Aging, Not Overpopulation…

EDITORIAL, 13 Jun 2011

#168 | Johan Galtung, 13 Jun 2011 - TRANSCEND Media Service

…will be the dominant tendency of the 21st century demography, writes Gérard François Dumont in Le Monde Diplomatique June 2011.

The world population was 1.6 billion in 1900, 6.1 billion in 2000, heading for 9.1 billion in 2050–but even if all of then moved to the USA the density would be less than the Paris region, Ile de France.  Then, if the fertility stabilizes, so may the population, and with low fertility–also due to aging–the world population may decrease, like Portugal today.

The percentages of the world population for China-Africa-India were respectively 22%-9%-15% in 1950  are 20%-15%-18% today and are expected to change to 16%-22%-18% by 2050. India will pass China with 1,5 billion vs. 941 million in 2100 (UN), meaning more poverty as India seems incapable of handling caste.[i] And Africa, already past one billion, will overtake both, meaning less poverty if rich Africa liberates itself from Western neocolonialism; today even military, using Libya as a bridgehead.

Then, the aging, “geronto-growth”, persons above 65: 5.2-7.6-16.2 percent for 1950-2010-2050, with median age moving 24-29-38.  Or, in absolute figures: 130-417-1,486 million.  Needless to say, the balance between population and “geronto” growth varies from one country to the other, also due to migration.  But the world tendency is clear.  Already in the early 1960s this author found the 2 kids norm to dominate, by far, women in fertile age in so distant places as Sicily in Italy and Kerala in India.  With the reproduction rate being 2.1 per woman the decreasing fertility scenario seems strong.

Aging is often seen as a problem: ever more retired people, producing nothing, only consuming, carriers of ever more expensive diseases, insisting on staying alive unless pain is intolerable.

To this author–“retired” for soon 15 years and more productive than ever–nothing but legitimation of grotesque structural violence due to compulsory “retirement”.  The tyranny of the middle-aged.

That young and middle-aged want to deny the older money-making jobs they want for themselves is like denying women education and work outside the home.  Ageism works like sexism and racism.  True, older people, like women, may be less physically strong than hefty, muscular males–but with automation (including tractors) and growth of the symbolic economic sector that factor matters less.  Rather, the problem is to find positions for males with muscles and little else; a bad answer being the military, for war, possibly a reason for the increasing brutality and stupidity of that institution.

The overall living age has increased from 37 in 1900 to 69 in 2010.  Morbidity is yielding to mental disorders (uni- and bipolar depression).  And that touches the heart of the matter.  Jobs are standard operating procedures-SOPs, for money-making, and may be dirty, dangerous, humiliating, boring; taxing on body-mind-spirit.  Work is creative self-realization and inner human development, being socially useful, networking with others for social development.  The idiotic measure of growth perpetrated on us by economists measures added monetized market value only, and none of the inner human, or outer social, growth, positive or negative (GNP-GDP [Gross National Product-Gross Domestic Product], however, are actually also good indicators of Nature Destruction, ND).  We base our economies on work for the few on the top, and jobs for the many lower down; squeezing tired human lemons through alienating jobs so that throwing them away as “retired” may look like a blessing.

But even so all older people have something younger varieties have not: experience.  True, it may add up to conservatism; “this is the way we always did it”.  But it may also add up to a sense of variety beyond standard routines, a sense of diversity in the human condition, warning of dangers, but open to opportunities.  Wisdom.

So the first conclusion is to promote a shift from job to work, and self-employment may play a key role in expanding the latter.

And the second conclusion is work for everybody, regardless of race, gender and age; having retirement with no obligation to have a job or work only an option, not an obligation.  From the brutality of a sudden cut from a 100 to 0% productive life from one day to another all kinds of transition formulas can be envisaged, and the flexibility is increasing in this field.  From five to three to one day a week, and so on.  The larger the age span in an organization, the more useful the inter-generation dialogue between experience and wisdom and the knowledge of freshly minted MBAs and PhDs.  Retired generals and diplomats often exude more wisdom than those who are only tired; using freedom of expression to compensate for guilt by association.  Any organization will benefit from cultivating that freedom before retirement so we do not have to wait for WikiLeaks.

The third conclusion is that people work for the pleasure of it, for the challenges to their creativity, for real participation as opposed to the fake one on a golf course.  Major keys to health.  By depriving people of work, forcing them into jobs and retirement, we produce health problems that tax strained economies further.

Work is a fine mode of living; jobs may be necessary burdens. Money is used to bribe us into jobs for our livelihood.  A rational society would have a living income for all, for food, clothing and housing, free health services, free education from Kindergarten to PhD; making us free to work.  But early childhood, old age, and education, receiving, not giving much in return, are also modes of living. So why not oscillate between all four, like in “third age” education, or having retirement years like professors have sabbaticals, and then enjoy work till death us parts?  Many actually do so in Civil Society, away from Capital, not waiting for State reform.  A health-productive trend, financed by retirement funds as living income.

Retired all over, unite!  You have only early death to lose.


