Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What If?

I’ve been thinking more about this generational conflict business. It bothers me that I have fallen into a “divide and conquer” trap, that I have so much resentment about the policy and personal decisions of a handful of political and business leaders, and a slightly larger corps of wealthy middle managers in the tier just below. Why do they think it’s okay to own more than one house, while their children and grandchildren rack up billions in credit card debt to buy food and diapers?

It seems clear that the Baby Boom Generation is the first generation in recorded history to have decision-makers who do not care about the fate of their children and grandchildren. I ponder the oft-cited long view held by the indigenous people of this land: to consider, in every action, how it will affect the next seven generations. The Baby Boomers couldn’t and still can’t even manage to think about the effects of their pollution and wealth concentration and war-mongering on their own kids. I suspect it has something to do with their experiences in the Nuclear Age. They grew up doing the drills where they hid under their desks to ride out a nuclear attack from Russia. They thought the whole world was about to disappear. So why not use everything up? Why not, if it’s all going to be thrown away anyway?

It’s hard enough facing your own mortality, and fearing the deaths of those you love. How much harder it is to face the extinction of your entire species. Baby Boomers saw it coming in the form of a mushroom cloud. We, their children, see it coming in the form of undrinkable water, desertified cropland, treeless horizons and dead oceans, unbreatheable air and unstoppable cancers. But we are not ignoring our children and gathering up as much stuff as we can, here on Earth where mold and rust destroy. We are trying to get by with as little as we can, to cut back, to slow down, to heal ourselves and our neighborhoods, our air, our rivers, the soil where our food comes from.

What else is there to do, but try to lift up our voices and change our lives? I can admit to a great despair, and also a great curiosity. What if we can lift up our voices, change our lives and stop making new damage, and begin to repair the damage that’s been done? What if what we do now can avert extinction 50 years from now, and give our children a significantly better world than the mess that has been handed to us?


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