Paradigm Shift – Parents No Longer Have Need of Children for Old Age

My wife, being from another country, is often puzzled by the way of life in the United States. Actually, me, being from this country, I too am often puzzled by this way of life. She asks me about these things and I don’t have an answer. The relationship between parents and adult children is one … Continue reading “Paradigm Shift – Parents No Longer Have Need of Children for Old Age”

My wife, being from another country, is often puzzled by the way of life in the United States. Actually, me, being from this country, I too am often puzzled by this way of life. She asks me about these things and I don’t have an answer.

The relationship between parents and adult children is one of those places. I’m not talking about my own relatives here, because one thing I’ve learned through the years is that my familial relationships are not normal – normal for people who are in prison, have drug or alcohol dependency, or maybe even for coworker status – but not normal for parents and children. No, I’m talking about the great majority of American familial relationships – families like our neighbors – families where the parents actually put themselves out a little bit in order to ensure the well-being of their children. I think, perhaps, one of the reasons that parents did that was to build a safety net for themselves later in life when they became old and feeble.

I spoke with my father the other day. He mentioned his cataracts and how his sight was failing. I felt a genuine compassion for him because now that I am in my mid 40s, my own vision has been getting worse – reading has become more difficult and I can tell that the vision in one eye is weaker than in the other – so I felt a sense of empathy…a real connection, I even felt a desire to take care of him because he is my father …but he went on and told me how he went to an eye doctor and paid for a surgery that not only got rid of his cataracts but made his vision perfect and how it has improved his daily golf game. Not only can I not afford to play golf, but there is no way I can afford to get that kind of surgery even if my insurance covered it because it would certainly have a high deductible.

I’m trying to write about how the parents of adult children no longer need to ask their kids for help and as a result, they no longer have a personal need to help their children to succeed. There is no longer a selfish need to protect one’s young to protect one’s future. And, it’s my belief, that as a result, there is no longer a significant even sacrificial investment in the success of one’s children. Further, as a result of that, there is now a hoarding of wealth and the ability to accumulate things like vacation houses and expensive eye surgery and personal trainers and a veritable fountain of youth of products, procedures, and formulations – that the children cannot afford but the parents can – which not only preserves the parents, but allows them to be more healthy than the children and quite possibly to live longer than their offspring.

My dad is 82 and I am 45 and he sees better than I do – I am happy for him and I don’t begrudge him that – not by any means. It wouldn’t surprise me if he lives longer than me. I’m sure he has more frequent dental appointments and he doesn’t live in a molding cheap rental – so his respiratory and heart health are probably better than mine too. There is no real incentive for him to invest in me except for altruism – a trait which seems to be missing from a large segment of our society and which many believe to be imaginary.

It’s my observation that a great many parents (in particular the parents of my generation) went about teaching life in the same way they went about teaching swimming – 1) throw the child in the pool and let them sink or swim or 2) let someone else do the teaching 3) leave it to the child to find a teacher when they reach adulthood. I believe that sort of parenting has led to the broken family relationships we have today.

When my mother was injured, we offered to stay at her house and take care of her. To do the cooking and cleaning, take care of the dogs, and take care of the house. “She’s got a physical therapist and the house takes care of itself,” was the answer her husband gave.

That’s the paradigm shift I’m trying to write about. That’s the thing that baffles my wife because she comes from a country where the parents are cherished by the adult children – and here – quite frankly – I think there is resentment on both sides. Of course in her country of origin, the parents sacrifice everything to give their children a better life and the children understand that when they become adults and take care of the parents – quid pro quo – but it’s not like that here among families like mine.

Granted, my family is an extreme example with divorces and remarriages etc, but I see this sort of behavior happening with a majority of American families – the parents no longer sacrifice greatly for the children and when the children become adults, they feel no great debt to the parents – and the parents seeing this hoard more for their own well being – and the children seeing this feel a growing sense of resentment and isolation. I think that is why we don’t have big family dinners. The parents are scared of being caught in their selfish hoarding, the children are scared of being asked to care for the selfish hoarders, the grandchildren are watching and learning. A family dinner is a meeting of people who could have helped each other, but did not.

I see this daily. When baby boomers come in my shop and talk about their children and their adventures. I see it in the ads directed at baby boomers. I see it in the movies that are appearing. My wife is baffled but it simply makes me sad.

