter it is very hard to even grasp the fact that we are heading for very bad times. They can understand rising prices, semi-high inflation and more expencive loans, but that is about the limit on what most people are aware of.

Things like massive unemployment, gas stations are out of fuel, food prices increasing drasticly, retirement payouts cut in half, healthcare system cut in half are a few of the things very few people grasp and even fewer are prepared for this.

In fact it will not even be possible for the majority of people to get prepared.
Lets just touch on a single financial topic: Housing is expencive and to get ridd of you loan most families would have to downsize. But if the majority of people where trying to downsize there will not be nearly enough buyers.
So, the majority will never be able to get debt free in our current system regardless of how hard they try. 

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Re: Age and perspective

One of the arguments I have with elderly family members goes like this:  When you go into debt the debt costs money.  Every month that debt costs you money that you will never see again.  So I say no debt!  If you have debt you pay down highest interest debt first unless you cannot pay off a large loan you pay down whatever debt you can get rid of.

Older family member says unless the debt rate is higher than the rate of inflation you are "making" money on the debt you owe because the money was of higher value when the lender made the debt than it will be when you pay it back.

While this point has validity,  it still leaves you owing money that at some future date you may not have.  I would rather not owe.  Anyone,  anything.

I worry about job losses and life crisis.  This elderly person who also lived through the depression never seems to count the idea that the income could simply vanish.

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Re: Age and perspective
agitating prop wrote:

As far as difficult lives go, many of our parents or grandparents, depending on your age, did NOT  live through ongoing deprivation and contraction.  They had it remarkably easy.   Women didn't have to work, housing was actually more affordable. People didn't have to go into ruinous debt to maintain a middle class life style.

My apologies, Land 2341 but I think the elderly are a big part of the problem. Their "wisdom" brought us directly to where we are today. Their oil guzzling, relaxed sense of entitlement is nothing to emulate or admire.

Yikes, AP!  Just curious as to how old you are because unless you are much younger than I thought, I couldn't disagree more with what you say here.

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Re: Age and perspective

In a piece written last year James Howard Kunstler considers social breakdown now as compared to the great depression of the 30's. In summing up our current contemporary generations he puts it like this:

http://kunstler.com/blog/2009/12/forecast-2010.html

One wild card is how angry the American people might get.  Unlike the 1930s, we are no longer a nation who call each other "Mister" and "Ma'am," where even the down-and-out wear neckties and speak a discernible variant of regular English, where hoboes say "thank you," and where, in short, there is something like a common culture of shared values.  We're a nation of thugs and louts with flames tattooed on our necks, who call each other "motherfucker" and are skilled only in playing video games based on mass murder.

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Re: Age and perspective

AO--I'm 54. Unless my age and experience are radically different than your's I have to wonder why we are so far apart on this.  My elders made it through the Depression, sure. Is that paradigm adequate to describe our present and future state of affairs? Nope. Could it be damaging if used as an example? I think so. Age doesn't automatically confer wisdom.

If you are looking for practical survival tips from the Great Depression or  from lives lived in rural communites,  some of the elderly can be an valuable source of information.  If you are looking for sage words of wisdom that will help to provide context for your life and advice for your future, read a book!Wink

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