I bet you would, although sometimes it is hard to imagine:
A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners is volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station.
The “Skilled Veterans Corps”, as they call themselves, is made up of retired engineers and other professionals, all over the age of sixty.
One of the group, Yasuteru Yamada, told the BBC’s Roland Buerk that they should be facing the dangers of radiation, not the young.
That, to me, sets a rather high bar for patriotism.
Heroism, also too.
To quibble; that’s not patriotism. That is the forgotten ancestor: altruism.
Well it won’t be the keyboard kommados of the 101st Chairborne Division, or any of our Galtian overlords. That’s for damned sure.
Do you really think that would happen here? Really? I say no.
This situation would be remedied by providing every member of the Skilled Veterans Corps with a copy of Atlas Shrugged.
Actually, I can see it happening here. Back when this shit first began, I was talking to a bunch of retired nuke techs (lots live around here as we have had a nuke plant longer than anywhere else in the nation, excepting the experimental ones) about this very sort of thing. Almost to a man, they said they’d volunteer to go in instead of younger people with families.
Not all Americans are assholes. Just seems like that some days.
@Ash Can: And their pay should be offset with cuts to other gov’t programs. /eric cantor
What’s sacrifice for other citizens got to do with patriotism. Patriotism is about flags, being pumped for war and hating DFHs.
Jay in Oregon
Watch your language! We have impressionable young kids in this country…
Just Some Fuckhead
Would never happen here. Instead, old white people would be demanding we send in death row inmates and other prisoners.
I can’t decide whether to be cynical about the U.S. or just admire these guys. I’ll have a double helping, I guess.
@Just Some Fuckhead: Seriously, what the fuck does whiteness have to do with anything? Bigot.
A group of more than 200 Japanese pensioners is volunteering to tackle the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power station.
This is very noble, but it’s not a substitute for competency, which TEPCO seems to be lacking.
I don’t get the question. If the idea is are Americans willing to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, then yeah, we do that all the time, and JSF and CX can fuck off – do they not remember those first responders on 911 digging around through the fire looking for survivors? What about the cops and firemen that are out there right now, or that all volunteer military, or all those doctors and nurses that walk into the room to treat the guy with some crazy disease, etc. Jesus, some of you are pretty insufferable.
The Tim Channel
We’d offer prisoners shortened sentences or Mexicans legal immigrant status for shouldering the burden.
That said, I have this picture in my head of a large group of Japanese senior engineers suiting up in graphite, lead and whatever other radiation absorbing materials they can find and literally flinging themselves on top of the burning reactor core. In a couple months the piles of dead and toasted bodies might be enough to shield the general population from an ongoing nuclear rainstorm.
Excellent! We’re not even at comment #15 and the Highly Offended White Victims are already showing up.
Well, if they all die, that’s 200 retirees off the Medicare rolls. For Cantor (and his ilk) that’s win/win.
@psycholinguist: I think all the pessimistic comments are not so much a reflection on whether there are any everyday heroes in the U.S. (there are, and plenty of them, and I doubt you could find someone here who truly disputes that) as an accurate (if cynical) complaint that the “make someone else do all the dirty work” philosophy is on the rise here.
With the sole exception of military boosterism, the commentary and proposed legislation coming from the right every damn day flatly reject the idea of shared sacrifice or laboring for the common good; complete selfishness is held up as the highest of virtues and no one is ever supposed to be accountable except the vulnerable and disadvantaged. In fact, many of the people you rightly note are heroes are the same public employees currently being vilified by the right as inept leeches who couldn’t make it in the corporate world. I think people can be excused for feeling a little bit skeptical in a conversation like this.
Ha,ha,ha! Right, any of the greediest generation sacrificing for the young?! What a joke – as for the 9-11 responders, what the feffing does that have to do with this thread? Nearly all, if not all, were frontline firemen, police etc that do that stuff for a living not retired people – some in the building where brave too.
As for the retired nuke operators, yes, I think many would want to do that but laws in this country would prevent any chance of them doing that besides few plants have controls/systems that any operator from any other plant could master in any short time frame – so much for standardization.
Just Some Fuckhead
We’re talking about the same folks that were terrified of death panels, right?
Correct me if I’m wrong, but IIRC, most of the work being done here is not in a control environment, but just cleaning up shit and doing grunt work in high-radioactivity environments.
Absolutely not. The elderly in this country are the most selfish, viciously self-serving graspingly greedy people that I have ever met from any nation. Not all of them, of course, but enough of them that I feel pretty comfortable in making the generalization.
You’d be more likely to have a bunch of teenagers show up for the
suicide missionjob then a bunch of over-sixties folks.
