The current trend of dismissing mature age people as part of the restructuring of industry and favouring younger persons holds dire consequences for the nation. For in that disposing of ‘surplus workers’ the accumulated experience, understanding and wisdom born out of generational practice is forever lost. This dispensing with human values for the sake of economic gains, paves the way for superficiality, lack of vision and the disintegration of the social fabric. Worse, it accelerates that trend foreseen – early last century – by the ethnologist Oswald Spengler in his Decline of the West where: “a new sort of nomad, cohering unstably in fluid masses” gathers in the cities as tradition-less dwellers, “utterly matter-of-fact, religion-less, clever, unfruitful, deeply contemptuous” of the aged and the past.
At this point is worth remembering Spengler’s view that: “Economic thought…sets in only where art and philosophy have irrevocably passed away”; and that whilst:” Politics sacrifices men for an idea… (The) economy merely wastes them away”. This is the point that we have now reached in Australia, a country that in the 19th century led the world in social reform, work ethics and fairness. But, that now, is unable to even deal fairly with those retrenched workers that, toiled a virtual life time for its wellbeing. And now considered untrainable. Are we all totally unaware of Portia’s aside to Lord Bassanio?
” Happy is this, she is not yet so old
But she may learn, happier than this,
She is not bred so dull but she can learn”.
[Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.]
Have we become so dislocated from our past as to forget Marcus Aurelius injunctions?
“And whatever thou doest, do it in conjunction with this…
The being good… Keep to this in every action”.
And for those with power and those that govern:
“(Policy) must proceed only from a certain persuasion,
As what is just or of common advantage…
Not because it appears pleasant or brings reputation”.
And how about: “This one thing, thoughts just, and act social, and words which never lie”!
[Meditations Bk. lV. 10, 12. lX. 33.]
Do we not realize that in dispensing with the mature workers, knowledge diminishes and with it discernment and distinguishing “without which little knowledge is attained” [Locke, Concerning Human Understanding]. Can it really be said that a young person interviewing a mature age individual by means of a questionnaire based entirely on empirical thinking – hence reproductive [William James – Reasoning.] can really gauge the inherent knowledge, reasoning power, experience and the accumulated wisdom of that one applying for a job? Yet, that is precisely what is happening today, throughout the employment agencies of Australia.
And what of wisdom, where the individual alone can grow in it? Are we to assume that every young person these days, ranks with ‘The Younger Pitt’ and is able to steer a cabinet through policies and life’s vicissitudes with such dexterity as to render experienced people: Useless?
Neither art, nor science nor learning can attain to soul’s wisdom. It comes with age and experience. A country that loses sight of that, fares blindly onwards at its peril. For in shedding its elders becomes a decapitated nation. For it is wisdom that unites knowledge and action. And, according to Plato, “ascending to wisdom and returning enlightened to the realm of action” is the ultimate good. For it brings with it those four virtues: Wisdom, Temperance, Courage and Justice that properly guide a just society. Qualities usually gained with maturity, but readily disposed of in these days of efficient production and balanced budgets.
There is a desperate need to reconsider the path that we have embarked upon in Australia and in the West. A path that is serving an economy that grinds human values, destroys communities, and wastes the environment. To which, even those who appear to be in charge, are swept along as hapless victims manifesting a: ”dullness of wit; boldness of stupidity, contentiousness in judgment” [Montaigne]. Of late, amply demonstrated throughout the parliaments of the Western world!
It is worth remembering that it is Jove’s eldest daughter ‘Folly’ that shuts men’s eyes to their destruction. That she was flung from Olympus by her exasperated father to Earth, to thereby taunt mankind [Homer, Iliad]. That according to Aquinas, “folly is to withdraw our sense from spiritual things and to plunge it into earthly things”.
We cannot act for the rest of the world, but we can certainly strive to regain those lost values that were once an essential part of Australia, and made it foremost among democracies. It means pausing, reconsidering and seeing what this nation is currently experiencing:
“A crisis of love: a collapse of empathy, manifesting in epidemics of loneliness and depression”. [R. Flanagan – The Australian Disease: On the Decline of Love and the Rise of Non – Freedom].
It means giving a fair go to everyone on this land. Especially the refugees, the elders and the unemployed. Of making things better for the people and not budgets. Of having the courage to alter laws, trends and customs. And face outcomes for the genuine betterment and common needs of the people. It means vision. And the gift of wisdom to:
“Direct man’s actions to the sovereign good which is the last end,
By knowing which man is said to be truly wise” [Thomas Aquinas].