The Right Fears the Young & the Politics of Immortality

The post title is hardly news – we know that conservative movements have always skewed towards older people but what about the supposed ‘alt-right’? The modern internet crypto-fascism has an emphasis on video games and pop culture and an emphasis on digital technologies. I don’t think we can be sure of what the true demographics of the alt-right are but I suspect their internet legions are older than they portray themselves. However, I’m more focused on their arguments such as they are.

The range of core arguments from the alt-right that connect those who are overt about being neo-Nazis to those who are more circumspect, can be summed up as a set of fears. Some are given more rationalisation than others and the targets vary: women, established ethnic groups, immigrants, LGBTQI people and others. They can be summed up as arguments about X (the target of rightwing animosity) and Y (how the right perceives themselves as an in-group).

  • X do not hold the same political values of us. If X gain more numbers/vote more often/gain more political power then they will vote for gun control, healthcare, welfare etc.
  • The job market is finite, if there are more X in the workforce then there are fewer jobs for Y.
  • It is not right in a workplace for X’s to boss around Y’s or import their values into the workplace.
  • X’s have different social values, when X’s have more say in organisations, community groups, churches, it changes the character of them.

These are not the only canards that the right directs at their targets but they are the ones that work for most of them. There are also fears that they stoke specifically targeted at women that they don’t apply to ethnic groups and vice-versa.

What I find interesting is how their arguments apply just as easily (and fallaciously) if “X” is taken to mean “young people” and Y is “older people”. The job market argument in particular (seriously posed in detail by ‘thinkers’ on the right) would necessarily apply to any population growth whether it was via immigration or increased birth rate. That increased birth rates don’t lead to increased unemployment likewise demonstrates why population increases in general don’t necessarily lead to more unemployment – the job market is not a fixed size and more people in the population means more people who need goods and services.

My fear is that as the world’s population gets older that these inter-generational prejudices will deepen our political divides. Also, while it might appear that the current right appear to have adopted the same political positions as if they were secretly run by an ancient cadre of vampires, I’m not actually trying to suggest that is the case.

13 thoughts on “The Right Fears the Young & the Politics of Immortality

  1. It’s how generations get names, that fear in the workplace. When a generation is young — children — they aren’t discussed that much except to say sometimes that they are spoiled if certain toys become popular, claimed to have short attention spans (they don’t), like weird things (new things,) don’t learn as well as when older people were kids (which patently ignores that children are learning a lot more subjects and info than older people did when they were kids, which is why they can program your electronic devices for you for starters.) They aren’t given a definitive name because they aren’t perceived as a group entity yet. They may get a placeholder name based on previous named generations, like Baby Busters, or Generation Y or Z (the current kid generation,) but think pieces about them are more speculative about what they might become rather than who they are, if they get think pieces at all.

    That begins to change when the bulk of a generational group has entered university and the workforce — when they are in their twenties. At that point, that generation gets a ton of attention from older people and the media run by older people and they are seen primarily as a threat. They are given an official name for their generation in the culture and they are given a derisive nickname for their generation as well. The post-WWII generation became the Baby Boomers and were known derisively as first hippies and then the “Me” Generation. The next generation were eventually christened Generation X and derisively known as the Slacker Generation. The next generation, aged about 17-34 now became known as the Millenials and derisively as the Selfie Generation. Each generation when the bulk of them are in their twenties and in the workforce are seen as competition and threat to older workers, and as such they are culturally dismissed and ridiculed. They are painted as adolescent, as if they were all teenagers. They are declared selfish, self-absorbed, helpless and unskilled, lazy, impatient and demanding, socially isolated, distracted, chaotic, petulant, greedy, over sensitive, spoiled, etc. — in other words, they are portrayed as really bad employees who should definitely not be in leadership positions. And that’s because workers in their twenties are being groomed for management, have fresher skills, and are more flexible and energetic than older employees. They’ll also take less pay or take freelance gigs, all of this making them more attractive to employers.

    Additionally, the younger generation in their twenties is on average more liberal and tolerant in their cultural outlook, having been raised in a more liberal culture than their predecessors. They do not see and accept the same culturally applied divisions as older workers and the automatic advantages given to groups therein. They demand more equality and opportunity and because they are young, they don’t follow old respect protocols and are less scared by threats. They don’t go along with “how things are” or that they should like old things when they find them problematic. Whereas older generations grow more conservative as they age, acquire stuff and become less eager to change. They view younger people not only as a threat to their jobs but also to their prominence and power in the society, forcing cultural change they don’t always try to understand and making them irrelevant. So they often use the power they do have to try to make it harder for the younger generation to advance and try to impoverish them to make them easier to control — even when older people are liberals themselves.

    The alt right has a lot of young people, but it’s being run by old groups from the 1960’s and 1970’s who supply the alt right with the same old rhetoric but let the younger folk make up their own new buzz words. They view advancements towards equality as threats. They present things only in authoritarian terms of one group rules and the rest follow, so those pushing for equality and opportunity are simply in their eyes trying to become the ruling group, and they have to be discredited, threatened and controlled. Since younger people are abandoning religious faiths, are more globally able to communicate, and less controllable through governments on average, they now go to where the young people are to try and recruit them — schools, games, pop culture, musical fandoms, etc. They look for the unhappy and disgruntled and tell them that these people over here are jealous of you and trying to steal your power and ruin the world. It’s an old message but it works, especially when sometimes they can make money off of it too. It gives a lot of people a sense of belonging and security in a world they fear will not want them any more if it further changes. They don’t actually have to believe any of the beliefs and “values” that they are professing that stringently as long as they are working to block the people who they regard as threats to having power in the culture.

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    1. I think we’re at the beginning of the death of traditional office culture in the west. A growing group of ~Millenials are cottoning on to the fact that they don’t need to be sat in an office in their terrible home countries in order to make money. More and more of us are taking up freelancing via services like Upwork, starting our own businesses online or simply berating bosses into allowing them to work their traditional office job remotely.

      I’m writing this from a cafe in Thailand, by the way.

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      1. I have my own business as a consultant. Theoretically I’m a freelancer but I’ve been working specifically with a very small handful of clients consistently for the last three years. They don’t mind that I travel, as they also travel (and one of them is responsible for helping me get set up like this.)

        I have some US friends who were able to take their job remote, but admittedly this is a very small minority (one of them was also told to come back or lose his job; he lost his job and began freelancing online). I also know someone who contracts for a large US company and is able to work remotely (but he’s British). A large number of my US friends typically go the freelance route as copywriters, designers, developers of some sort. It’s still not hugely popular in the UK either, but I do have one British friend who was able to get her boss to allow her to work remotely.

        It’s a matter of time before this sort of thing becomes more prevalent. It might not be to the extent that I’ve been able to take it but I think we’re going to see, in the next few years, more people able to work from cafes or co-working spaces, provided they have decent internet access. There’s very little reason to chain people to an office environment and my generation (and the one hot on my trail) are starting to be much less accepting of this idea, given how interconnected we are now, with the internet.

        There was an amazing episode of a podcast (it was either Reply All, IRL or .future) about a guy who got leave to do something (work or uni lectures/meetings? I can’t fully remember the details as it was a few months ago now) remotely from home. But they were lax in specifying where he and they thought his home was, so he moved to India and did it from there.

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      2. Well there are upsides and downsides to that for the first world countries. The big one in the U.S. is the healthcare situation. Even with the constantly attacked ACA in place, the privatized insurance situation makes freelancing careers less workable and desirable for a lot of Americans, plus even when you have better nationalized government healthcare like in Canada or the U.K., there are supplemental medical costs that are covered by private employer insurance usually and that becomes a problem for freelancers. Then there’s the student debt situation, again at its worst in the U.S. but creeping up in some other countries. That greatly affects the ability of young people to start their own businesses and get loans to start businesses.

        And then there’s the fact that global corporations and others are exploiting millenials through the gig economy model — pay peanuts for piecemeal work with no benefits as free-lancers and that being cheaper than actually hiring people and paying a decent wage, exploiting freelancers for freebies for “exposure,” forcing paid employees to work longer hours with no reimbursement to keep their jobs, forcing millenials to go with unpaid internships in hopes of a job which then selects wealthier white folk with families who can support them for the most desirable jobs, etc. And there are millenials who move to countries like Thailand or India not because they want to, but because it’s cheaper than trying to remain in their home countries. That’s not necessarily creating a workable new economy, although not trapping everybody in an office is better environmentally for the planet.

        I do believe telecommuting and all sorts of related stuff will become more standard with the two youngest generations, but it won’t always be benefiting most of them. And because so many politicians in power are acting on orders to try to impoverish and control the younger workforce and destroy their educational opportunities in a return to Malthusian feudalism completely out of step with technology, I’m not sure how long it will take. 9 To 5, the comedy movie made back in 1980, came on the t.v. recently and in it the ladies after kidnapping and tying up their boss implement flexible hours, job sharing, on site daycare, and working from home for the office employees — all of which increase productivity. That was 37 years ago and we’re still trying to get those things in a majority of workplaces. So I hope that you are right and that the shift occurs quickly with your generation, but it might sadly be slower than that, especially if migration due to global warming continues to get a chaotic, violent response.

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      3. I’m perhaps being naively optimistic on many things about this life. I know that the extreme that I’m taking it to isn’t for everyone (I spend maximum 3 months in a country at a time, but I do use Thailand as a “base” in Asia so I’m here often) and while yes, there are people who move here because it’s cheap and easy, there are also a growing number of fairly successful people moving here because it’s convenient and surprisingly well developed for our needs. Plus the weather for 2/3s of the year kicks the crap out of UK weather 🙂 and we can always leave for any season we’re not too fond of and go somewhere that suits us better at that time.

        And yes, even if companies start allowing remote work (even locally from cafes) they will find a way to maximise their own benefit, even at the cost of minimising the employee benefit from it, but I think overall just giving people the extra options will be a step in the right direction. I hope, dearly hope, that I’m right about this.

        I found that insurance was less of a barrier than I thought it would be – as a Brit I’ve only ever had NHI before, but I now pay for World Nomads which covers medical costs incurred through illness, accident and, in my case, I pay a little extra to cover myself for rock climbing injuries. It doesn’t seem too expensive (I buy it in two month chunks normally for ~£150ish I believe) Haven’t had to use it yet, and touch wood I won’t have to.

        Freelancers being screwed – yep, that happens. I had a friend come to me in tears when she’d finished a job for someone, sent them the final designs and they then refused to pay. This is, partly, her fault for a) sending the finished work and b) not putting some kind of contract in place between them, but yes, unscrupulous practices abound and you have to be careful and cautious 😦

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        1. Note that any possibilities only apply to people who have the ability to perform jobs through computer and internet access. This is pretty much an impossible dream for anyone who works in a job which requires on-site work, transportation, or customer-facing interaction — which is the overwhelmingly vast majority of jobs.

          People who don’t have either the aptitude, or the opportunity for education, for computer-based work are out of luck.

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  2. “These kids today” is a complaint that goes back at least to the ancient Greeks, and probably as far back as humankind (“Why do These Kids Today want to leave Beringaria? We have plenty of mammoths, why go into that new land to the east and south?” “Why do These Kids Today want to leave the Rift Valley? Why go north where there might not be giraffes? This “Europe” and “Asia”, they’ll regret it. Full of people who aren’t even Our Kind! Would you want your daughter to marry a Neanderthal?”).

    There may be young’uns in the alt-right, but they’re taking marching orders from the old guys who gave us Jim Crow, the John Birch Society, the “Moral” “Majority” et al. Heck, they’re doing the Nazi thing, which is so 70-90 years ago. (insert Buscemi and “fellow kids” GIF here). And some of them are too young and sheltered to realize the manipulation. Keep ’em uneducated and in their little segregated boxes and the old farts have cannon fodder and figureheads to take on the younger, more free-thinking, scary scary women, liberals, LGBTQI, PoC. Plus literal cannon fodder vs. brown people.

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    1. And part of the problem is that we’ve really got more of a third generation thing going on here. (This is focusing on U.S. politics, which I know a lot better than European politics.)

      Jim Crow and the John Birch Society were more from the 1960s/1970s; the Nixon era, and the era of the Southern Strategy and the various dog whistles associated with that. (Well, the John Birch Society started in 1958 or so.) They both became ‘we don’t talk about this in polite company’ sort of things and got driven partly underground, even though they were obviously still going on.

      The Moral Majority was more of a 1980s Reagan era thing, even if it grew out of some of what Billy Graham had been doing previously. Slightly different set of dog whistles, focusing more on the persecution of the previous generation being pushed underground and not allowed to speak about what they really thought. Like the previous generation, though, it was mostly being exploited by a prior generation of people who knew it was a con trying to whip up the new generation of people who didn’t know it was a con. Hence things like never actually overturning Roe v. Wade, because that would lose them a lever which they could use to whip up voters.

      With the current generation of alt-right folks, a lot of the ‘older’ folks running it are from the previous generation of folks who didn’t know it was a con. This is part of what gave us the Tea Party and the ‘Freedom Caucus’: the people who grew up entirely on manipulative rhetoric and constant disappointment in their leaders not actually doing what they promised to do are now the ones running for and in office, and they plan on doing those things that were previously promised insincerely because they don’t know why those things are a bad idea. This is the bad side of activism: the passion and intensity of youth combined with an entirely wrong-headed worldview.

      The bubbles formed and hardened underground have risen to the surface, releasing their poisonous miasma into the air.

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