Friday, October 13, 2006

An ättestupa for the baby boomers?

If countries were open-ended investment trusts, then if the average lifespan was eighty years, a newborn baby should have eighty shares, a fifty-six-year-old consultant (like me) should have only twenty-four shares, and anyone over eighty should count his blessings and be happy with the one he’s got left. From this perspective, our current democracy is a complete farce. I say this after having read the truly hair-raising World Development Report 2007 from the World Bank titled Development and the Next Generation. It so clearly evidences our failings as a society and the fact that most of those coming after us are giving up on participation and hope, with damned good reasons.

The report covers ages 12 to 24, but in From Schooling Access to Learning Outcomes – An Unfinished Agenda presented by the Independent Evaluation Group of the World Bank (IEG) we also read that many even younger students in poor countries (maybe in some rich countries too) can go through a complete primary education without actually learning how to read, which evidences systemic corruption on a massive scale and that completely shames initiatives such as Education for All. Having schools deliver on the absolutely bare minimum expectations could be a truly worthy and concrete goal in the current anticorruption drive of Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, the President of the World Bank. Normally it takes decades to be able to evaluate the programs of the World Bank, but, in this case, it could actually be done by the end of next semester.

It is said that in Scandinavia, a long time ago, when the older people felt that they stood in the way of the young, they threw themselves off steep cliffs known as an ättestupa. These days it could seem like quite the opposite, if we consider how our democracies might have been captured by us baby boomers. We need to revise urgently how our society deals with the next generations, before they throw us down an ättestupa—for damned good reasons!