[i].  In an excellent article “Quality of Life: India vs China”, NYRB, May 12 2011, Amartya Sen does not mention caste problems.

This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 13 Jun 2011.

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11 Responses to “Aging, Not Overpopulation…”

  1. Ove Thygesen says:

    Galtung is on fire. As usual. Love it! (Unfortunately, work is for the few, jobs for those who needs retirement. How make a change?)

  2. Jon says:

    A great pleasure to find these editorials by Professor Galtung, after discovering him via Democracy Now!

    A wonderful voice of reason in the wilderness and amazing vision of the future! Roll on the multicultural multipolar world. Transcend has now replaced the BBC. As he says in a youtube video BBC listeners have been propagandized their entire lives. Mostly without being aware of it. Until now!

    Transcend website quality control – the pdf of the last three articles (more not tested) are downloaded as filename.pdf”. Needless to say they are not recognized as valid pdfs until the name is changed to remove the quotation mark. Appears to be a problem on Transcend’s side. Other pdfs / sites don’t do this.

  3. Ringo Starr says:

    One of the biggest and most neglected problems are old people seldom leaving their homes, being lonely and passive. They should be invited to activities. Visiting them should be obligatory for school children.

  4. R. Fox says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. But, please, some advice?

    I am an archaeologist, and in economically difficult times archaeologists and others in education who love their work are not seen as productive — much like certain other demographics. How are, say, archaeologists supposed to work when their economic supports are being dismantled (especially in the US)?

    We are productive: it is essential that this species learn from its history and prehistory. But learning is often the first casualty of economic austerities.

    • Reply from Prof. Johan Galtung:

      Dear Archaeologist(s) – I totally agree, your images of the long term history of our species is indispensable, especially if you can draw some good ideas for our future survival from the distant past. I am sure there is interest “out there”, not so much for new discoveries as for new ideas.

      The two answers that may be useful in your situation would be to offer those insights on the web, at public meetings, within the civil society of organizations and local authorities. If pensions cover your livelihood, fine; if not a cooperative of archaeologists forced out of jobs and-or into retirement might be the answer, offering their services against a fee.

      Do not see a university as the only employer; see people, civil society, and maybe also corporate actors as alternatives. Good websites are the entrance cards. They may lead to invitations.

      Thanks for your comment. Best regards,
      Johan Galtung

  5. […] 2100 (ONU), il che vuol dire più povertà dato che l’India sembra incapace di gestire le caste.[i] E l’Africa, già oltre un miliardo, supererà entrambe, il che vorrà dire meno povertà se la […]

  6. David Doerr says:

    Archeology. Yes, well, I once corresponded with an archeologist for two years – every two months – who was an original member of the Dead Sea Scrolls team. I correspond with a retired research engineer (emeritus) who is involved in an important archeology project in far-eastern Turkiye. He is a licensed building contractor, and is constructing his second personal home. He is a licensed aircraft mechanic, too. Professor Galtung has a gift of expression that is refreshing. Aging is dependent upon variables, including the effect that certain life-styles have on it. My wife and I look younger than most people our age, mainly because we don’t consume too much alcohol, do not smoke, have a healthy vegetarian diet and take optimum doses of vitamins. I see the need to exert control over the high birth rates of failing states as imperative. I believe that the value of a social policy should be determined using metaphysical principles. (Seeking signs from the Spirit.) Should we promote birth control education among nations (e.g., Haiti) that need it? Ans. You bet. We should bring to those nations the knowledge of natural and artificial birth control methods, and we should teach them to consider the idea of Divine Providence – that noble concept that is written into the last sentence of the United States’ Declaration of Independence. J.R.R. Tolkien (spoke Greek, Latin, Old Norse, Gothic, various Anglo-Saxon dialects, etc.) used his supreme mastery of language to illustrate the difference between a cultures that know God and cultures that don’t know God.

  7. I agree with Mr. galtung.

  8. David Doerr says:

    Professor Galtung brings to society a great service in that he provides this forum. There is one point that I believe needs to be clarified here. It is aging, that is the specter that looms in the future, according to what Professor Galtung has explained here-in. However, it ought to be noted that the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals cannot be achieved – according to careful British research – unless the high birth rates of the poorest nations (where they generally exist) are brought under control. I don’t think that I need to explain what Rev. Thomas Malthus taught in that regard. In order to bring development to Third World nations, it is necessary to bring to them a new perception of how things really are in the universe. This involves theology, unless people who don’t seek the truth want to pretend that there exists no God – no Spirit – and that this world is just darned fortunate to have everything just so for the development of cities and amusement parks, fast cars and big-screen t.v.’s. If I might offer my personal view, then, I see it as absolutely imperative that people be taught to seek a personal conversation with the Deity – to at least reflect on that possibility – because this world is teetering on the brink. (Just check out the situation in the United States at the present time. Record heat; record tornado out-breaks; two record flooding rivers; a million acre Texas range fire, followed by a record Arizona fire – and now, the hurricane season is upon U.S. This, in a span of three months!) It is the responsibility of those who would be stewards of this planet to determine whether it is possible to include God in the solution to the world’s problems, or not.

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