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Michael said on May 9th, 2012 at 9:45 am

I was born 1991, so I’m still pretty much young people, in the sense that everyone older than me still feels like old people (and also the sense that, you know, I’m 20). MGK? Nailed it.

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Les Fontenelle said on May 9th, 2012 at 10:01 am

Excellent piece.

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The only old people I actually care about are my parents and some elderly Thai ladies I know. (Oh, and my grandmother in law, but I haven’t seen her in a long time.)

To my parents I have some things I’d like to say, “Mom, Dad, this is the lady I’ve been sleeping with for 13 years and her daughter, who I just bought a Prom Dress for. Yes, they’re black.

Stop pretending they don’t exist.”

I imagine if I could transform into Sean Hannity for a few days I might be able to influence them. (Although, probably not if I started talking about them accepting their son’s “race treason.” That would be a bridge too far. )

The elderly Thai ladies are wonderful people, but I might suggest to them that magnets can’t cure everything. “Yes, I know magnets are wonderful, but I still don’t think that sleeping on a magnetic mattress will cure my Dad’s cancer.”

To my grandmother-in-law, “Sorry about that big fight I had with your daughter. However, that was five years ago and while I didn’t handle it great you know that I was just looking out for our best interests. Besides, she forgave me a long time ago. ”

“Oh, and sorry that my parents always vote in such a way to make life more horrible for black people. I think my own voting record cancels it out to some extent… though I can’t go back in time and do anything about their vote for George Wallace.”

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I honestly don’t think “it’ll happen eventually” is much of an argument against opposing gay marriage. From the perspective of the anti’s, by blocking it (as in my home state, NC, as of yesterday), that means they save traditional marriage or god’s law or preserve the rights of decent Christian people who don’t want to see homosexuals holding hands in public–whatever bullshit rationale they cling to–for at least a decade or two.
I also think that to some extent it’s like abstinence-only education: It’s not important that it doesn’t work, what’s important is that it sends the message Sex Before Marriage Bad. In the same way, opposing gay marriage sends the message that Homosexuality Bad and that America is still the domain of right-wing Christianity.
That aside, good post.

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Mitchell Hundred said on May 9th, 2012 at 10:31 am

I don’t think that MGK is using ‘It’ll happen eventually’ as an argument against opposition to gay marriage. I just think he’s saying that since the movement is largely fueled by old people, it’ll sputter out sooner than later.

What really pisses me off is when people try to justify opposing gay marriage on the grounds that everybody else agrees it’s wrong. Being normal does not make you right. Racism and misogyny used to be normal (and in some places they still are).

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Spoilers Below said on May 9th, 2012 at 10:36 am

It seems a bit like the “You can have my guns when you claw them out of my cold dead hands” argument. Chris is saying, “Okay, but you understand that you’re the one who dies, right? And you look like a dick for having done so? Do you really want to be demonized the way the pre-American Civil War south is, or made a mockery of the way Joe McCarthy is?”

Gay marriage is going to win through sheer demographical shift, so why make it harder and look like bigots?

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wsmcneil said on May 9th, 2012 at 10:54 am

Great piece, MGK.

I’d be curious to read some good sociology research about the ways in which individuals’ social views evolve over a lifetime. At first glance, it appears that older people grow more conservative, more intolerant, more cranky and stubborn, more prone to “in my day we did X and so should you” reasoning as they age. I’m not sure that’s really true, but it’s hard to imagine our current population of 70-year-olds as having lead the social reforms of Trudeaumania.

This concerns me. I don’t want to become to be that cranky old guy, yelling at the whippersnappers to stay off his lawn — or roof, because, you know, jetpacks — and digging in his octogenarian heels against the social reforms still to come. I don’t *think* I will — my views on social reform have changed in 20 years only in the sense that I have better reasons to believe them and better arguments to support them, and they are all things that would make Stephen Harper’s eyes glaze over. Same-sex marriage? Awesome, long over due, makes me proud to be Canadian. Legalize marijuana, legalize prostitution. You stop crime by eliminating poverty, not by building prisons.

But I wonder where the social change arguments will be in 40 years, and I worry that I might find myself railing against the onslaught on *my* “traditional” values. Will privacy cease to exist? Will gender? Will trans-humanism become prominent, and just freak me out?

I hope not. I think I’ll be able to stay open-minded and reasonable. Except about spelling. You, young people who can’t spell, or use the verb “to lay” properly: fuck you, you’re all idiots.

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I was born in 1982. I don’t have the same heated “shit is fucked up and bullshit” passionate undercurrent as MGK does here, partly because that’s not my attitude in general, partly because I don’t read many of those inane editorials or see other frequent reminders, and partly because the old people I interact with tend to be well aware of the state of things. There’s no reason to get irate at people who are mostly already worried about the same problems I am, and in some cases more worried than me or even personally contrite about them.

