Saturday, October 20, 2018

It's All Relative

If you're new here, this is a weekly column consisting of letters written to my grandchildren (who exist) and my great-grandchildren (who aren't here yet) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups and/or I'm dead.


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Irregularly Appearing Imaginary Guest Stars
Marie-Louise -- My beautiful muse  
Iggy -- My designated Sticky
Dana -- My designated gentlereader

"Everything is relative except relatives, and they are absolute." -Alfred Stieglitz


[Gentlereaders, sorry I published late. Spent the day with a sibling, a sister, that I haven't seen in literally decades and just got home. She rocks.]

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies,

I hope that by the time you're geezers (or geezerettes) like me things have settled down a bit, but I doubt it. At the moment, we're living through a time of unprecedented prosperity and invention -- and unprecedented change.

Change, of course, is normal and inevitable. Unrelenting, high-velocity change, which appears it will never end, which appears to be the new normal, which appears to be still picking up speed -- is not.

Therefore, I maintain that there are three new things under the Sun.

Unprecedented Prosperity (UP): According to the Brookings Institution as of September 2018 half of the inhabitants of the planet Earth, 7,800,000,000 souls, are middle class or wealthier. "In the world today, about one person escapes extreme poverty every second; but five people a second are entering the middle class."

Unprecedented Invention (UI): The consulting firm TEF predicts that in five years technological innovation will be 32 times more advanced than it is right now. Ten years out, 1,000 times. Twenty years out, 1,000,000 times.

UP + UI = Unprecedented Change

[Of course, something could go terribly wrong and there might not be anyone around to read this. A Zombie Apocalypse for example. Or suppose that the Donald and the Pooteen get into an argument over a golf game resulting in a series of events that culminate in nuclear Armageddon.]


I remember sister Mary McGillicuddy telling the class that we little Boomers and Boomerettes were fortunately/unfortunately growing up at a point in history when mankind's sociological/psychological/etceteralogical knowledge lagged far behind its technical knowledge.

If she's still out there somewhere (unlikely, materially speaking, but we're talking world-class force of nature so...) I think she'd agree with me that the velocity of change in the developed (and shortly to be developed) world is a new thing and we're probably not ready for it.

There have been no corresponding quantum leaps in the social sciences. And while traditional religious beliefs still work for many, for many others... not so much. But there's no shortage of people loose in the world who have replaced God with an ideology and who are prepared to burn non-believers at the stake.


Some perspective, if you please, is necessary at this point. My parents (and their parents) groused about how much more laid back and less dangerous life was when they were young, bulletproof, ten feet tall, immortal, and living in the golden age.

However, historians tell us that this (relatively speaking) is a new phenomenon and it wasn't all that long ago (relatively speaking) that the average lifetime of the average person was mostly "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."

[I used the phrase relatively speaking twice in the previous paragraph to try and call your attention to the fact that (relatively speaking) the modern, postmodern, or whatever this era of history is ultimately labeled, is less than a New York minute of big picture time (relatively speaking).]

You and your spawn are and will grow up taking high-velocity change for granted. You may be scratching your heads as you read this and wondering what the hell I'm talking about. You may regard the life of an average Boomer to have been slow and dull (relatively speaking) and you might be grateful that you live in a more dynamic era.

Which, now that I think about it, is how I viewed my parent's life prior to me showing up. However, I sincerely hope that you live...

[Captain Crank, I think it's time to chart a new course, sir, we're headed for the rocks.]


Point taken, Dana. My Dear Stickies, my point is that when you're looking back and making the inevitable historical judgments of your predecessors keep in mind that although we don't like to admit it we are/were in over our heads as much, or more, than our predecessors were.

Learn and discern the lessons (the easy way), but don't make the mistake of judging us/them as though we knew/they knew everything that you take for granted. At the moment, an awful lot of people that should know better, are doing just that. It's not helpful.

Learn and discern more lessons (as you go, the hard way), chose a goal, formulate a plan, rinse and repeat. Poppa loves you.

Have an OK day.
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©2018 Mark Mehlmauer   (The Flyoverland Crank)

 









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