Thursday, April 20, 2017

Old times there are not forgotten....

Maybe the $400 juicer is an object lesson in hubris:

Juicero is a juicing machine and service that secured about $120 million in funding from the likes of Google and other venture capitalists before it rolled out to 17 states this week. The pricey machine is built to squeeze the subscription-only Juicero bags of chopped fruit and veggies, which it reportedly “cold-presses” using four tons of force. Some have called the machine a Keurig for juice.

But there’s one teeny problem: It turns out you don’t need the machine. Bloomberg reports that recently, “some investors were surprised to discover a much cheaper alternative: You can squeeze the Juicero bags with your bare hands.” Hand-squeezing the bags for 90 seconds, they found, rendered almost as much juice as using the $400 machine for two minutes.
Or, as the article points out, you could just eat a piece of fruit.

We are told technology will change our world in profound and "disruptive" ways.  So it seemed reasonable to conclude that Donald Trump had "disrupted" American politics.  Like the $400 juicer nobody needed, however, it may be we don't need any theories of "disruption" or "fake news" on social media to explain Trump's success.  Turns out Trump won the "old old" vote:  "He won 53 percent of voters ages 65 and over, but only 37 percent of voters ages 29 and younger. Trump is the Twitter-using president, not the president chosen by Twitter’s users."  Put a bit more particularly:

The only age group that overwhelmingly voted for Trump were Catholics age 75 and older, who went for Trump 57% to 44%. The age groups roughly corresponding to Baby Boomers and Gen Xers split narrowly, with Boomers favoring Trump by two points (49% to 47%) and Xers favoring Clinton by two points (46% to 44%). But Millennial Catholics favored Clinton by a whopping 31% (59% to 28%), by far the largest split of any age group.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the white Catholics who heavily favored Trump in 2016 are what the gerontologists call the “old old.” With life expectancy hovering around 81 for white females and 76 for white males, it doesn’t take a math wiz to figure out that many of these Trump voters won’t be around in 2020 and most will have gone to that great election booth in the sky by 2024.
Patricia Miller focusses on the religious categorization of voters, Ezra Klein focusses on their likelihood to use social media.  Either way, the basis is age, not communications technology or even religious belief.  The older people get, the more likely they were to vote for Trump.  But that's not even the issue:  the issue is age.

People are living longer and longer.  It may soon be normal for Boomers to reach retirement age and still be responsible for caring for their parents.  It is a glimpse of what Millenial surely have to look forward to.  These aging patterns are distorting society in ways the Baby Boom never did.  I've seen it in church congregations, where the average age is still my parent's generation (as it was when I was a child).  The effect is to squeeze out younger adults (one reason for the success of mega-churches.  You don't see a sea of grey heads in Joel Osteen's congregation on TV, or in any other TV and billboard-dependent pastor's church).  This is an issue the institutional church has to deal with, but one it is not equipped to deal with.  And I don't know what the answer would be, anyway

But it is now the elephant in the room in our politics.  Miller thinks Democrats just have to wait for these "old old" to die off, but that's the vulture theology of the undertaker:  sooner or later they all have to come to us, or in this case, in the long run we're all dead.  And an aging populace is going to be the elephant in the room in more ways than one.

What about the fact that Boomers are next in-line to become the "old old"?  And they went for Trump by 2 points; and it was enough, in context.

This situation is not going to magically reverse itself when my parent's generation finally shuffles off the stage.  At least Ezra Klein is more circumspect, and wiser in his insights:

Social media is new, it is transformative, and it is certainly changing American politics. But it’s not the only force at play, nor even the main one. And while it’s hard for news junkies (myself included) to remember, most people’s media feeds tilt more toward baby pictures, wedding announcements, and funny videos than political punditry. Those of us who follow lots of politicians and politicized news sources are outliers, and we shouldn’t extrapolate too much from our weird experience.

Whatever is tearing our politics apart is deeper and more universal than the digital filter bubbles that get so much attention — and it seems to be most powerful among the people least likely to get their news from social media.
That's a fault line that's going to be around for a long, long time.  Maybe we should consider the power of simply eating a piece of fruit, rather than spending millions to produce an expensive machine that doesn't do the job any better than human hands.  Rube Goldberg knew a thing or two about that, but maybe you have to be at least "old" to get that reference.

No comments:

Post a Comment