In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of pine, a passage from the Law of the Iroquois.
The quote suggests that we have an explicit and unambiguous responsibility to future generations. Given our current financial debacle, the sage advice proffered by Iroquois Law has been largely ignored by our national, corporate and political leadership. It seems that our most prominent leaders have decided to "throw our seed corn to the lost wind."
While the government has seen fit to provide multi-billion dollar bailouts to the very organizations that have brought us to the abyss, future generations have been left holding the bag and the tab. We haven't asked permission to burden future generations with the responsibility for our mistakes; in fact, the future is not even at the planning table. As our culture works ever harder to inculcate young people with the values of hard work, responsibility, rational, and ethical behavior, we are presenting them a most hypocritical model for behavior.
In addition, we have begun to prepare future generations for the possibility of a different America. Americans enjoyed upward mobility after world war two and the "middle class" became an American ideal. While future generation' s grandparents enjoyed company health care plans, adequate retirement pensions, affordable college educations and the certainty of Social Security, future generations may not. Now we are asking future generations to compete with nine year old girls that work in sweat shops for a dollar a day in Asian rim countries. To be competitive in a global economy we are asking future generations to work more, for less money, with fewer health care benefits and without the security of a company pension or the certainty of Social Security.
On the surface, these ideas seem utterly un-American to me. While unfettered averice and naked hubris about that greed are not illegal in America, they are patently toxic to future generations of Americans. When economic processes are completely disconnected from ethical, social, moral and intergenerational considerations, the "American Dream" suffers terribly and it has.
In the 1950's through the early 1960's, one wage earner could support his or her family. Many could afford a suburban home with all the attendant accoutrements. The average Americans purchasing power was significantly degraded. Several, high profile economists have suggested that these economic downturns are inevitable. To that I say bunk!
The economic storm that we are in is unprecedented as are the downgrades in American lifestyle and the lowered expectations of the future. Some have said that Baby boomers are the greediest Americans that our culture has ever seen. Based on recent events, it would seem that there is at least some validity to that claim.
As selfish people are unlikely to move beyond the arrogant ignorance of "I'm going to get mine thinking," Baby boomers left to their own devices, will undoubtedly try to squeeze the last breath of life out of what was America. As boomers fade away over the next decade, an opportunity is on the horizon for America to reinvent itself. Hopefully American youth will become the tip of the sword for change. Who could blame them if they become very angry about the mess that they are being handed? If current trends continue and for the first time since world war two, future generations may not enjoy a better standard of living then their parents. In addition, we are handing them an environment that may have been irrevocably and substantially compromised.
Remember all kids count.
The writer can be reached at email@example.com