Burning Down The Future

There’s an old line in the military: amateurs study tactics and academics study strategies, but professionals study logistics. It doesn’t matter how good your grand strategy is if you can’t feed your troops, gas up the humvees and keep planes in the air for the duration.

In the same vein, in the political arena your amateurs watch poll numbers seesaw back and forth and economists follow policies, but professionals study demographics. That’s why most of the serious talk is about redistricting and immigration. Mostly about immigration.

There are now for the first time more Canadians over 65 than children under 14. This is to put it mildly a serious problem. It does however have an obvious, straightforward solution.

The difficulty is that our current government’s policies – and more importantly, that party’s electoral goals and messaging – are fundamentally racist and xenophobic. And to what should be our collective shame, that seems to be effective. Dog-whistle lines like “old stock Canadians” and arguments about wearing head scarf to a citizenship ceremony have made it perfectly clear that despite whatever thin veneer of politeness we like to pretend makes us special, Canada has always been what our current government wants us to be: racist, xenophobic and really, really shortsighted.

Who do we think are going to buy all these houses that the sitting Government believes we should all own? Whose taxes are going to pay for the Canada Pension Plan? Young people aren’t buying cars and old people won’t be driving for long, so what will all these houses we’ve built in the suburbs be worth? What do our cities look like, when so many of them start to empty out?

For now these questions seem superficial, and those cuts will come slowly, but they’ll cut deep and may not stop when they hit bone.

But somehow the obvious solution, the one thing that prevents a looming financial implosion isn’t even up for discussion. Everyone can see the cliff coming, but the people behind the wheel would rather steer us straight for it than let anyone else drive. So despite living in one of the richest, safest countries that has ever existed in recorded history of all human civilization, enough people can be convinced to be frightened enough that we’re apparently willing to bring an entirely avoidable crisis on ourselves. We are going to deliberately throw our children’s economic future into a garbage fire for no better reason than raw xenophobic fear.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

Maybe our country should be able to see forty years ahead, instead of four months.

Maybe you should run the numbers to see what happens if you live another twenty years, and ask yourself what that really means that your retirement plan is worth 70 cents on the dollar and your grandchildren will be too busy working two shit jobs to pick up the slack.

Maybe the people who’ve told you to be frightened and angry all the time are wrong. Maybe you don’t need to feel that way.

And maybe, just maybe, a woman’s choice of headdress is not a good enough reason to burn down the future.

4 Comments

  1. Qetchlijn
    Posted October 1, 2015 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Relying on an ever-expanding population to support our way of life is essentially
    a Ponzi scheme. We cannot expand forever, and the longer we put off the rebalancing,
    the worse the problem will be when we finally do face up to it. The root cause of the
    growing wave of environmental problems, global warming included, is that there are
    already too many of us.

    We’re burning down the future more surely by continuing to expand.

  2. mhoye
    Posted October 2, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    That makes astoundingly little sense; I’m talking about a rapidly _shrinking_ population, whose age demands a duty of care nobody will be able to afford, and a societal structure that fails as a result. The idea that we all need to mostly die off to solve an avoidable, manageable problem here is kind of repugnant.

  3. Qetchlijn
    Posted October 2, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    Canada’s population is not shrinking at all, let alone rapidly. Check out the projected
    population graph in Figure 2.1 on page 8 of this Stats Can report from May this year:

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91-520-x/91-520-x2014001-eng.pdf

    In the low growth scenario the population flattens out gradually over the next 15
    years and is then stable out to 2060. In the medium and high growth scenarios the
    population is still growing out to 2060 and beyond.

    A change in the demographic balance towards more old people is a necessary part
    of getting to a zero growth situation. We can disagree about how quickly we need
    to get there, but you’re surely not arguing that we don’t have to get there
    at some point?

  4. Qetchlijn
    Posted October 29, 2015 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    David Attenborough makes my case far more eloquently and convincingly than I ever could:

    http://www.populationmatters.org/attenborough-talk/