22 January 2013
Toronto's The Globe and Mail had the following story today:
Japan's finance minister has formally told the nation's elderly that living long lives is a source of shame as they are draining the resources of their country.
This is a problem facing many developed countries, how to pay for increased life expectancy. We will undoubtedly see increases in retirement ages in more countries, as well as the possible decrease in social security systems, government financed medical care, etc. over the coming decades. This issues have already become very politically relevant in the US as well as other western countries in the last few years.
I chose this news story to make my point as it is both somewhat amusing and also very callous. My point; capitalism is not a system of production that is well designed to protect members of society that are not active in class processes. If you are not either producing, appropriating/distributing, or ensuring the conditions of existence of the surplus what are you doing for a capitalist society? Certainly there are non-class processes necessary for capitalist production (politics, culture of consumption, etc.) but do the elderly fill any of these rolls?
It seems that as our populations age we face three choices:
1. Move away from capitalist dominated methods of production where the interaction of class and non-class around the creation of surplus value is our primary goal, at all costs. Can we find a way to return to a culture in which we value the wisdom and experience of the elderly? I think it is not likely as the pace of technological change speeds up rather than slows down. Wisdom and experience around obsolete ideas will have a had time finding a valuable place in society.
2. Find a way for the elderly to contribute to the conditions of existence of exploitation. Working for merchants such as Wal-Mart for low wages certainly fits this.
3. Put our hands together and pray that our elderly "Hurry Up and Die"