I was born on this date in 1971, in the middle of what would become known as “Generation X”. If my math is correct, and if not Jim will correct me, that makes me 50 years old today. Five decades. Half a century.
That is a pretty long time.
It also means that I have seen a thing or two along the way.
The country I was born into is very different than the one we live in today. The America of 1971 was almost entirely White with blacks in a few enclaves, meaning we were closer to a monoculture than at any time since. You didn’t need to press 1 for English, especially since no one had touch tone phones. The class divisions were less profound, our family headed by a doctor was neighbors with both working class families as well as other professionals.
The changes in the last 50 years are profound and shattered what to that point was a nation at our apex. We won the race to the moon, had emerged just 26 years before my birth from the Second World War as the untouched victor. The pace of technological advancement was just accelerating and it appeared we were about to enter a golden age of prosperity. I wrote about this in 2020, pre-Covid, in this post: The Dumbing Down Of America
As a child in the 1970s and 80s, 2020 seemed like a long way into the distant future and while we couldn’t predict what that would bring, it was assumed it would bring a progressively better society and that space exploration and great technological achievement would make life immeasurably better. Colonies on the moon and even Mars were just assumed to be the natural near-future next steps.
Now look around. Do you see a plausible scenario where the U.S. could return to the moon in any capacity, much less a manned mission to Mars or anywhere even further away? N-word please. The American nation is on the tipping point where we will no longer have enough people to maintain the existing technological infrastructure, much less create new and innovative technological wonders. You see this in places like South Africa where racially based hiring is leading to an inability to maintain the city water supply. The more likely scenario is that things start slowly shutting down as the AI isn’t developed fast enough to replace the tech workers. The cold stone truth is that we are further away from manned missions to Mars today than we were on the eve of the first moon landing.
Those words seem more apt with each passing day. Few of the changes in the last half century have benefitted most people and even the stuff people point to in order to claim things are better have often made things far worse.
The most significant theme of my 50 years on this earth is The Great Lie. You know the one.
Keep your nose clean and your head down, go to school, go to college, get a decent job, pay your taxes, get a mortgage, save for college for the kids and for retirement. Do this and you will be happy and prosperous.
We almost all believed it, bought into it and trusted it.
Then slowly more and more of us started to realize that it was all a lie and moreover that the people pushing The Great Lie knew it was a lie the whole time.
More than the Cold War or the Age Of Information or the War On Terror, The Great Lie has been the facet that has shaped who I am more than anything else. We focused on all of the shiny new technology or the latest manufactured crisis, and in doing so were blind to the rot that was happening beneath the surface like a home with new siding and windows while the foundation crumbles below the ground.
If you want to know why I seem so angry, it can all be traced back to The Great Lie. It was the promise of a brighter future based on a social compact of being good boys and girls in return for safety and security, but as my generation gets older and what used to be called “retirement age” is on the distant horizon beckoning with mockery, it is apparent that our future will be neither safe nor secure.
It didn’t have to be this way. We were headed for the bright future that was promised us but it was intentionally hijacked before we got there. Those responsible have a reckoning coming.
Looking back over my lifetime, the one constant is my wife. We started dating when I was just shy of 16 and we will be married 30 years next year so for more than 2/3 of my lifetime she was there. Ups and downs, moving around the country, one kid then another and then a string of them totaling four boys and four girls, she was there. When life kicked me in the nuts, layoffs and business closures and health issues, she was right beside me. I don’t know how /ourguys/ without a spouse or serious significant other manage. I suspect many don’t because I wouldn’t be able to manage.
This is a weird birthday for me. I know it is supposed to be this big deal turning 50 but on the other hand I am healthier than I have been in a very long time. When I was 40 I was already on the slide downward physically and going the wrong direction but now I feel much better and am optimistic about the near future from a health standpoint. Most days I feel much better than I did when my 40th birthday rolled around. On the other hand, I am in a very different place now than I was then (see: Fore? Oh! for my 40th birthday post). It will be up to the reader to decide if that different place is an improvement or not.
With my age now becoming for the first time a significant factor, there is a sense of urgency in my mind. Not so much accelerating the collapse so it happens when I am healthy enough to collect some Bolshevik scalps and survive the collapse, although that is certainly a factor, but more that time is becoming a more precious commodity. My kids are older with only 3 of the 8 still under 18 so the child-rearing phase is coming to a close and a new era is about to start. It is an era when you start to take note of people your age beginning to have serious health issues and even dying, and things like life expectancy charts get a little more real.
Truth be told, I am looking forward to the upcoming years more than I was when I turned 40. Being in your 40s meant, at least for me, clinging to what you think are the last vestiges of youth that really were gone long ago. Today I am pretty content and confident with where I am and just as important, I am steeling myself for what is to come.
Whatever that might be, bring it on.