Friday, June 27, 2014

Is This Our October Future ?

As you might expect I’ve had a few folks take exception with my depiction of our 60s and 70s as “only” October. So far no one has argued for “September,” but a few have suggested a later month. Truth to tell, there are days when “November” better describes my mood and/or physical capabilities. Heck, I’ve probably dipped a toe in “December” a time or two.

But of course my use of “October” is not meant to be simply about age. The way I use that label, October is a state of mind. More to the point, like the October on your calendar our October Years are a time of harvest---a time to gather the fruit of all the seeds we’ve sown and the things we’ve learned in the course of our already long lifetime. I happen to believe that we’ve reached the time of life when that experience can be put to good use.

One of the risks in telling October stories is the temptation to dwell on the maudlin---stressing the negatives and hardships. Of course, by this stage of life we’ve all had our share of bumpy roads and unexpected detours. And there will be more. If we’ve been paying attention at all we should expect that. In this post, however, I would like to move beyond our individual situations and address something less expected---something for which my personal life journey has not adequately prepared me.

At our age infirmity and distress are sure to have been part of our personal experience. I can accept that. Yet scarcely a day goes by when this October mind of mine does not struggle to make sense of a larger reality---the cultural infirmities and distress that plague our society. I wonder if it has always been like this. Is this the human norm? Or has there been a fundamental change in the path of human development? Is there a new “human norm” evolving?

How else would you interpret the headlines that assault our sensibilities daily? It feels like every morning’s newspaper and every evening’s newscast provides new evidence of predators and perverts, addictions and mayhem. Have we actually become so accepting of such an unprecedented scale of gun violence? Have we grown so numb that we look right past the all too obvious warning signs---middle-school girls being bullied to death---wide-eyed young men unleashing their lethal revenge in our high schools---an ever-increasing number of us, young and old, dependent on mind-altering pharmaceuticals? There are times when it seems that our beloved nation is drowning in a tsunami of insanity.

Surely I am not the only one who wonders what is happening to our world---this place where we grew up and perhaps thought we understood. There are days when I’m not sure I recognize the place---when it feels like everything has changed. Small wonder the October characters I write about sometimes stumble as they try to make sense of it.

I’d appreciate your help here, your input. My question is simple enough. Has it always been like this? I’ll bet every one of us grew up hearing our parents and grand-parents grumbling about “the younger generation,” and how things were not like “the good old days.” Are today’s headlines just more of the same, or is our generation dealing with something new and different?
Did the world of our childhood and adolescence include the troubles we read about and watch on the tube? And if it did, has the scale and frequency of those problems changed---or is our awareness simply a matter of more thorough reporting, better police work, and cameras on every street corner? In either case, I have no doubt that for many of our October friends this crazy new world threatens their ability to “thrive in our 60s and 70s.” I’d say that makes it an October issue.

If you agree I hope you'll pass this on to your October friends. (The email link below is easy to use.) I'd be interested in hearing their input too.


  1. I received the following email from Vince Johnson, with his reply.

    Vince Johnson
    7:19 AM (8 hours ago)

    to Gilbert, Greg, BJ
    I have just started reading the post you sent to Barbara. I had to stop partway through to comment
    early. It reminded me of a conclusion I reached sometime ago and wanted to get it reviewed by you
    and others for comment. If this leads to additional participants, all the better.

    I have often wondered if humanity has always hung on the verge of extinction or if "chaos" is a normal
    process where our society is evolving toward maturity. I've read where historians cannot agree upon a
    time when the entire planet was at peace. That is of course, after human beings came to be.

    I have found one factor that likely receives attention in isolated exchanges but never in any significant
    degree by the media. The reason it is never mentioned by the media is because it is the media itself.

    Consider how you put together a blog. Or decide who to vote for. What to eat. What to insure and who
    to insure it with. How you decide on any issue. Abortion. Global Warming. Immigration. On and on.
    If you make any decision on anything, you require information and all information, past and present is
    gathered, processed, packaged and delivered by some form of media.
    News has become a commodity.
    By media I mean TV, print, radio, internet, and anything else that delivers information to an audience.
    I consider text books, maps, clocks, thermometers, as mediums because they provide information to the
    observer. But information on current events is controlled by an increasingly large and well organized
    network generally termed as "The News Media."

    At one time the news was published to make a profit. Today, under the guise of freedom of the press, the
    news is used to control attitudes. To keep readership maximized all issues of controversy are kept at the
    highest intensity possible. When one controversy gets stale it is replaced by another. If another isn't
    convenient, another is created. When a legitimate issue is "inconvenient" it is downplayed or ignored.

    As I see it, information is being used to control public opinion and advertisers are funding it. The only
    solution I see is to improve early education to levels already in use in some private schools in several nations
    including America. The slightly educated audience is easily influenced. The highly educated audience is
    difficult to influence. Example: The media has conditioned the public to accept sending billions to nations
    having leaders that despise us while also accepting school closures and reduced school staffs as a normal and
    acceptable practice. Would a well educated audience agree that this is a wise way to invest in our future?
    There is one thought I've had for years. We certify accountants to assure that all numerical information
    they process is accurate. Why don't we have Certified Public Journalists to assure that all information they
    report on current events is accurate too?

    I copied Greg Johanson with the hope he would review and respond.

  2. A day later Greg Johanson checked in with this email commet.

    Greg Johanson via
    3:10 PM (1 hour ago)

    to Vince, Gilbert, BJ
    I'm joining in here from Grand Rapids. I agree that all the things Gil noted bring me to despair that things are doing downhill. I'm only comforted by taking a longer historical view and noticing that in some ways we are doing better. We lost more people in one Civil War battle than we lost in 10 years in the middle east. I agree with Vince that media influences people in serious ways. I despair that most news has simply given up on any semblance of balanced factual reporting. It is now the new normal that now we will hear the spin doctor from the conservative side. Now we will hear the spin doctor from the liberal side. Now we no longer have people behind closed doors actually drinking and smoking together while they hammer out some workable compromise position on an issue that desperately needs addressing. The older I get, the more I think we need the most creative thinking in the economic realm. I know people who run their own companies who want to do the right thing and have some flexability to do it. But, once a company is on the stock exchange, they are captive to quarterly reports for the benefit of the stock holders and at the mercy of short term thinking. Spiritually speaking, the realists in any generation can make a better case for pessimism than the idealists can for progress, but they are never right that we are all going to die, so why do we call them realists? This is what makes me feel that there is a larger Spirit on the job, somehow persuading us in better directions in spite of ourselves, and so I can take comfort that the future does not depend on me and my own puny efforts.
    Grace & Peace,