Taking a social situation as a starting point, recent assertions around age and economic or political value have been quite unsettling. That certain underlying assumptions aren’t being challenged seems concerning, as it implies these are seen as acceptable ways of thinking that will lead to reasonable conclusions.
For example, financial reasoning has been commonplace as many concluded some groups “cost” others dearly. As if calculations of life expectancy and anticipated earnings or opportunities are certainties we should bank on. Where does it lead if we think that way? At what age are we happy for our social relevance or democratic weight to diminish? Human life is inherently without guarantee so these hardly seem calculations to place at society’s core, yet they are apparently valid ways to be thinking.
This seems to come down to how we view reality and weigh up our choices; with figures offering us a sense of certainty and measurable impacts. I just feel it might be wise to re-evaluate the weight we give to that in what is ultimately a human society (see Notes One).
With politics, incorporating the views of all members of society seems a valuable idea. The wisdom of age, practical confidence of mid-life, and idealism of youth all combine to hopefully chart a sensible course. Every part of society has a voice to be heard, because society affects us all. Although all that does depend very much on the quality of information we receive; on education and our ability to evaluate all we’re told (Notes Two); and preferably on a sense of responsibility toward the whole rather than just the self.
Yet it’s still worrying to argue that outcomes would be different in a year or two “because a million or so people would no longer be here”. It may be ‘true’, but is it meaningful or humane to make such arguments?
To take a different manifestation of similar reasoning, a recent Guardian article on the social “cost” of individuals spoke of how foreseeable costs were from a young age. And of course it seems likely that both costs and needs would be greater for those born into situations containing obstacles they may well wish to overcome. Surely our social systems exist to support those genuinely needing assistance. And while the researchers pointed out the responsibility of applying the results compassionately, it still seems a risky train of thought.
Where do statistics lead? While such findings are famously ‘neutral’, we must undoubtedly be very careful in the conclusions we draw and the arguments we weave around them (Note Three). Reasoning based on calculations and projections often risks forgetting the human face of the data, as logic may dictate “certain people should be left out in the cold”.
At the end of the day, what is society about? Are we talking simply in terms of economic viability, or is there a sense of social cohesion and pulling together? Because it seems we still need to be careful that our thinking retains its humanity.
Notes and References: