The Age of Uncertainty and Anxiety
Child mortality is defined as the share of children who die before reaching their 5th birthday. In 1841 a five-year-old could expect to live 55 years. Today a five-year-old can expect to live 82 years. An increase of 27 years.
Allowing for the sad accidents and illnesses that lead to too-early deaths, the suggestion is that children aged 0-5 in 2022 will live for a very long time, and many of them are likely to see the 23rd century.
For parents, the question they ask when holding their baby for the first time is never how long the child will live, but rather, what sort of quality of life will my child have?
In past generations, that answer was reasonably simple. Allowing for the individual stories of those whose life’s path takes them into darker, sadder places: addiction, crime, poverty, and so on, generational history has suggested that we mostly aspire to a fairly predictable future: a decent job and career; a long-term commitment to another person, generally in marriage; children and grandchildren, followed by a contented, happy retirement.
This has been the fabled American Dream, and each generation could reasonably argue that they were leaving the world a better place than when they entered it.
However, as Baby Boomers and Gen X start to make way for Millennials and Generation Z and their babies, we have to ask, how will the world in which they will grow be different from the past?
More importantly, Millennial and Generation Z parents need to ask themselves the question; “How do I best prepare my child for this future to ensure he/she achieves that happiness that we wish for each of them?”
The Age of Uncertainty and Anxiety.
We are in the waning years of a period starting in 1945 of reasonable stability in our common global experience and prosperity, and instead, we are entering what can best now be called, The Age of Uncertainty and Anxiety.
At best, we are in a funk! At worst, we are just starting to understand the huge global shifts that are occurring.
Change is happening at a speed that often appears to be beyond the ability of individuals, institutions, governments, and international bodies to fully comprehend, and that no-one seems overly confident we can successfully tackle.
The various stages of human development are, of course, all about change: conception, birth, the early years, adolescence, young adulthood, full maturity, senior status, and death.
Emotional development leads us from our early dependency on family, to seeking independence within a larger community, to the interdependence of creating our own families, the definition of which has broadened dramatically in the 21st century.
Societies go through similar cycles from birth to maturity and then decline, and unless they manage to renew themselves and begin their development again in a new, dynamic direction, history suggests their eventual demise: think of the great empires of the past.
Our Changing World:
The discoveries of the Ancients; the Renaissance with its cultural, artistic, political, and economic “rebirth” following the Middle Ages; the discoveries of new worlds, the Industrial Revolution, Revolutions in France, China, Russia, and the American colonies; the Reformation, the Transportation Revolution, the rise of the middle class and its accompanying culture of consumerism, changing social mores, the change in the role of women in society, and the ongoing Technological Revolution, all the way to today’s ubiquitous Smartphone, represent significant change in epochal change in our human development and civilization.
However, every step forward has also come with losses: leading to the decline of nation states, companies, and institutions because of their failure to see beyond the horizon, and to make the necessary adjustments needed for change and renewal.
Today, many countries are facing tremendous internal political divisions that are proving very difficult to resolve. Demographics, not conflict, represent the biggest danger to almost all nations’ futures.
The worldwide struggle between secular and religious societal approaches has been won by the former. Sunday was a day for religious obligation, but churches are now viewed as increasingly less and less relevant in people’s lives, and today, more families will be found on a Sunday along the sidelines of soccer games than in the pews, and secularism reigns supreme in our culture.
Parents have believed until recently that education would ensure a child’s success. However, we are in the waning years of our present educational sustainability, and the future looks dark for the college model. So, too, with K-12 schools as they are increasingly viewed as failing in their mission.
Work is now a four-letter word for many. Covid has encouraged a work-from-home trend that will likely be a part of the mix in the future for most workers, along with shortened work weeks. It will also mean lower wages! Employers are finding ways to do more with less. Incomes are, at best, stagnant, and the easy years of low interest rates are likely over. The future looks cloudy for many workers and employers.
The future for those on the lower rungs of the work ladder looks especially bleak, and we are in danger of creating a two-tier world of work that is already leading to tremendous economic disparities. The long-term future of retirement safety nets is strained.
Sears, Kmart and Montgomery Ward were once titans of retail commerce; today we shop on Amazon and visit Costco- the old retail model is in its death throes.
Technology continues its inexorable march, and the age of automation and robotics is close to hand, with the inevitable loss of inefficient human jobs. What will become of the displaced?
Socially, we have entered a period of grand experiments centered around many parts of our traditional society, but with little-to-no consensus around subjects such as crime, law enforcement, immigration, the generational wealth gap, and so on. Is gender fluidity of 2022 a passing fad, or is it the latest stage in societal progress?
Gen X parents and their millennial children have led the way in recognizing the threat that climate change might do to our global lives. The first two decades saw a lot of discussion about the dangers, and grand plans were created for possible solutions.
However, recent energy challenges have shown the limitations of what can be done during a period of accompanying economic shift and uncertainty, forcing uncomfortable global choices. The result is that the transition from one energy technology to another is proving to be slower and much more hesitant than many might wish.
It is increasingly likely that the issue of how to deal with a changing climate will be kicked down the road for the children of Gen Z to answer.
Technology is transforming our world, enveloping our lives deeper and deeper so that we literally no longer need to leave our homes. Supermarkets and restaurants are bypassed as food can be ordered online; car driving is in decline, and we are pushing onward towards driverless cars. Streaming services and video playing provide our entertainment; Zoom allows us to work and interact without leaving our homes. Amazon sells us everything we could ever need. Ring doorbells protect the walls of our castles; over time, technology has freed us of almost all domestic tasks such as vacuuming, cutting lawns, washing dishes, doing laundry, and so on, and has provided us with greater free time.
What Is Our Purpose?
But to what purpose? The world of automation increasingly means liberation, but how do we productively use that free time to be creative, to help others, to engage on issues, and so on?
Many Millennials and Gen Z’ers are seeking something more, both for themselves, and for their children, and are seeking to walk a road less traveled.
In the blogs to follow, we will introduce you to The Six PIllars to Ensure Your Child’s Future Success, and we will explain how with each in place, your child will have the foundational assets to successfully grow into adulthood.
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