What I’m Reading: Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller

I’m a fan of R. Buckminster Fuller and his work. One of the greatest things I’ve ever read was his admission in Nine Chains to the Moon (which is how many continuous chains of people we could make to the moon by standing arm in arm circa 1971 or so) that he was a failure at everything he ever tried until he decided to do something that didn’t just benefit him or his loved ones, but all of humanity. So, when I see an R. Buckminster Fuller book, I usually buy it and read it – even if, like Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth , I had read it in the past.

This time, however, it just didn’t click with me. I just wasn’t feeling Bucky Fuller. In fact, his style of writing actually grated against my brain – phrases like ‘comprehensively commanded automation’ annoyed me with their pseudo-intellectual vibe and bothersome alliteration – and – and this is probably a big part of it – his annoying optimistic predictions which were completely and totally wrong. He forgot to foresee the greed and stupidity of the baby boomers as they glorified ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’ became completely obsessed with looking at themselves in the disco-ball mirrors, and turned the United States into a country ruled by Falcon Crest, Dynasty, and Dallas. All those well meaning intellectual hippies either got consumed by the culture of greed or were shoved into back corners where they tell themselves that the best thing to do is to let it run its course.

Still, there were tidbits that I found inspiring such as where he describes the true miracle of economic growth that took place after World War II – it wasn’t because of the industrialization of the machines of war or the driving force of industry – it was because after the war there were a bunch of shell shocked young men who were the healthiest and best informed our nation had ever produced and none of them could get a job in the industrialized post war society, so the government, rather than letting them run amok created the G.I. Bill and sent them all to colleges, trade schools, and universities. This emergency measure to prevent chaos created many billions of dollars of new wealth through ‘increased know-how and intelligence thus released’. It was this reckless spending of wealth that produced the greatest prosperity humanity had ever known.

Fuller also talks about how charity is a holdover from the pirate days when it was thought there could never be enough to go around and then he points out that we know better now, there is enough for everyone, but it is being hoarded by those who don’t need it and kept from those who do. Charity, he warns, is necessitated by a working assumption that we cannot afford to take care of all the helpless ones.

Yes, there is so much common sense and goodness in the writing of Bucky Fuller, but something happened to the boomers in the late 1970s and 1980s that has taken humanity on a bad turn. Instead of turning their backs on the competitive society (which is poison for all, but not at the same time) and embracing the cooperative society that the 1960s seemed to be pointing us towards, they did the opposite. I’ve given some thought to this – a lot of thought actually – and it might come down to this.

The boomers were the first generation to regularly see pictures of themselves. Not moving pictures which showed their fat rolls or double chins or acne, because video reveals our worst, but nice, posed snapshots and portraits. Like Narcissus, they fell in love with their own reflection and mistook the blue of the sky behind them for a halo of their own making. My generation (Gen X) was forced to see awkward videos of our first dance, first day at school, getting our heads shoved into the ground during middle school wrestling, and more. Editing VHS was never easy. The grainy VHS tape video didn’t do anyone any favors – it’s hard to fall in love with yourself when you are on VHS – so there is a realism, a cynicism that is inherent in us – we were born during the years when our parents had ideals and then we got to see them prostitute themselves to money, go through the ugliest selfish mid-life crisis’ in history, and now get to watch them pretend to have a shred of dignity left and if we want to have any sort of relationship with them, not remind them of what assholes they have always been. The millennials, on the other hand, have been filmed from the time they were in the womb and every bit of it has been edited to perfection – they are oblivious to the cameras that are trained on them every moment of the day. The cynicism of their parents (Gen X) seems to have created a sort of optimism in them that we lacked. The fear, of course, is that they are simply Re-Boomers. I don’t think so, I think they are better than the boomers, less innately insecure, but that’s my two cents worth on this.

Back to the book, I can’t really recommend it. It might have turned me off of Fuller for a good while.

The Thoughts and Questions That Plague My Mind

Is this the best that we can do?

