The Making of an Elder Culture: Reflections on the Future of America's Most Audacious Generation

by: Heather on 09/24/2009
Posted in: New Books

In 1969, Theodore Roszak shot to prominence with The Making of a Counter Culture. Four decades later Roszak revisits many of the ideals of the Summer of Love from a unique, mature perspective in the recently released The Making of an Elder Culture: Reflections on the Future of America's Most Audacious Generation.

Monday's LA Times featured an excellent article in the OpEd pages by Roszak, arguing for an expansion of the current Medicare system which the general public could buy into at low cost, with subsidies for those who could not afford even basic premiums. (For non-US readers, Medicare is the American federally-administered system of health insurance available only to persons aged 65 and over). From his article:

So why has it not occurred to the champions of reform that instead of telling people that the public option is "like Medicare," we might simply let the public option be Medicare? That would reduce all the complexities to one clear-cut public-option solution: Amend Medicare so that it will be available to everyone regardless of age.

Since 1951, the self-employed have been able to buy into Social Security; currently about 9 million of them are in the system. Why not remove the age restriction on Medicare and let everybody buy in who wants to buy in? Medicare provides a very elusive target for right-wing vilification or for those who seek to make reform look so complex that we must wait an additional 20 years to change the system. It is a time-tested program that people know and trust. It has an exemplary track record for low-overhead administration. Medicare is already the most successful cost-control program we have, and it can be made more effective still. (There are estimates that fraud in the system costs over $60 billion a year -- a serious but fixable flaw that accounts for enough money to keep the system solvent.)

Above all, it's here. Its administrative procedures and personnel are in place. Unlike health co-ops -- which remain a mystery to most of us -- Medicare needs only to be expanded, which has to be cheaper than starting from square one.

Clear thinking like this is an excellent example of why The Making of an Elder Culture is such a compelling argument for the transformative power of the longevity revolution. Roszak writes:

Creating a society in which everyone will be entitled to long life, good health, and basic security requires a dramatic shift in our society's ethical consensus. That transformation lies at the heart of the longevity revolution. It draws upon the simple fact that industrial society is leaving behind the ethical imperatives that created it. The fascination with limitless productivity, the passion for conquering and exploiting nature, the appetite for unrestrained acquisition, the ethos of competitive individualism -- seen from the viewpoint of an elder culture, all these, the aggressive and acquisitive qualities that once made profit and power the highest values in life, look more unbecoming by the day. Changes of this magnitude do not arise from rational analysis or ideological debate; they derive from seeing life in a new way. They are grounded in consciousness.

Do you have examples of bridging the gap between counter culture and elder culture? We'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

The Making of an Elder Culture


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