I wrote Old Men and Infidels with the following observations:
1) In much of the developing world, the average age has fallen to the mid-twenties, not due to war, plague or famine but due to better food, better infant care and western intolerance to war,
2) Rather better known, is the fact that during the last 70 years, left expectancy has increased dramatically (e.g. Ghana from 46 to 71 years), due to reduced death from violence (in the USA down to about 0.3% of what it was mid-19th century), globalization (i.e. trade) and western affluence.
3) The world’s population is thus getting older and younger simultaneously.
OMAI is based on three items: aging, faith, and truth.
Aging is inexorable but not inevitable. A momentary hiccough in personal judgment or the world’s caprice and one is no longer aging but rotting. An increasing number of young Americans look at the continuum of aging and feel obliged to designate the other end of the distribution curve as an identifiable and demean-able sub-caste. These young disdain the elderly for possessing in abundance what they have in scarcity. They talk about what should be done while disdaining those that have already done. They ascribe greed to those who have demonstrated thrift and providence in their youth, even while lusting after that same wealth by means legal or otherwise, thus avoiding thrift and providence in their own youth. In any contentious argument, the supposedly irrefutable argument used when other arguments do not serve is: “You are old.”
Faith has refused to die on schedule. Faith, is a commodity that was supposed to have been interred a century ago, much to our grandparents’ surprise. Walter Lippman once said, “What most distinguishes the generation who have approached maturity since the debacle of idealism at the end of the (First World) War is not their rebellion against religion and the moral code of their parents but their disillusionment at their own rebellion.” Crystals, Ouija boards, ghosts, ancient aliens, bigfoot, natural healing, “holistic” medicine, organic food (although I can think of only one inorganic one), and “Change” all generate enthusiasms far outweighing any demonstrated good. We, as a society, have traded our belief in an omnipotent, omniscient, good God for Santeria, “Luck,” “vibrations,” and self-righteous, ambitious political euphemisms for fascism. Infidelity waxes universal.
Truth trumps faith. It matters little how sincere a believer in fallacies is. This should be good news to all the ardent atheists out there. If faith in anything (including the irrational belief that a limited creature may reason away an unlimited God, I suppose) then truth will win out, just the thing they hope for. For most of us, newly revealed truth merely grants us merely unease.
Any person or society could be located along these three intersecting axes of 1) age-youth, 2) faith and unbelief and 3) the truth or fallacy of their beliefs. In this country, already a midden of unbelief, much of what we take as true is not and the most faithful people are frequently those with the least reason. Lots to write about there.
OMAI is about two countries that went opposite ways in the age profile, one retires everyone at forty, and the other retires no one, despite their life expectancy of double our own. The Unity guarantees full employment, free healthcare, computerless surfing and recreational drugs at quite reasonable prices. It has conquered the rest of the country but has left it to the savages and strangely altered plants. The outlands have found a way to double life expectancy and managed, despite military catastrophe and continuing hostilities, to recolonize much of the scorched hinterland. I incubate these two societies for a few generations and then extract one 17-yr-old and middle-aged member (Malila Evanova Chiu) from the young society and drop her into the middle of the other to be captured by a hideous, and impossibly old (but middle-aged), seventy-six-year old Jesse Aaron Johnstone.