@Just Some Fuckhead: Yeah, what you said.
A better analogy might be the people who volunteered after 9/11 to help clean-up the site, although the danger they faced was not as foreseeable as the dangers from clean-up at Fukushima.
Never mind whether their folks are nobler than our folks. This is not a competition. Rather, it is an episode of admiration [or should be].
I’m not sure I would call it patriotism, however. It isn’t motivated by love of the political state that is your country, it is moved by love of the human beings around you.
Be that as it may, this is very admirable. [heart]
Since the effects of radiation are cumulative and can take years to display it makes perfect sense to use people who have fewer years left to do this type of work.
That said, those guys should be admired for their altruism (I know that is a DFH idea that our Randian betters would ridicule). When this type of situation happens here I would expect to see some small percentage of us old guys step up & make the offer. Hell, I might do it myself in the hopes it would shorten the time left that I would have to deal with the randian country they are trying to build.
shortstop – @psycholinguist: I think all the pessimistic comments are not so much a reflection on whether there are any everyday heroes in the U.S. (there are, and plenty of them, and I doubt you could find someone here who truly disputes that) as an accurate (if cynical) complaint that the “make someone else do all the dirty work” philosophy is on the rise here.
@psycholinguist: I didn’t say one word about old people, either in the part you tried to quote or anywhere else. Do you want to/are you able to address anything I did say?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Have you read the comments? This is absolutely a bash the old selfish bastards thread, not from you, but from plenty of others. I wasn’t criticizing you for your comments, my point is that the knee-jerk reaction that “of course old people wouldn’t consider sacrificing themselves for the greater good” says more about the commentator than it does about our senior citizens.
@Just Some Fuckhead:
You guys are approaching ageism here. You can’t tell what a person will do or even thinks about doing by the way they look. Or by their age.
Besides, I’ve known several 30-somethings that would have gleefully used prisoners for human sacrifice. Some of these specimens were white, some were black, and some were brown.
You just can’t tell.
@psycholinguist: There are several comments along those lines. There are also a number of comments, including mine, that look at the problem of pathological selfishness without taking age into consideration. When you made your original comment, we had no references to age (other than JSF’s “old white people” comment) yet happening in this thread. Yet you chose to respond to my comment without addressing any of its content, instead moving the goalposts and raging against people’s ageism.
So far you’re doing a lot of swinging and missing. I’ll ask you again: Do you really think that the notion of self-sacrifice for the greater good is as healthy now in the U.S. as it has been in the past? If not, with what portion of my comments and others’ non-age-specific comments do you take issue?
You didn’t ask me that question but I’m going to throw in my two cents worth anyway.
I actually don’t remember altruism being very prevalent among the majority of folks in the US. Ever. Of any age.
Yes, we have lots of selfish SOBs now but I think that we always did.
Werebear, I was going to make your same point, though I don’t see it as a quibble. Much of what is wrong with the world begins with tribalism, patriotism’s other name.
@psycholinguist: The older white demographic in America shows a consistent statistical tendency to support “I got mine, fuck you” politicians and policies. Given this track record, how could anyone reasonably conclude that their tendency would be to sacrifice themselves for the greater good? Instead, they indicate, over and over, that they’re unwilling to make even as small a sacrifice as, say, a few dollars a year in tax revenue for the greater good. How much less likely would it be to see them respond as generously as their Japanese counterparts did? Facts are facts. And I say this as an older white myself.
Wow. Heroes, indeed. Fucking paladins.
@Linda Featheringill: Okay, fair enough. But do you think that this many people used to openly celebrate selfishness rather than ducking being labeled as selfish? Do you think the idea of selfishness and “not my brother’s keeper” as a virtue was as prevalent previously as it is now? As current public dialogue and political action from the right indicate that it is?
@Shortstop: The post is about old people in Japan sacrificing for the greater good of the country. If I interpret people’s posts saying that “it” wouldn’t happen here as referring to our old people, even if age isn’t mentioned in the post, I think that’s a reasonable assumption of ellipsis from mutual knowledge – cause that’s the topic of the post.
As to your larger point about about self-sacrifice being on the decline – I don’t know, its a good question, but it seems an empirical one. What metrics are you using to support your assertion? What made me angry was the offhand way posters seemed to single out our older people as being especially prone to eschew sacrifice for the greater good. Do you honestly not get that tone from many of the posts on this page?
Oh, you’re quite right. Selfishness [and worse] is being blatantly bandied about nowadays. Folks did indeed try to hide some of their selfishness in earlier times.
And we as observers are probably more shocked by this when the offenders are older. We expect older people to be wiser, kinder, and more tolerant. It goes against our pre-written script when so many older people behave like freaking jerks. We are shocked and dismayed.
Sure, but the topic broadened from the very first comments to be a more general comment on Americans and self-sacrifice — as you yourself made when you used almost exclusively younger, pre-retirement people (all-volunteer military, first responders, cops, firefighters, healthcare providers, etc.) as your examples of selfless Yanks.
I don’t have a problem with you having a problem with ageism. I’m not wild about it myself, even though Ash Can has correctly pointed out that there is recent, measurable support for the idea that, at the ballot box at least, our oldest citizens tend to be very protective of their own age demographic’s interests and less devoted to ensuring the universal well-being of younger people. But you’re all over the map here, and you settled on your outrage at age-related prejudice only after your initial rant supporting the general altruism of Americans.
@ shortstop: Ash Can made an assertion, he or she didn’t actually provide any evidence of that assertion.
I really want to know if old people, or Americans in general, have become more selfish over time. Do you have any data on that? I would think something like charitable giving, volunteer hours, etc. might support the point. And just what is your point? That we’re becoming a more selfish society, or that we’re more willing to take pride in it? I would support the second point, but I don’t really know about the first one.
She made a supportable (and already widely supported in election demographics) point related to older people’s voting patterns, which is also the area to which I limited my own observations about older people (note my phrase “at the ballot box at least”–for a linguist, you rather surprisingly spend this entire thread demonstrating a rank inability to differentiate among meanings of words).
Did you sleep through the healthcare “debate”? Are you really unaware of measurable recent voting patterns among older white citizens or unable to find this information? Is it your assertion that voting patterns are wholly unrelated to personal values?
My point–which has remained the same from the beginning, could you stop flailing long enough to read instead of randomly bitch–is that the quality and frequency of public dialogue and political activity on this topic indicate an increasing willingness to accept selfishness as a virtue and devalue and derogate individual self-sacrifice that benefits others. I think the metrics of media mentions and legislative activity support this, but if you doubt this, I hope you’ll be as willing to concede that your original point about first responders, cops, etc. is at least as reliant on anecdote/casual observation as the arguments you’re criticizing. Otherwise, we might have to assume that you’re just complaining for the sake of complaining. ;)
I think that this country has propaganized extreme individualism for as long as we have will discover that altruism is harder to find than it should be — but that there are still plenty of people like those in the “Skilled Veterans Corps” here in the U.S.. Dirty old hippies might be good for something after all.
I don’t think the members of the “Skilled Veterans Corps” will have medical benefits denied them in Japan as 9/11 first responders in the U.S. did here. 9/11’rs were dieing of cancer with no hope and no healthcare until Jon Stewart invited a group of cancer ridden first responders onto his show and shamed congress into passing a law. Altruism works best when there is a sense of shared community — that your sacrifice will be honored. Having right-wing ghouls denying medical care to save a few bucks after your sacrifice is not a way to build community.
And finally, my guess is that there are no executives or retired executives from TEPCO included in the 200 volunteers. Fifty years ago you would have seen a few suicides at the top of the executive chain for something like this nuclear tragedy, but not anymore. The top boys have gotten even better at denial than our own economy crashers. It seems we taught them more than how to make cars.
@Shortstop: Okay then, I think we do agree – it is more acceptable to publicly profess the attitude “fuck you, I’ve got mine” than it used to be.
But I would disagree that that fact means that Americans have actually become a more selfish society. We volunteered at a rate of around 27% last year. About the same as in 2002, when we started collecting those statistics. I would bet that that number has been pretty stable across time. In other words, I’m still asking if you actually have any measurable evidence that we are somehow worse than we used to be, or are any different than say, Japan? And yes, I do enjoy complaining.
@cathyx: I say you’re wrong. I’d do it.
@shortstop: The Grown Ups, the right, are leeches on the body politic. Where are the Theodore Roosevelts?
I’m going to refute you a bit here. Voting patterns as they relate to personal values are as much snapshots of when your political affiliation became fixed as it is of the current environment. This started anecdotally, but I’ve talked to a lot more people that are in their 60s that are all saying the same thing – they associate Democrats with the Democratic control of Congress through the 60s and 70s, and Carter. That generation sees Democrats not as having bad policies, but as being incompetent. They saw Reagan as restoring competence to government, and that’s why they’re Republicans, and that’s why Carter and Reagan have become the ying and yang and politics to those on the right. Everything since then is background noise. They chose their side in their 20s and 30s and they’re sticking with it to the end, and there’s more than enough material out there in The Weekly Standard and the WaPo oped panel to convince them that they chose wisely.
