In 1970, my first year in high school (grade 10, though; 7-9 was junior high), I joined Key Club, a national high school service organization. One thing that immediately struck me was that people didn’t seem to care about the hungry, the sick, women and child abuse, animal abuse. (Has anything changed?) When we went to a nursing home (now called assisted living facility), I was playing dominoes with one of my friends and two elderly women. We had a great conversation while we were playing, and something one of the women said has stayed with me all these years:
People don’t care about anything unless it affects either them personally or someone they know.
It’s a generality painted with a huge brush, but I think it’s true. In today’s world, Twitler, his supporters and enablers, the excessively rich, and the big corporations are the epitome of not caring about anything other than what will make them richer in the short term.
I am reading The Andromeda Evolution, by Daniel H. Wilson and a sequel to Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain (I have an uncorrected, pre-published, advance reader’s edition, but it went on sale on November 12, 2019). I came across a very telling few paragraphs on pages 14 &15 (remember that this is a novel, so names and such are not real):
It is a well-established Achilles’ heel of human civilization that individuals are more motivated by immediate private reward than by long-term, collective future benefits. This effect is particularly evident when considering payoffs that will take longer than a generation to arrive—a phenomenon called inter-generational discounting.
The concept was formally introduced by the young French economist Floria Pavard during a poorly attended speech at the International Conference of Social Economics on October 23, 1982:
The average span of a human generation is twenty-five years. Any reward occurring beyond this generational horizon creates an imbalance that undermines long-term cooperation. In short, we as a species are motivated to betray our own descendants. In my view, the only possible solution is the institution of harsh and immediate punishments for those who would be unfaithful to the future.
It has been subsequently theorized that our species’ seeming inability to focus on long-term existential threats will inexorably lead to the destruction of our environment, overpopulation, and resource exhaustion. It is therefore not an uncommon belief among economists that this inborn deficit represents a sort of built-in timer for the self-destruction of human civilization.
Sadly, all the evidence of world history supports this theory.
Although this is fiction, as my wise old grandmother always told me, fiction often is based on reality.
The above brings to mind the current United States president, a person I call Twitler because he acts like Hitler on Twitter. Witness Twitler when he said in December 2018 that he didn’t care about a predicted explosion of the United States’ debt because, I won’t be here.
He doesn’t care about the sick, the dying, the homeless, immigrants seeking a better life, the environment, our water, our skies, the forests, the rivers, the lakes…. He cares only about himself in the short term, and that’s detrimental to everyone except those of a similar ilk: big corporations and other excessively rich people.
The system is broken, but the only ones who can fix it are those who currently benefit from it, which begs the question, Why would they want to fix it?