Vision # 5

Vision # 5

As this presumed accelerating reproductive cycle among the impaired and at-risk population unfolded, I saw increasing waves of these impaired or at-risk citizens maturing into the adult segment of our population where they accumulated and grew in proportion.

 I saw these population dynamics as being continuous and ,as they unfolded, one final thought emerged. Within our adult population, individuals either contribute to the building and maintenance of our American society, or they do not.

Those individuals who contribute: work, pay taxes, start businesses, invent things, fix things, teach others, or have and rear healthy and normal children, or provide volunteer services, etc., thereby sustain the American socioculture. I define these citizens as the culture sustaining population because their activities strengthen our society.

On the other hand, individuals who were drug, alcohol, or gambling addicted; who were in mental or substance treatment hospitals; who lead lives of crime and violence; who were imprisoned; who gave birth to  more children than they were capable of supporting or raising effectively; who abused or abandoned their children; or those who were on welfare, etc., were not sustaining our society. These citizens, regrettably, were functioning as a drains upon America.

What I define as the culture draining population consumes America’s resources in many ways. These individuals must often be supported (food, clothes, and medical care, etc.), housed, and rehabilitated by the by agencies, services, and funded by the culture sustaining population. An additional drain occurs when  the culture sustaining population provides compensatory funds to educate, acculturate, and rehabilitate the endangered children and adolescents of culture draining parents. Sadly, rehabilitation is a task made nearly impossible by the damaging environments (poverty, drugs, violence, crime, etc) to which these impaired or at-risk children must return at the end of the therapy session or school day. Moreover, the most damaged children who are “wards of the state” are frequently cared for by a well intentioned, but vastly overburdened,  institutional systems that all too often damage these children even more.

To fail to rescue these children and adolescents from their impaired or at-risk living conditions will present catastrophic future culture drains upon America.

Where would you place America’s normal infants, children and adolescents? Would you place them in the culture sustaining or the culture draining population? Recall that I made these assignments based upon whether an individual works, pays taxes, creates, raises children, etc.. Even normal infants and children do not work and pay taxes. The acculturation and conversion of our normally developing children into culture sustaining adults requires that America invests its energies and resources in them with the hopes of a wonderful future return on these investments that will benefit everyone. Our normally developing infants and children can be viewed as an incredibly valuable subclass of the culture sustaining population: They are our future culture sustaining populations—-they are the future itself.

With regard  to raising children to healthy and productive adults, we are much in the role of the farmer or the stock market investor who makes precious expenditures and assumes certain levels of risk in the present in order to realize rich long-term dividends.  In that sense our infants and young people do not represent the “drains” on our resources that I have discussed previously–which are likely to intensify and weaken us further in the future. Rather, they are America’s huge investments of limited time and resources in people-making which (in 18-24 years) will likely bring precious rich dividends that strengthen our future. But the cold fact is that our Children represent an immediate drain upon our resources as we prepare them to take our way of life into the future.

I know that the previous paragraphs sound “too objective”. But it just seems that way. Those of us who loved and raised our children will never forget the joys, pleasures and rewards involved. Nor will we forget the immense effort that was required to do it well.

It is now my responsibility to risk being called an Ageist–that is–someone who doesn’t like old people. Of course, I am not an ageist–how could I be? Everyone I have ever loved is either getting old, they are old, or sadly, they are dead. My wife and I are now on social security as well as medicare. I am retired professor from Indiana University and Sally, my beloved wife,  is a retired  nurse. In the next few years I will quit my part-time private practice. Of course we will still love and support to our children and grandchildren and we will try to be active and involved in life. But none of this will represent the kind of productivity that we provided to our society over the past forty years. From this time on, our combined productivity, by almost any measure, will most likely be minuscule in comparison to what it once was. Furthermore, we do not like to think about the possible years of institutional support and care that we may require should we live long into our dotage.

Any culture that discards, disrespects,  neglects or abuses its aged population squanders its hard earned long-term repository of human skill and wisdom. This would be an ignorant and self-destructive thing for any culture to do. At some point, however, the normal aging process removes each of us from our culture’s sustaining endeavors. It is a fact that those who reach the age of 65 years and older are at increased risk for medical impairments and they will eventually need and deserve even more expensive help from America’s culture sustaining population. It is also a fact that increasingly larger proportions of our adult population are living in the 65 year and older category.

Once I dichotomized America’s population into culture sustaining and culture draining segments, a final geometric image emerged. It was the image of our culture sustaining wedge within the adult population category of America. This proportional bright red wedge began immediately inside the adult section, as a wide angle, and then narrowed as it reached through time to the farthest edge of the surviving adult section. It looked like a hearty wedge of your favorite piece of pie.

5 Decompensation Model Revised

The totality of this last age segment of the model symbolized all of the adults in America, who were either culture sustaining or culture draining in their effect upon the whole. I saw the culture sustaining population as being contained within this vibrant red wedge and the culture draining populations existing outside of the wedge. Those within the wedge added to those outside of the wedge equaled 100 percent of our adult population. I imagined the color of the wedge as red, perhaps because it symbolized the massive, but diminishing, quantum of precious energy generated by this human engine powering the American sociocultural enterprise.

The arrows at the bottom of the model symbolized the passage of time and the aging of our population. I could see that as time passed a diminishing proportion of our citizens fell within the culture sustaining wedge and an increasing proportion of our citizens were moving to the outside of this power wedge, to the culture draining population.

In other words, the culture sustaining population was truncating through time, squeezed by increasing proportions of dysfunctional or at-risk adults (and dysfunctional or at-risk children shown in the adult segment) at the bottom of the culture sustaining wedge and the increasing proportions of our aged population at the top.

If my assumptions about the dynamics of this model are correct, these are images with dire implications for America’s future.

VTM 9/14/09

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