Longevites as Complicitors

 

The effects of group and system behavior are long term, often beyond the scope and time line of what individuals care most about or even know and remember. This has profound effect on scapegoating, always a group process, and on complicitors, an active and necessary element in the scapegoating process.

Many of my friends are in the generation of Longevites. (I’m including a reference to a paper Pilar Montero and I have written about this increasingly large demographic group.) One of the favorite subjects of discussion within this group, especially if one gets past complaining about physical ailments, begins with the phrase “if I can only live long enough not to…”

The frequent statement: “If only I can live long enough not  be effected by global warming” interest me here both because of the importance of the subject and how it symbolizes complicitor behavior in well-meaning groups.  The discussion continues; “Nothing that bad is going to happen in fifteen to twenty years and then I’ll be dead. So why should I care? Why should I sacrifice my last years to… (fill in the blank)?” After a considered silence, someone, usually the youngest in the group, is likely to say something like. “Well, what about our kids and the future generations? What about the animals? What about our planet?” Heads nod wisely for a while and then the comment is summarily dismissed and replace by variants of “you don’t quite get it, do you?” meaning you haven’t gotten far enough into longevitic psychology to understand that the surety of death, the continuing lust for experience, and the counterpoise of dependence and security, are the giant, overbearing items that longevites care about. The future is now and just a little bit more, thank you, and god bless.

That is not what this group would say to their younger friends and relatives. Many are deeply committed to ecological causes and concern sand have donated money or even volunteered or directed their careers to Earth Day and Save the Planet movements. They have not given up on these ideologies. But what they say to their in-group Longevite peers is far more immediate and there is usually general agreement with these self-centered sentiments. A water guzzling green lawn matters to their enjoyment of daily life at home.  So does a last trip to Europe or a first to India in a gas guzzling polluting jet, or an un-mortgaged house to live in the rest of one’s days. If they can just get that last thrill, that last bit of ecstasy, that last pat on the back, three more months of life with the latest wonder drug, they will mostly forgo what they continue to define as being devoted, generous, and altruistic.

So many well meaning longevites are active complicitors in scapegoating the environment and with it, the younger generations who will live there. They are knowing purveyors of local and global sin. The generation that might seem to have the least to lose is hardly a beacon for others and for good reason. It is their last hurrah!

Of course longevites are powerfully effected by the current cultural context of selfishness. Their children and grandchildren are, in general, even less concerned with the long term; lip service to conservation, yes, but little action.  They can rationalize and blame others including their forebears. That helps justify their fierce consumption and its negative consequences.  That goes with the psychological territory of youth and inexperience.  But unlike most of the longevites it is   probable that the boomers, millennial’s, generation X’s etc. will be the ones directly affected by the negative impacts of climate change. That is their fate   even if the eldest generation contributed mightily. Perhaps the longevites should help more and sometimes they do. But, as I have suggested, that group has its own powerfully opposing concerns.

All this does not mean the end of hope. We need thoughtful and practical action on a small and large scale and most of all we need creativity in how we approach our future. But the archetypal Dr. Scapegoat has watched humans sacrifice other humans—usually our children (and other species as well as our cosmic home) — for as long as humans has been a dominating force. This Dr. Scapegoat, chastened by experience and more committed to truth then optimism, would know that altering a planet to become less suitable for the sustenance and development of humans is very bad idea  and requires selfless, dramatic changes in current species behavior of which there are few signs.

(Check out The New Longevity, by Arthur Colman and Pilar Montero at www.spanda.com

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