But that’s just my personal reaction, and it’s the result of no small amount of luck – good choice of family. Intellectually I realize that things are indeed bad and likely to get harder, worse, or both. And the thing is, contrary to factoids about voting rates, it’s not like people of our generation aren’t trying to turn things around. We’re doing what we can. It would just be happening a lot quicker if most people over 40 (or pick whatever cutoff you want to blame the right people) weren’t trying to stay the course.

This post made me wish it was easier to share stuff from this blog on Facebook. And for the record, I rarely share stuff on Facebook or post anything there at all, probably less than once a month, but I thought it was that important. (Oh well. It won’t kill me to copy-paste the link manually and stuff.)

On an unrelated note, I didn’t recognize the name Rex Murphy. Canadian personality, as I might have guessed under the circumstances. I felt that at 65 he was actually too young to be the target of such ire – there are plenty of 80-year-olds out there polluting the political environment even worse than he does, and as for my personal reaction he’s younger than my and my girlfriends’ parents – but judging by pictures of him, the lich comments are spot-on. Dude looks like the Cryptkeeper.

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I felt that at 65 he was actually too young to be the target of such ire

Rex Murphy came out of his mother’s womb aged 65 and time has only just started to catch up.

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MGK, excellent post. I would strongly urge you to create a revised version (a little shorter, maybe take out the pithy Rex Murphy jokes and such, as fun as they are); there is serious truth in here, but presented like this it’s not very palatable for mass consumption, and this message needs spread.

I’m so frustrated by the direction we’re heading, collectively. I’m in my 30s, doing OK, and so are most of my friends. The ones that are also doing OK don’t want to talk about this… they’ve avoided the pit – if we rock the boat now we might lose what little ground we’ve managed to stake out for ourselves. The ones that are struggling are too busy trying to get by to ‘worry about politics’.

I see their points too… the system is a carnival show, stack against us no matter who we back, no matter what we do. I just don’t see the winning play.

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Alegretto said on May 9th, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Great article. This is a message that needs spreading.

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Michael P said on May 9th, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I wish I’d had this to link to when Clint Eastwood gave that stupid interview a few years back.

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Lawnmower Boy said on May 9th, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Ooh! Ooh! Punch Rex Murphy again.

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joe.distort said on May 9th, 2012 at 1:25 pm

this complements my long standing theory that the reason ‘everything keeps getting worse’ (especially in regards to the financial sector) is that life expectancy just got too high. people have re wired their brains to worry about hoarding things, cash, control, etc for their later years which is a mindset we didnt have 100 years ago. well, we did, but nowhere near the extent that we do now.

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The Unstoppable Gravy Express said on May 9th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Hey, was this the long, introspective post that kept getting interrupted by goofy fun posts?

Either way this is brilliant (if depressing) stuff.

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Is it that we live to long, or that we’re OLD too long? Does the act of aging create a generational barrier, or will societal expectations do that regardless?

The same generation that championed racial rights now fights sexual rights… can’t they see the parallel – that its the same fight?

Or is the truth that there really are no social issues, that the masses just parrot what they hear on TV and it’s all just a game to keep the powerful in power?

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supergp said on May 9th, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Just for curiosity’s sake, I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations about what changed in the last three decades. This was a couple years ago, but I suspect it’ll hold up just fine.

Since I was born:

(Everything relevant here is adjusted for inflation.)
…education costs have tripled.
…health care costs have doubled.
…housing prices went up 70%.
…gas prices are almost the same (they went down for a long time before coming back up).
…cars went from $18K to about $24K. (current dollars)
…household debt went from about 70% of disposable income to 130%.

…worker productivity, even if you subtract CPI, is up significantly.
…union membership has been cut in half, as a percentage of the workforce.
…and median wages have gone down very slightly.

…the top .01 percent went from making a little under 200 times as much as the bottom 90%, to making a thousand times as much.
…capital gains tax rates (Paid mostly by large investors- i.e., the rich) went from 28% to 15%.
…the top income tax rate went from 70% to 35%, as the bottom went from 14% to 10%.

Draw your own conclusions.

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supergp said on May 9th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

joe.distort: Actually, unless you’re in the upper quintile (i.e., you make a lot of money), your life expectancy has NOT improved, even a little bit. Dying just got more expensive.

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Kid Kyoto said on May 9th, 2012 at 4:39 pm

@supergp good point. I wish I could remember where but I saw an article on raising the retirement age that made the point that why should construction workers retire later because lawyers are living longer.

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Stephen McNeil said on May 9th, 2012 at 4:53 pm

“Actually, unless you’re in the upper quintile (i.e., you make a lot of money), your life expectancy has NOT improved, even a little bit.”

Super, on which population’s quintile are you basing this claim? MGK’s article is clearly meant to apply to Canada and the US, or, at a stretch, “the Western World”. And for Canada’s population, your assertion seems absurd from the point of view of a back-of-the-envelope-stats calculation.

35 years ago, at-birth life expectancy in Canada was 75. (See http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=3). Today, it’s 81. To raise the average life expectancy overall from 75 to 81, while adjusting the value for only 1/5 of the population, requires an average at-birth life expectancy for the upper quintile of 105. This is unreasonable.

