Humans, like all creatures, are inherently selfish. We view the world narcissistically--our lives a movie starring us. When we help others, almost all do so not because it makes someone else feel good, but because it makes us feel good. Listen to testimonials of why people help others, “I feel… I want… I like… I, I, I.”
We delude ourselves into thinking we are good, moral, unselfish people, but we are lying to ourselves for the benefit of others. Longevity has put this selfishness on display for all but the blind to see.
Once upon a time, kids became adults once they hit puberty, if not earlier. By adults, I mean folks were thrust into positions of responsibility for themselves and their families. With no birth control, they had children younger and more of them: in the 1800s American women averaged 7-10 children. You needed those children though, because most families were farmers; more kids meant more hands during harvest.
With maybe 40 years to make a mark, individual timelines dilated. In the scientific community, this would be a “fast-paced life.” More time and energy is devoted to maturing quickly and having babies.
A short life meant death was more accepted and that our legacy was our children. The young were meant to take over for the old as generations passed. This allowed for a constant renewal of society as the vibrancy of youth was perpetually taking charge.
An 80-year life span means that we began to live “slow-paced lives.” Although our biological maturation (puberty) has not changed, our mental/social maturation has. Without the rush to become responsible and procreate, we can spend more time “finding ourselves.” The longer we spend as an autonomous unit free from responsibility to others and family, the more selfish we become and the harder it is to adapt once we get married and/or try have a family. Even though the internet makes us more connected, we have never been more alone or depressed.
Our 20s have become extended adolescence. Poisoning our young bodies with drugs, binge drinking, and non-stop sex has become right of passage. We burn out the dopamine stimuli of what was once “normal” and have to seek ever greater dangers and depravities while convincing ourselves that we have plenty of time to recover and start a family once we get into our 30s.
We start families later—mothers were generally 21 in 1900 and are close to 30. After being used to only looking out for ourselves, and far removed from out own childhood, we quickly grow bored and restless as family life sets in.
We break our children, competing with them instead of teaching them and babying them when they need discipline, because we know that we are not passing the world on to them anytime soon.
We break our marriages as we become tired of sleeping with the same person and listening to the same stories. Realizing that if we took our vows seriously, we have another 50 plus years with this person, we divorce in order to serve our base desires and needs. “What about the children?” Who cares? They will recover or deal with having a broken family like their parents did.
“It is my life, I am the star, and I can do anything I want!”
Even in the realm of healthcare, many of modern life’s health issues can be traced to increased longevity—diabetes, cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, arthritis, blindness, deafness, etc. Our biological systems break down, yet with modern medicine we can fight through these setbacks and continue to thrive long after past the ages when our ancestors would have been dead and buried.
As such, life has become something to hold onto at all costs. Fighting death has become Mankind’s great struggle. 90% of healthcare expense is spent in the last 6 months of a person’s life. We cavalierly indebt our children in our vainglorious and futile struggle to hold onto our broken bodies and minds.
And our longevity is only bound to increase. Medical science already predicts that the first person to live 150 years has been born. Breakthroughs in genetics, medicine, and biotechnology means humanity will have even more time to show its inherently egotistical behavior.
Behold our future: fewer children born, more pressure to keep the status quo, and less willingness to make institutional changes that can insure the health of our republic and progeny. We the People will fall.
Believe me, unless we quickly come to terms with what our innate selfishness coupled with an ever-increasing lifespan means to society and family, the future I described will be our fate.