Soldiers, Farmers, and Poets

A recent post on the Freakonomics website feature the following quote:

“I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematicks and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, musick, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelaine.”
John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780.

My grandpa fought in WWII. My dad was a computer engineer. I work in TV. Not exactly porcelain-making, it’s true, but still.

Every generation wants their children’s lives to be better, but no one succeeded on such a grand scale as The Greatest Generation. They defeated the Nazis, transformed the economy from agrarian/industrial-based to consumer-based, and fucked their way to the biggest baby boom in modern history.

The children of Woodstock were much the opposite. They had the most material comfort of any generation, and no concrete threat like fascist Germany. Basically, they had a lot of time on their hands, and didn’t know what to do with themselves. Why do you think teenagers were invented in the 60s? A sixteen-year old used to be manual labor or a mother. Now they could “study mathematics and philosophy,” not to mention protest in the streets while burning bras and draft cards.

This goes even further for my generation. We can do things now that was science fiction even twenty years ago. Kids my age are so comfortable and lazy that we can’t even muster the energy to leave the house, much less protest.

Which makes me wonder about my kids. No one ever considered what happens after poet.

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6 Responses

  1. My family’s had no aspirations for three generations, it was always “have kids, get a job”… there was no desire to make the next generation’s life better because they were barely able to take care of themselves. Just more of the same.

    We have one shining star in my family but otherwise it’s a bunch of people who just wants things as-is.

    If their forefathers hadn’t come to the US when they did these people would have been extinguished when the going got tough elsewhere in the world.

  2. “Kids my age so comfortable and lazy that we can’t even muster the energy to leave the house, much less protest.”

    Or even do a simple grammar check.

  3. The desert Arabs have a saying to describe the futility of relying on on a finite resource — oil — to support their modern economic and social infrastructure:

    “My grandfather rode a camel. My father rode in a car. I fly a jet airplane. My grandson will ride a camel.”

    But it’s not just oil — as the human population continues to expand, all the resources crucial to human societies (not to mention civilization as we’ve known it) are growing increasingly scarce. Clean water, food, and energy will get a lot more expensive in the years to come.

    The only thing we have in abundance is coal, but burning that coal (despite all those pie-in-the-sky schemes for “carbon sequestration”) will only bring more environmental disaster down upon our heads.

    Another PA is right. An unfathomably huge mountain of environmental, economic, and geopolitical shit is hurtling towards the whirling cosmic fan blades. Wherever you live, whatever you do, life is going to get infinitely harder over the next fifty years — and this generation’s kids will have to absorb the full force of these societal body blows. They’re not gonna have much time for poetry.

    The future? Dude, it’s nothing but trouble as far as the eye can see. But at least we’ll still have our Iphones, right?

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