That’s the first one. It’s the most depressing one. Humanity has failed. Not only is it not the best we can do, it’s not even in the top 90% of what we can do. We have failed on so many levels that it is impossible to list them all. Here are just a few with no statistics because I’m sure the statistics would be even worse.
Child Starvation
People with no access to healthcare
Suicide
Hate crimes
Addiction in all of it’s forms
Environmental degradation
Mass Extinction
Homelessness (while speculation homes sit empty)
I could go on…and on…and on…and on. We have failed. This human civilization is a complete and total failure. We have failed each other and we have failed ourselves in the process.

So that’s the first question that plagues my mind. And it brings me to the next question which is more personal “Is this the best I can do?” and the answer to that is no too. My ego wants to give me all the excuses in the world – starting with blaming this human culture I am forced to live in. Ultimately, I want to do more, but I fail. I’m like the old woman with $1 who donates half of it to charity. It’s 50% of what she has and it doesn’t make a difference. 100% of what she has wouldn’t make a difference. I’m like that – unless she can do something to get a much larger sum of money – her charity won’t matter a bit – and neither will mine. I have to scramble, duck, and roll and focus my energy non-stop in order to take care of my family and keep myself in a position to do so. And that excuse sounds pretty good – but the truth is I am not doing the best I can do and I don’t know exactly why that is.

Love is the answer. I’m pretty sure that’s true. However, I’m so filled with anger and rage at the injustices of the world that it is sometimes impossible to give a stranger so much as a smile. Especially if I’ve just read about a child being separated from their parents and the stranger is driving a $50,000 truck with a Make America Great Again sticker on it. Man, those awful baby boomers – they’ve made the world a thousand times worse than it was before them. All the wars in history before them didn’t do as much damage to the planet as they have done in their lifetimes with their greed and hypocrisy. And they’ve tightened the chains around those who followed and reduced the chances for us to achieve any sort of real meaningful freedom besides death.

I’ll tell you what hell would be – to die and wake up surrounded by all the baby boomers. It’s hell on earth and it would be the worst sort of eternal hell. I’ve never been scared of death, but that thought makes me want to cling onto dear life with a death-grip. The soldier-hippie boomers of the 60s, the disco boomers of the 70s, the awful yuppie boomers of the 80s,the disgusting bootstrap-upper management boomers of the 90s, the foul early retirement boomers of the 2000s, and the RV-downsized-still-most-selfish-generation-but-now-need-to-be-taken-care-of boomers of the current decade. God, I want to puke. So, yeah, love may be the answer but I can’t love them because I don’t have Stockholm Syndrome.

What the kids today need to do is have a Lord of the Flies party where take out everyone who is already an adult or who thinks like an adult in the world today and then re-create society. Lord of the Flies would be messy and I don’t want to be killed by gangs of tweens, but for them it would be a better solution.

I wish I could tell you I have an ideology that would make things better – but I don’t. All of the ideologies are bullshit. The ideologues are assholes. And of course, money is the problem – I’ve been to Sardis where the first money was produced and while it was a beautiful ruin – I’ve never been somewhere that so completely emanated evil – although the Pentagon has the same sort of vibe and when I’ve visited concentration camps – those have a similar aura. Do you want to understand money? I wanted to. It’s part of what led me to Sardis in the first place. Money makes slavery possible. Without money, slavery is impossible. People like my sister – who work hard and study and stay on course and spend their lives working working working (but rarely at what they are passionate about) talk about working hard for a purpose – that purpose is ‘buying their freedom’. They want to be free someday – which tells you the truth – they are not free. And if you are not free you are either a prisoner or a slave.

I am a slave to money. I admit it. I do what money needs me to do. I do what money tells me to do. Sometimes it is fun – usually, I feel like a prisoner forced to labor.

Are We Stagnating?

We’ve all heard the sounds of the 1960s…and we know what they wore, and we know what the news was like, and what was on TV, and what cars, refrigerators, and soda pop ads looked like. It’s safe to say, that the 60s never went away. To a lessor extent the 1950s are still with us – mostly how they were imagined in the 1960s and 1970s and the 1940s, 30s,and 20s – and to a greater extent, the 1970s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 20-Teens are ever present…. we are all going to party like it’s 1999 forever more…we are trapped in the last fifty years.

Yes, there is innovation. Yes, there are new styles and trends. But they are constrained within the confines of the lifetime of the baby boomers. And, that stuff isn’t going away…not anytime soon. Not unless our technology crashes…

And it may be too late to hope that the boomers themselves will ever go away…