FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Death As a Winning Argument

by DAVID MACARAY

As a college freshman I was lucky to have had a wonderful professor for my Introduction to Philosophy class.   Her name was Dr. Virginia Ringer.  She was irreverently funny, conscientious, modest, brilliant, and an extremely tough grader, which, instead of making us resent her and want to drop her class, made us all try that much harder. There is no doubt in my mind that it was because of Dr. Ringer that I became a philosophy major.

Anyway, Dr. Ringer was an ardent proponent of that well-traveled theory which holds that significant social changes aren’t the result of new data, or media coverage, or scientific research, or peer pressure, or anything like that.  Rather, significant social changes are almost entirely generational in nature.  Specifically, only when old people begin dying off, and the younger generation takes over, do we see progressive change.

Yes, it’s an inelegant and disturbing theory, but it makes sense.  Think about it.  Progressive attitudes toward sex, race, feminism, drugs, education, mental illness, nationalism, etc., don’t arise as a result of senior citizens being re-educated or exposed to fresh information or new angles, and then suddenly seeing the light and changing their minds about such topics.  That ain’t going to happen.

Barring exceptions, significant social changes don’t occur as a result of epiphanies.  They occur because of arithmetic.  They occur because the old people die off and a new generation, one with new ideas and new approaches, springs up and replaces them.  Yes, revolutions have occurred—actual, honest-to-goodness, historical revolutions—but even those revolutions were fomented and conducted by the young, not the rocking-chair crowd.

Needless to say, Dr. Ringer’s version of this theory was far more subtle and compelling than I made it sound, and, of course, it wasn’t nearly as morbid.  Indeed, her explanation was not morbid at all; it was exceedingly, almost fatalistically, optimistic.  The theory of generational change asserts that there is nothing but hope awaiting us, and the evidence of that hope is visible all around us.

Consider racism and the civil rights movement.  Racial hatred didn’t automatically vanish with the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; nor did it vanish because Ku Klux Klansmen in Biloxi, Mississippi, woke up one morning and realized that they had been utterly wrong to hate black people and to fear such things as miscegenation and the “mongrelization” of the races.

New federal laws didn’t precipitate any permanent changes.  Laws or no laws, those old bigots weren’t going to change their minds one iota about anything having to do with the “Negro race.”  Things improved only because those ignorant sons of bitches were kind enough to begin dying off.  And when a sufficient number of them died, things got better.  Simple as that.

So here’s the good news.  People who stand in the way of progressive change are eventually going to go away.  They’re going to die, every last one of them.  The Koch brothers can’t live forever.  And when they leave, things will get incrementally better.  The same goes for people like that spooky Supreme Court Justice, Antonin Scalia.

Does anyone honestly believe that anything except his demise could possibly improve Scalia?  Not only is he ideologically implacable, he’s getting worse as he ages.  The man has become a shrill caricature of himself.  Alas, his perverse arrogance and condescending impertinence can only be cured by one thing.  And that one thing will eventually happen.  Which is reason for optimism.

Out with the old, in with the new.  Because the future of the world lies with the young, things can only get better.  It’s the Generational Theory of Social Evolution.  What’s not to like?

David Macaray, an LA playwright and author (“It’s Never Been Easy:  Essays on Modern Labor,” 2nd edition), is a former union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net. 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
Norman Pollack
Economic Nationalism vs. Globalization: Janus-Faced Monopoly Capital
Binoy Kampmark
Railroaded by the Supreme Court: the US Problem with Immigration
Howard Lisnoff
Of Kiddie Crusades and Disregarding the First Amendment in a Public Space
Vijay Prashad
Economic Liberalization Ignores India’s Rural Misery
Caroline Hurley
We Are All Syrians
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail