The greys are coming! From generation gap to economic turf-war

Paul Raven @ 03-11-2010

Props to George Dvorsky for flagging up this Salon interview with Ted C Fishman, promoting his new book Shock Of Gray, which is all about the recent rapid increases in human longevity, and the knock-on effects of such. Perhaps we’ll finally shake off our geographical differences only to get caught up in an economic tug of war between the elderly and the young:

As baby boomers start to approach the age of 65 in large numbers, do you foresee a civil rights movement for older adults, given that generation’s history of activism?

There might be a civil rights movement, but people won’t recognize it as a civil rights movement. They’ll see it as an economic turf war. When you get the resources of a society, you get the respect. You can see this in Europe right now, where the population is somewhat older than it is here. The debt crisis has really caused a huge and quick reckoning with the crisis in pension funding and hundreds of thousands of people are coming into the street. They made promises to themselves and now they find that they can’t keep those promises. In some ways, they’re battling their past selves.

But they feel like they are fighting a younger generation.

Yeah, I think that’s right. But in the long run the battle will not be for who gets what share of the public financing. It will be a more traditional civil rights issue, which is: Evaluate me on my abilities and my skills, not on my weaknesses. The older population is a hugely diverse one. If the image of an older person is going to be exclusively that of an enabled, sharp, cognitively with-it, older person who can work into their 70s and 80s, then we’re ignoring a huge part of the population that will need our help.

Not exactly a new idea, but one that probably isn’t getting the attention it deserves; longevity is kind of sneaking up on us while we bicker about other matters.

Here’s an idea that’s new, though, or at least it is to me: longevity as an accelerator of globalisation.

You argue that when wealthy nations started to age, that actually sped up globalization.

Right. Aging economies — Japan and Europe and the United States — are shopping the world for youth. The traditional workplace is changing to drive older people out — the cost of healthcare and pensions weighs very heavily on global companies — and places such as China have a population that it could send to the cities unburdened by age and the cost of age. Globalization really is a function of demographic change. When you go into beat-up, industrial towns you can feel it. You can see that older workers who used to be on the factory are now doing minimum-wage work at big-box stores on the edge of town. And then China has factories that contain tens of thousands of workers, without a single soul that’s over 25 years old. And you think, the only important thing about these workers is their youth.

Unspoken but implicit in that statement is longevity-as-driver-of-immigration. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I wonder whether the widespread tensions over immigration levels aren’t just a convenient proxy for concerns about the economics of greying…


Cellphone app could help illegal immigrants

Tom Marcinko @ 04-12-2009

64 sqThis is going to be controversial:

A UC San Diego professor said he has developed a cell phone tool that may help guide illegal immigrants safely across the border.

Similar to the way hungry drivers can find a restaurant through the global positioning system devices in their cars and cell phones, illegal immigrants soon may be able to plot their ways across the treacherous border between the United States and Mexico.

“It shares some aspects of the GPS systems that people have in cars,” said Ricardo Dominguez, a professor of visual arts at UC San Diego. “It locates where you are in relation to where you want to go, what is the best way to get to that point and what you can expect when you reach the endpoint.”

Dominguez, an activist and artist, said the reason for developing the technology, which he calls the Transborder Immigrant Tool, is to keep people safe.

As many as 5,000 people in the last 15 years have died trying to cross the border.

[Story tip: New Times Phoenix blog; image: sixty-four squares, theilr]


NEW FICTION: GLASSFACE by James Trimarco

Paul Raven @ 03-08-2009

This month’s fiction offering here at Futurismic is a little darker than our last story. In “Glassface”, James Trimarco takes the theme of repressive immigration control and weaves in a story of personal redemption.

It’s moody and noir with a bitter-sweet flavour, and I like it a lot – we hope you do, too.

Glassface

by James Trimarco

The sun burns off the last of the yellow morning fog as the crane drops the shipping containers onto the pier. The pavement shudders with the deep boom of metal on asphalt, then the sound bounces off some buildings and hits us again, softer now. Then the hook lifts away and we head over for the usual routine.

Mackenzie hauls open the gate on the first container. Inside, it’s dark as a tomb.

“Okay, bionic boy,” he says. “You see anything?”

The joke hasn’t been funny for a couple months, and I let him know it.

“Uh oh!” he shoots back. “He’s cranky—better check his batteries!” When he laughs it sounds like he’s choking. I crawl into the container just to get away from it. Continue reading “NEW FICTION: GLASSFACE by James Trimarco”


‘Virtual fence’ at Mexican border to grow

Paul Raven @ 12-05-2009

US/Mexico border at TijuanaThe Obama administration is pushing ahead with the expansion of a pilot project launched by the outgoing Bush gang – a ‘virtual border fence’ of cameras, sensors and communications hardware designed to enable a more rapid response to Mexican illegal immigrants from the Border Patrol.

What is different, DHS officials said, is that they have learned lessons from the technical problems that dogged the Bush administration’s first, 28-mile pilot project south of Tucson. What remains unclear is whether the ambitious technology will encounter fresh setbacks that would embarrass President Obama, who has urged Congress to streamline the immigration system and work out a way to deal fairly with the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States, analysts said

[…]

On Monday, U.S. officials began erecting 17 camera and radio towers on a 23-mile stretch near Tucson, and they expect this summer to add 36 others over 30 miles near Ajo, Ariz. If testing goes well and DHS approves, plans call for covering the 320-mile Arizona border by 2012 and the full border with Mexico — except for a 200-mile stretch in southwestern Texas where it is difficult to cross and expensive to monitor — by 2014.

[…]

The government has made many changes since a $20 million pilot rushed off-the-shelf equipment into operation without testing, relied on inadequate police dispatching software and ignored the input of Border Patrol officers, who found that radar systems were triggered by rain, satellite communications were too slow to permit camera operators to track targets by remote control, and cameras had poor visibility.

It remains to be seen how much of an improvement the new systems will be, but the cynic (and science fiction reader) in me doesn’t find it hard to imagine new methodologies being developed by border-jumpers and those who make a living helping them cross, which will quickly render the new hardware inadequate, if not obsolete. That said, it’s a much less crass and weird idea than allowing unpaid volunteers from around the world make a sport out of border surveillance.

The only way to make any border truly impermeable is to remove all incentive for people to cross it; that suggests to me that all the high-tech gadgets and fences in the world won’t stop people trying to immigrate across the Mexican border with the US. All it will achieve is more deaths, more imprisonment of people whose ‘criminal’ motive is to make a better life for themselves and their families, and more hypocrisy from those who deplore the notion of immigrant labour while enjoying the low costs it provides. But hey – why treat the illness when you can rub snake-oil on the symptoms, right? [via SlashDot; image by superfem]


From prison ship to labour camp – interstitial employment, coming to a port near you

Paul Raven @ 23-02-2009

prison-ship labour campThere’s been a labour dispute here in the UK regarding European companies shipping in workers from their native nations rather than hiring locally for UK-based contracts; given the current state of the economy, it’s caused a fair amount of angry words and governmental filibustering on all sides. [image via Financial Times]

Subtopia looks beyond the obvious headlines, however, and examines the former prison-ships being used to house the immigrant workers – partly to keep them safe from angry locals, but perhaps also subliminally as a reminder of their menial economic status:

While UK laborers bark about equal opportunity and contract fairness (and perhaps spew some racist vitriol in the process) there is the greater undercurrent of geo-economic exploitation here bobbing spaces of injustice on the surface. Particularly eerie to me in this picture is the spatial intermixing of incarceration and migrant labor, and how architecturally speaking the surplus of global capital’s industrial bodies are rounded up at sea inside the old remains of an overcrowded penal system, once oceanic jails now filled with a new kind of transient inmate, a new kind of quasi-prison labor force.

The bulk shipping of cheap outsourced labour isn’t nice for the local population, but what the mainstream media here in the UK is skipping over is how desperate the immigrants must be for work that they’ll put up with such deeply unpleasant conditions. This is the nasty underbelly of corporate globalism at work, and I expect we’ll see a lot more of it as the economic power of nation-states declines and the corporations move into their place.


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