05 November 2013

"From ancestor worship to descendant worship"

From a brief essay in Intelligent Life magazine:
"... ours is the first civilisation to find its deepest fulfilment in its descendants...

There is the greater dismay we seem to feel at youth unemployment than at the poverty of pensioners, although some of the most disturbing scenes I’ve witnessed have been in the homes of the elderly. There is the way that older people are expected to give far more to voluntary organisations. We assume that the over-65s will take on almost the entire burden of supporting political parties, for which the young occasionally vote, and of maintaining the churches in which the young like to marry. We accept too easily that the young should not be called upon to carry the burden of sustaining communities because "their lives are too busy".

People who might once have been public figures, deeply invested in their work, are instead busy serving their children. Ours is a culture not of ancestor worship but of descendant worship. Children must sense that nothing an adult does is more important than their own desires. All political questions seem to come down to the interests of "the next generation".


  1. The counter-point would be: Jilted Generation: How Britain has Bankrupted its Youth aka so many people under 35 are just so much poorer compared to their parents, that it's not surprising that they don't have time to take part in politics, or other community events.

    1. Social Security in the USA also would seem to turn this upon its head. That institution will likely not be around in its present form (or around at all) when many of the sub-30 year old people hit their mid-60's.

      With over 17 trillion in debt piled up, and over 100 trillion in unfunded future liabilities, the older generation has stolen the future from their grandchildren to pay for present comfort.

  2. "We assume that the over-65s will take on almost the entire burden of supporting political parties, for which the young occasionally vote,"
    I don't think that is assumed by many people (but being non-us perhaps I don't know the situation there well enough). People of all ages make donations to political parties, going by the amount they have spare and the degree they desire to see their party elected. voter turnout is not that skewed - 11% of 2012 US voters were 18-24yo, 16% were over 65yo. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2012#Voter_demographics

    "and of maintaining the churches in which the young like to marry."
    that's a bit irrelevant i think. personally an atheist, I do not give money to churches, and would not get married in one. perhaps the age difference is only a difference as young people move away from the old religions.

    also ancestor worship was the practice of literally worshiping the dead, and may be tied into some sense of the respect people give the old, but to dramatically twist that into "descendant worship" is crazy.

  3. if people over 65 are serving their children primarily by maintaining churches and political parties rather than by changing diapers, cooking, running errands, or doing laundry, their children have to hire out these services or do them in the hours after work. they don't have time or money left over for the church or for politicians who have, generation after generation, failed to change diapers.
    the worst part is that since the advent of nursing homes and daycare people have to do twice as much work caring for their parents and their children separately. people over 65 would have a better chance of transmitting their religious and political beliefs to the next generation by doing a share of the childrearing than by supporting cultural groups outside of the family.

    i've heard stories from the soviet union, after christianity was outlawed, many people were still raised christian because even if their parents practiced no religion, their grandmothers helped raise them and you know what they say about the hand that rocks the cradle.


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