A gift for anyone living into their 90’s and having the good fortune to retain an accurate memory, is that of being able to survey the living history of three or more generations. It would be neglectful, I think, to have this ability and not to put it to some use by sketching out the lessons to be learned from my Grandparent’s generation to that of my Grandchildren’s. I call them ‘Poisoned Chalices’ and wonder if there is such a thing as a continual and beneficial progress possible for humans transiting life on this Planet. True, the majority of us make the best of what we have and tend to live longer than our forebears and know more about what is going on about us. But does this constitute progress?

An historian would, perhaps, understand what I am getting at. My Grandparent’s Generation left a sort of a Poisoned Chalice to their children in the form of a peculiar culture and an unsustainable Empire through the exercise of sheer knowledge and power. My Parent’s Generation passed this on to my Generation in the form of World Wars, resulting in collapsed Empires and shifting power blocks, which set the groundwork for the rise of three distinct ideologies. Those of Fascism, Communism and the Free Market.

Fascism, based on racism, was dealt with by my Generation through World War 2, even though the War was fought on the terms of a Power Struggle to maintain the balance of power in Europe and hence the World at that time. This left standing Communism and the Free Market, who entered an immediate struggle for World Power. Both were possibly based on good intentions. The Communists believed in the Brotherhood of Man where no individual should exploit another; The Free Marketeers believed in minimal Government intervention leaving the Market to enrich us all. The Free Marketeers prevailed and  Communism collapsed, having become over centralised and Authoritarian.

This left the field clear for the Free Marketeers and is where the ‘Poisoned Chalice’ of inverting the meanings of credit and debt was planted. Everyone could be made more prosperous through the Free Market, unregulated by any interfering Government, if they could only spend to enjoy the goods and services provided for them; but this was controlled by the limits of their earnings. Everyone had to be made consumers and given the means to consume. Debt was not bad as previous Generations had been taught. No, indeed, Debt was really Credit and we, the banks as the agents of the Free Marketeers, would provide you all with the credit you needed to obtain the goods and services you wished for. In the past you could have nothing until you had worked to earn the money needed for what you wanted. In the new age with ready credit obtainable on reasonable terms you could have what you wanted as soon as you wanted it. We are happy to supply you this Credit and you are happy to have what you wanted immediately so who but old fuddy-duddies could find any flaw in that?

It is true that credit existed before this, for mortgages, investments and for capital projects but was only available for the select few. Now, with credit widely available to the majority, the Consumer Society was born and there was nothing to impede the onward march of the Free Marketeers. Until the whole thing blew up and collapsed in 2008 when over 90% of money in circulation was borrowed money.

With our children’s generation presiding over  the economic failure of this ‘Poisoned Chalice’, would our grandchildren’s generation be able to build something solid as our generation had done post WW2? And, if so, would they be able to ensure its continuity to fend off the ravages of greed and entitlement, as the Generation that followed our Generation had failed to do?

I have my doubts. The greed and entitlement that followed and undermined our generation’s altruism is no longer the main threat. The lesson is now in course of being learned. But, ‘Quo Vadis?’ Our grandchildren now face the ‘Poisoned Chalice’ of nihilism; step by step they are being lured into a false world where devices will take over the skills they would have inherited and the thinking they would have learned in past ages. Just as the banks gave immediate credit to their parent’s generation, these devices will give immediate gratification to them. Music on demand; data on demand;  news on demand; food on demand; anything and everything delivered on demand; entertainment on demand. Can such a world really endure? And who will supply all of this, and on what terms?

News without some bias was always difficult to find but George Orwell’s world is fast approaching where facts and unbiased news are out of reach for the many and searching for them is becoming virtually impossible and probably dangerous. Instead the soporific attraction of social media destroys the richness of both closer contacts and solace, replacing them with remote dependency and the irritation of immediate but distant contact. Tweeters speak to the world of strangers and exalt in ‘followers.’ Unbridled spleen is unleashed through anonymous contacts called trolls. Lies become truth through ‘fake’ news. The accumulated armouries we had built up in the past of skills and basic knowledge from generation to generation are being replaced by apts to do this for us. We are de-skilling ourselves and losing ‘common sense’ through leaving these matters to commercial strangers.

Privacy, treasured by my generation, will be impossible; the device owners already know more about the device users than these consciously know about themselves. Through this new ‘Poisoned Chalice’ future generations can be made malleable and vulnerable, losing trust, direction, discernment and independence. Will it come to this or will a form of revolution, against a newly identified tyrannical oligarchy, break out to make a bonfire of those oppressive devices with their malign forces of division and discord and oppression be replaced by the benign forces of saving and sharing to build a future for humans and the planet we inhabit and the fellow creatures we inhabit it with? Or, is this asking the impossible and a dark ‘kill or be killed’ destiny awaits because as a species we are too clever whilst in bondage to our appetites?

Our Planet is now on count-down to destruction unless we take stock as a species and reverse the siren song of specialness and entitlement that has told us we can be de-coupled from Nature. We are the unique result of a wonderful evolutionary process of Nature about which we know something but will never know all because of our finiteness in an infinite Universe. We have been awakened to the peril waiting to engulf all that has been achieved up to this time but will fail unless we identify and extirpate all the false teachings we have absorbed alongside these achievements to be able to cleanse our collective thinking to that of a simpler and less absorbed belief in our place in the Natural World. The time is short and the rewards for future generations in a future full of hope so desirable.

DECEMBER 15th 2017