It so happens that during the last two years I traveled to UK a few times. I work for a company there, so I’ve been to London a couple of times each year, each stay being between one and two weeks. Enough to get accustomed with a few things, like what’s the right side for a car to be driven of, how’s that “fish and chips” thing actually tasting, how many times it rains during one day, on average – and, obviously, Brexit.
Joke aside, I’ve been quite close to a certain lifestyle in the UK, since I’m in permanent communications with my colleagues – I currently live in Spain and, obviously, working remote.
From this perspective I would like to share my views on one of the most relevant events of our times: Brexit. Yes, I consider it to be quite a symptom of the changes that we, as a species, are going through at this time in history.
The Unexpected Backfire Of Medical Advances
For the first time in human history, we’re enjoying a life expectancy that would have been reserved only to gods or mythical creatures just a couple of thousands of years ago. It’s not unusual now to be healthy and fit way beyond your seventies or eighties. We’re seeing motivational movies with grandpas beating marathon records for their age category every couple of months and, just to pick a random example, Japan has thousands of centennials, people living well beyond 100 years.
Medicine really created miracles during the last hundred years. We eradicated so many illnesses and we improved our general health to such a level, that, in just a few generations, the social fabric of our societies changed in a very unexpected way: the total number of senior persons is now almost equal with the number of working people, if not bigger.
And we don’t really know how to manage this, at the governance level.
You know, democracy, as an underlying structure for the modern state, doesn’t really care about the “social profit” of a certain event. It doesn’t contain, in and by itself, the promise of a socially profitable outcome. Democracy just crunches numbers. And relies on the assumption that the majority of people will do something that will benefit the minority, somehow. And, as long as the majority was made by those who were directly involved in the collective value creation, this somehow held true. There were some checks and balances in place that made the outcome healthy, or at least tolerable.
But once the balance shifted to that part of the society that is not involved anymore in the collective value creation, and it just consumes from the value their generation already produced, via a state-supervised scheme called “pension”, well, things started to change.
The Brexit Leave vote was visibly a senior vote. Parts of the younger social structures supporting it, like the isolationist and nationalist groups, were already there, that’s true, but their size wasn’t big enough to influence the result. Far from me the intention to oversimplify such a complex event. I know for sure that isolationist tendencies are a fact and that globalization created not only surplus in some parts of the world, but fear and rejection in others. These are also facts to be taken into account, but my point is that the already sensitive balance was shifted by an increase in number of senior people. If the demographic structure would have been similar with the one in the fifties, or sixties, for instance, with a much larger percentage of young people, I don’t think we would have seen the same outcome.
From their perspective, the seniors didn’t do anything “wrong”. In fact, no matter from which perspective you look at it, this isn’t “wrong” per se. Wanting things to stay “as they once were” is an, oh, so common human desire. The cognitive burden that seniors have to process just to adapt to our new times is increasing every day, so they obviously choose to stay in a place which they consider “safe”. Needless to say, that place no longer exists.
Let me be clear, I don’t think there is a mistake here from that part of the society, nor do I imply that there is some sort of blame that should be put on their shoulders. They did what they always did. They did the only thing they knew how to do.
Only this time they outnumbered all the other social layers…
Circular Education And The Alternatives To It
If you’re under 18, you’re not allowed to vote. Why? Well, because, presumably, you’re not mature enough to make a decision that will affect your future. But you’re allowed to vote until you die, although, in many cases, you won’t even live long enough to experience the full consequences of your vote.
In the first case, we try to alleviate – or eliminate – immaturity by education. In the second case, there is no education at all. Somehow, we presume that seniors do know better, although the context in which their expertise prevailed is no longer valid. Most of them certainly have an edge in general human values, and in survival strategies, but whatever is related to the current collective value creation processes is becoming increasingly difficult for them. Without any education, they’re just as immature in social decision as the youngsters.
The only non-destructive way to overcome this self-destructive pattern is to implement some sort of circular education: it starts with the youngsters, but it never ends when you’re old, on the contrary, it goes on and on and on. Just as you go to high school before even trying to get a job, once you’re relieved from a job, you should start a certain type of education, specifically catered for your age group. This type of education should emphasize diversity (don’t trust only one source of information), inclusion (we’re all together in this shit) and transparency. Way too often humans get stuck in their patterns and fears and idiosyncrasies and they can’t overcome them without external help.
The cost of implementing this type of education at the society level may seem incredibly high now. We should actually create a new type of school, with a new type of schedule, with a new type of metrics and measurement. There will be new types of teachers that must be formed under a new type of curricula. There will certainly be resistance. It’s horrendously expensive.
But if we don’t go this route, a new type of auto-immune disease may appear, one in which those involved in the collective value creation process may invent and implement new governance mechanisms that will aggressively limit the right of expression for some social layers, like people over a certain age, or people who are not involved in the collective creation process. That route is, in my opinion, way more dangerous. From not allowing some social layers to have a say in the governance process, to actually physically eliminating those social layers, it’s a very, very short distance.
So, as high as the circular education price might be, if this price is not paid, the alternative is to succumb to an auto-immune disease.
A disease in which a part of the collective organism is actually turning against the other parts, eventually killing the entire body.