I had the scales knocked from my eyes during the holidays at a party of sixty somethins — all of who were supposedly progressives and a couple were from Canada. Much to my chagrin, many — I would say the majority of this small 15 person group were unsympathetic to welfare, Medicaid or paying taxes for schools. They saw holding onto their wealth as their right, and could not see how the society had held them up to get what they have.
I think that there is just no way to know the actual prevalence of these types of people and how many would adhere to the selfishness strategy no matter what. Selfishness is contagious, but so is altruism and kindness.
We have been living through some harsh, self centered times and it allowed many to unleash their inner demons without any second thought. This was given credibility throughout the media and in all our reality show entertainment which glorified selfish meanness. I do think, however, that this can be changed and part of what the republicans are fearful of is exactly that. They don’t want us “relearning” or re-adopting the value of shared sacrifice, kindness and altruism.
Lets not get too crazy. While there is evidence of senior selfishness, I don’t think that its any worse than for any other group. We should focus on building the positive and supportive tone and culture again. I know its there in all of us….we have just been in bad times.
Yes, there is. Voting patterns among older folk, rejections of school-funding measures across demographic groups, polling. There are a lot of ways to measure such values.
Ok. So, it can be measured through polls, voting, etc.
Now what? We just hate on ’em?
There is no positive leverage on the negative, my friend. Only on building to the positive. I still insist that all this that you “know” about the seniors or any other group, is not written in stone or unidimensional. Who would have thought that this country would elect a black US President ten years ago? Would you have thought that? I sure would not have predicted it…
Its not simple. And its not all negative. Lets not stop ourselves with pointless cynicism
I think this is truly admirable. Surprisingly, I do think there are plenty of people in the U.S. who would volunteer, young and old. We just don’t hear about them in the news because it’s not controversial and/or exciting.
Anne Laurie has a post up thread about the boomers. About a good reason that 55 is a solid breaking point in the age wars. (Which by the way have been going on for probably all time) The country changed in the 70’s when the 55 crowd would be coming of age. Those of us older who have watched have seen it slowly change. Those younger never really saw it any other way. A lot of us old farts who were workers, who tried to save or had pensions/401ks are now or about to be living on SS. Some of us see our generation as the evil assholes who have fucked up the concepts that this country was supposed to be founded on, just like the younger generations and we are pissed too. So I’m not all that upset that the younger generations are pissed, and mad at the old farts, many of us deserve it.
But not all of us.
It has little to do with the elderly of this generation, but rather too very distinct views of sacrifice between Japanese and American culture. In Japan, youth is venerated and fetishized, something pure to be protected and something worthwhile to be captured. The elderly sacrificing for the young makes sense as much as it is an act of heroism, altruism, above and beyond any reasonable expectation.
American culture on the other hand has this vibe of the young sacrificing for the old. Let’s all take care of grandma, let’s all keep family secrets for grandpa, let’s all stay in the closet for grandma.
Worse yet, we’ve built up a rather bad tendency of age war in this country where it seems that the old generation (whoever they happen to be at the time) is at war with the young generation by virtue of the larger amount of conservative values and vain attempts to capture a fictional time when minority groups knew their place.
This is of course, not the same as every old person, but rather the tendency by demographics.
Plus, sacrifice, heroism, and altruism is seen as a youth thing, something “good people” “outgrow” once they “get out of the hippie phase”.
So, we get this culture where if something bad happens, the young stream out of the woodwork to sacrifice and help. It happened at 9/11, it happened in Katrina, it happens every time we send young men to die for bullshit and lies.
It is expected that the young in this country will pay that price.
Add into that, the yes, growing IGMFY culture that deliberately advertises itself to older people, and well, yes, it becomes hard to imagine that happening here. We don’t value the young enough, we don’t expect civic engagement from the old, we expect it from the young, and the young are historically more connected to the activity of sacrifice, investment, and volunteerism for these causes.
This is not to bash all old people, but rather following the historical tendencies.
Will there be awesome old people? Hell, yeah, just check out Phyllis Ayn Lyon among others.
And is this a particular problem among the boomers? Hell no, history seems to suggest that Gen X and Y will be just as bad as the elderly and certainly the Greatest Generation and before has had its share of bad behavior in reinforcing this tendency.
It’s a problem of the rightward shift that comes with age and how that plays out in America.
Nobody watched the video? The reporter’s question @ 1:50 was just great…
Cerebus is correct to point to fundamental difference in culture but has it backwards. Although current demographics and career blockage have altered this historic notion somewhat. It’s familiar throughout Japanese culture and history.