Expendable after 40?!
December 3, 2006 12:03am CST
What is the “commercial value” of an object of great consumption but little production? For a period of some two hundred years America had an every moving new frontier. One of the appeals of this ever-present frontier was the sense that there was always a place for the rugged individualist. A place existed for the individual who was enthused about the prospect of uninhibited growth where each individual could test his or her capacity to be all they could be. No one had an edge over the other person beyond character and motivation. Darwin’s theory teaches us that mating and reproduction is the means whereby the species adapted to a changing environment and thereby created the possibility for survival of the species. Generally speaking the human species stops this procreation process before the age of forty. Biological evolution provides little means for adaptation in our species beyond forty years of age. Human instrumental rationality has created a technology that continually increases the longevity of individuals of our species. Instrumental rationality is the ability to determine and execute the best means for reaching an established goal. We have determined the goal of ever extending life to be a valuable goal and are constantly extending human longevity. Simultaneously with an extended life span we are continually shortening the social value of longevity. Like the rest of our commodities we have a throwaway culture for long-lived persons. Our society seems to mimic biological evolution in placing forty years as the beginning of the end of adaptability. Biological evolution terminates concern for those beyond the age of reproduction and our culture terminates concern for those beyond the age of commodity production. Biological adaptation has abandoned us after forty, our instrumental rationality is responding to our unexamined desire to prolong life; how do we mange to survive as a species if we do not find a rational means to engage this challenge? The challenge is to create the societal value of human life after forty. Where is the ever-moving frontier of expectations for the man or woman beyond the age of forty? Is age beyond forty to remain the beginning of a throw-away social value? If you quibble about the number forty you may use fifty or sixty or seventy if you feel better about it.