Do you have a source to back up your assertion? How do reconcile it with the findings presented in a recent issue of Explor. Econ. Hist., the introduction to which concludes:
“Taken together, the results from the seven studies included in this special issue strongly challenge the idea of fundamental differences between social groups that historically have led to a more or less constant advantage of upper classes in terms of life expectancy. … Overall, a consistent causal link between [socio-economic status] and mortality is open to serious doubt.”

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.eeh.2011.05.004

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Actually, Stephen, Paul Krugman was discussing this a while back.

First off, at-birth life expectancy is a shitty metric to use because it ties life expectancy unfairly to infant mortality rate. Life expectancy at 30 is a better statistic to use.

And second: rich people have higher life expectancy than poor people, and always have had. By the at-30 life expectancy metric, the lower quintiles have barely seen their life expectancy raise at all while the upper quintiles have seen it raise notably. That’s the issue.

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[...] Mightygodking.com » Post Topic » Dear The Old People – MGK's response to Ezra Klein's ask: what would you say in a reverse-commencement address, where young people address their elders on what they should know? [...]

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MGK,

Disregard the notes about editing this down for length or jokes. Given that this was a commencement speech to old people, it’s more than proper for it to be slightly long, and with a couple of side comments/jokes.

Shared on Facebook, because I do agree that this is a message that needs to get spread. I’m coming up on 30 this year, and I know how hard things are for my partner and I. I know that as hard as things are for us, for people even 5 or 10 years younger, it’s even worse.

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Travesty said on May 10th, 2012 at 3:27 am

This is fantastic. I spent most of the last two years living in transitional housing, which meant being surrounded by my fellow poverty-liners and specifically old ones. I was the only person under thirty there and one of the only under forty. And I feel terrible saying this, because of the situation we were all in, but these were, taken as a group, a pack of old farts who seemed hell-bent to uphold regrettable social positions and political beliefs designed to keep them in the gutter.

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alltoocommon said on May 10th, 2012 at 8:06 am

Due to circumstances half my own making and half from lack of other options, I am facing the possibility of homelessness. It sucks, but I will live. My biggest anger point is that I work a 40 hour a week job, I pretty much have for years. No, I don’t have a career, I have a job. Something to try to pay my way.

I find myself most days just trying to get by, but that’s not the problem. I was taught when young that if you do your job dilligently, work hard and carefully, it is rewarded. Now? It does not seem to be that way so much. So here I am.

Right now I work for a company providing support for the Blue Phones of Canada. I can honestly say having seen thier ethic- go anywhere else. But this is the problem. The ones taking slices of the income that people with merely jobs have no care for those they are overcharging, euchering and abusing. I can’t honestly say it’s ever been entirely different, but I can say that when I was younger it definitely seemed like real opportunity was more open to any willing to work thier way along.

Sorry for the incoherency. I just hope we can hang tight until things begin to ease up.

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FifthSurprise said on May 10th, 2012 at 9:37 am

I am glad that this post talked about the important issues of today.

Especially the scarcity of soul-gems.

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Shorter MGK: “Hey, old people! Get off my lawn!”

But seriously, great post.

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The Unstoppable Gravy Express said on May 10th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

“Hey old people! Stop hoarding all the lawns!”

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JP Cardier said on May 10th, 2012 at 3:26 pm

“We’re not really trained, as a species, to think generationally about long-term sustainability, and at some point we’re just going to have to learn.”

Drop the word sustainability, and put in the word planning. As a species, we are horrible at long term planning, which is why bridges fall down due to lack of maintenance. :)

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JP Cardier said on May 10th, 2012 at 3:27 pm

Grr, lack of an edit for formatting.

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Axolotl said on May 10th, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Bravo. In my gloomier moments I think most of the world’s problems are caused by the baby-boomers and the way they have pulled the ladder of opportunity up after them. Here in the UK the thing that really sticks in my craw is the way they abolished free higher eductation after reaping the benefits. That and the crippling rents my generation pay them as they own all the houses.

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JP – we used to spend generations building a single structure, and build them to last centuries. Don’t blame the species, blame modern society.

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Fritz Ashlyn said on May 10th, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Is it fixed now?

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The Editor said on May 11th, 2012 at 9:11 am

that should do it.

If not, we’ll try this.

Hopefully one of those worked.

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The Editor said on May 11th, 2012 at 9:12 am

How about em? Does that do it?

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The Editor said on May 11th, 2012 at 9:13 am

Ok, JP Cardier broke the internet. Close your tags people!

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foxed

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The Unstoppable Gravy Express said on May 11th, 2012 at 11:47 am

*fixed

fixed

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JP Cardier said on May 11th, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Most sorry! A thousand apologies!

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Zyzzyva said on May 12th, 2012 at 4:34 am

@Jacob: We used to do that sporadically. Most buildings put up in the Middle Ages were not cathedrals.

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philippos42 said on May 20th, 2012 at 8:57 pm

This is brilliant.

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lance lunchmeat said on November 22nd, 2012 at 7:49 am

This has stuck with me.

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