(image from FLICKR)
It all started, this thought stream, when I put down the book on possible outcomes of the inevitable cataclysm and also put aside an invitation to a free barbecue at an upscale senior community recruiting new residents. One was too sad and the other bordering on cop-out escapism for a lifelong activist.
Remember the energy, enthusiasm, and promise we all used to associate with youth? I thought. Have the Republicans and the super-rich successfully undone the dawning of the youth cult that began in the 1960s? When Kennedy beat Nixon in 1960, since Nixon represented a continuation of the Eisenhower era, it was a victory of youth over the old age that the vacation president typified. Ushered in by the second-youngest US president in history, the sixties proceeded to glorify youth in every way. But by the end of the decade, after putting a man on the moon, we were sending our youth off to die in Vietnam. Did the youth cult begin to die then? At the end of the decade that finally put Nixon, JFK’s foil, into office to prolong the Vietnam war, which youth vehemently protested against? Or did its slow demise just begin, exacerbated by the Powell manifesto and culminating in the prophesied cataclysm to be brought on by climate change and nuclear annihilation? How do we view our youth these days? After 60 years, do we pity them as those who will confront head on the cataclysm? Why is there such a gerontocracy in Washington? With the average age of members of Congress around 60 and the height of the pecking order largely around 80? Is it because youth are so held back by the constraints of a strangling economy? SCOTUS, despite the median chronological age of its “Injustices,” constitutes an ideological gerontocracy.
The death of most everything that youth used to imply is one symptom of a dying world, I guessed. Al Gore, source of the quote in this article’s title, persists in holding out hope. Reduce the carbon emissions level to net zero by 2050, he says, and there is hope that the ultimate extinction won’t occur. He maintains this optimism “mainly because of young people all over the world now demanding change—including Greta Thunberg.”
Youth activism persists, then, reminding us of the sixties spirit. And people are still donating children to the population though the birthrates at home and worldwide have substantially declined. The children I know directly are being raised as if into the same world as I was, as my daughter was, taking a uniform future for granted.
And so, it seems, each time a wanted child is born, hope is reborn. I can’t put that aside, nor the dream that something will come along—an idea, a fix, to turn this all around. Destruction implies its inverse and I’ll never stop waiting for it to arrive.