Questions With The Elders

The tagline of this blog is ‘More questions than answers.’  The reason this is important is that there are lots of people with great visions of the future, but we need to be able question these worldviews, each other, and ourselves in order to find the best truth we can.    If someone gets angry while asking questions, or starts responding with a series of well known logical fallacies, it is time to raise an eyebrow or two, and perhaps consider that the worldview given might be more based on emotion or ego rather than fact.   If anything will screw things up more than the posited future we face, it might be a mix of those things added into the mix.

Tonight, while listening to my elders around a living room after dinner, a lot of discussion came up about the world, and the usual complaints and reasons for the way things were trotted out.   Of course, many anecdotes were related (some sad and funny) and a few theories were put forth on why the way things were in our modern world.  There was a lot of collected wisdom in the room, and it was good to hear from people with a sense of history; folks born in the 1940s (technically not Boomers, born before the war ended), who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s from mostly ethnic/immigrant backgrounds, and who have seen the world change radically.   Luckily, they are still energetic enough to relate to their grandkids, yet all were very concerned about the world those grandkids are currently growing up in.

Growing up for them was a different experience; cheap oil and a booming US economy made their outlook more like Tomorrowland more than Mad Max.  But, as time progressed, they saw lots of changes, and their own kids grew up in a tougher environment.   One wage earner wasn’t enough, and mothers didn’t stay at home; there’s no need to elaborate that things changed in the US and elsewhere, suffice to say that things didn’t get better for most Americans as the new century rolled around.    It’s great to listen them talk about these things, because they have about a quarter century on me, and can see a larger arc of history (a neighbor who recently passed was part of the 100+ club, and talking to her was amazing as well).

A few questions were put to my elders, in the hope (careful with the hopium pipe!) that they might have some insight into things that might have been missed in my generally less-than-fantastic-future worldview:

  • (My general favorite) If you had lunch with the President (or the governor of your state; someone high up the political food chain), what would you ask them, or what would you want to discuss with them?  Do you think they would listen earnestly, or are all politicians just going to ‘be politicians’ and say things like, ‘we should look in to that, yes…’
  • Who do you want to run for President, even if they aren’t running?
  • What do you want to pass on to your grandkids?  What skills or lessons do you want to share?
  • When did things start to go wrong in our world?
  • How do you see things winding up?
  • Who is responsible for this mess we find ourselves in?  In the immortal words of the Talking Heads, “How did I [we] get here?”
  • What would you suggest a young person today do?
  • There are a lot of things (gay marriage, single parenting) that were frowned upon in your day; what might be the next “taboo” thing to fall by the wayside?

For those of us with elders who we have known for a long time – what do you ask them about, when discussing the Long Emergency future?   What sort of sage advice can they give?  Can they give any useful advice, with the fact that they grew up in a time of generally increasing wealth?   Do we have to talk to the centenarians (those who lived through the Great Depression) instead?


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