I have to admit that I am chewing on my fingernails right now. It’s not like this is the end of the world, far from it, but nevertheless, I think we are at a crossroad here. And it’s not just the issue of taking the road less traveled (thank you, Robert Frost), but the choice made today is one with repercussions felt for a long while most likely.
To put it in the words of Obama or possibly one of his speech writers, which I am shamelessly making use of, adding and substracting to them as I please, commenting if I see fit, it is a promise we make to our children. That each of us can make what we want of our lives. It is this promise, that has enabled so many of us to become great.
Great. What is ‘great’? To most of us, our parents are the greatest, infallible, omnipotent and omniscient. It often is a rude awakening to find out that those we put on a pedestal are not greater than we are, heck, sometimes they have flaws we do not have yet at that time. ‘Yet’ being the key word. Because many of us grow up to find that do as we might, we maybe fall into the same patterns as our parents, we do more and more take the roads more often traveled for sake of convenience, peer pressure, heck, for whatever reason making life just a bit more comfortable, more endurable or, yes, more enjoyable.
Which is fine and dandy I guess…until we arrive at a time and place where our decisions impact others. Not necessarily others directly around us, but more often than not others who are still to come.
Yes, we do owe a debt to all that came before us, because, well, let’s face it, without them, our life would be quite a bit different. Electricity we already have. Yes, even in Germany, my dear readers from the former colonies, we, too, have paved roads and indoor plumbing among many other things. Amenities quite a few generations, not necessarily the one just before us, did not have.
There is a thin line we walk between making our lives easier though and creating amenities for us and the generations after us. And sometimes we cross them, sometimes we, again, because it is the road more traveled, because it is easier, we make decisions that only provide short-term benefits, read: that only benefit us, but that in turn become a burden to generations still to come. Energy dependence. Nuclear proliferation. Climatic changes. Greenhouse effect. Looking at Germany, off the top of my head, I’d name the looming bankruptcy of the state retirement funds and the inability to offer an affordable *good* health insurance for everyone.
Every generation has an obligation to work on behalf of the next generation. We have to work to make their lives better. The political culture has to be transformed to be responsive to you and me, our children (if we choose to have any that is) and the generations to come, not just to special interest groups and lobbyists of all sorts. We also have to stop going ‘this is not right, somebody should fix this’ when reading about some injustices. We have to realize, that nobody is going to finx anything if we don’t.
I said before that we owe those generations before us. That is correct. It is also correct though, that those generations we owe owed those generations before them. Looking to the following generation to make up to them is a bad idea. Because then, not only has that generation an obligation to work for the generations coming after them but also to work for the generations before them…and, well, let’s face it, you can always only serve one master. It’s always been like that, it’ll always be like that.
Getting a bit more specific. Yes, it is a crying shame, that today’s senior citizens do not have the same economic power they had when they were still working and yes, I understand that they need support from the government, yet when it comes to who needs support more, senior citizens or children, frankly, that answer should be a no-brainer. If everything is done correctly, no-one, at least not in what we sometimes ironically have to refer to as the civilized world, has to starve. Alright, so the food won’t always be great on the palate but at least it’s nourishing, and no, I am not proposing that we dish out MREs to everyone in economic misfortune. Yet, at least over here in Germany, it more and more becomes the norm that people say "I did my share, I worked for x amount of years and now I want to take a step back, keep my lifestyle and the tab is to be paid by those who still work." It is what we refer to as a generational contract. A pretty dandy idea that unfortunately didn’t include increased lifespans, early retirement and demographic changes like severe decrease in birthrates in its calculation model.
If one worker can dig a 64 cubic feet hole in thirty minutes, how long do four workers take. A question quite a few of us ought to remember from elementary math classes. Extra credit if you still remember it as the ‘rule of proportion’ or ‘rule of three’. The road more traveled is ignoring these things. You are 56 years of age, you went to college (free of charge in Germany) for 8 years (not necessarily obtaining a degree) after serving your country for two years (mandatory) after high school and thus worked for 27 years. Now it is your God given right to retire and reap what you sowed.
It no longer works that way. Well, at least it shouldn’t. It’s something we have to work on. The blueprints of life as we know it are flawed under current circumstances, we no longer can afford that, it’s no longer fair to us and our children and those generations coming after us. We literally no longer can afford quite a few things. And that has to change, fast. There are steps we have to take, roads less traveled we have to follow in order to create a more perfect union.
And to return to the beginning, this is something that is going to be decided by the outcome of today’s elections. This change we need, this change we believe in, it has to come. And Obama is the one that, hopefully, is able to bring it about. With his one trip to Germany, he brought hope. Heck, he even managed to inspire some of our rather aloof politicians in the capital. And I hope it’s not just the possible amount of voters coming their way if they jump on the bandwagon.
The US had something like this before. About 40 years ago. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
I believe that we can go full circle here again, and I believe that this is the only way to maybe right what is going wrong. It won’t happen with a snap of the fingers, it won’t happen over night, but the changes I’ve already seen sure look like it could be groundbreaking. Maybe it starts becoming ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ again to become involved.
I am not a praying man. But I sure can hope. Which I do. I hope for the world to get better and I took my personal first step on the road less traveled three years ago this coming January. And, at least to me, that has made all the difference.