Is It Doom Scrolling – or is it just Doom?

Starting to get that queasy feeling again, not for myself or for Erik, but for the younger generation. I’m pretty sure we’re just like those mouse communities in NIMH experiments that only managed to survive about a year. Huh, you ask? OK, here’s a link to the article, so if you want to read it you can. But I’m going to tell you what it says anyway, so knock yourself out.

There are now lots of ‘meta’ articles about John B Calhoun’s Experiments in Universe 25, as it came to be known. At first, it was the effects of overpopulation when Paul Ehrlich and his ilk were giving us Malthusian doom scenarios. That lasted about twenty years – until we started to understand how oversimplified the notion of the ‘population bomb’ was. Now it’s concluded that ‘excessive social interaction’ caused the mice to die out. Gee: doesn’t that make you feel calmer? Right.

Calhoun put a bunch of mice in a uptopian setting where all their needs were met and there were no predators. Things went along quite well – for a while. But soon there was ‘trouble in River City’. Fewer babies were born and mothers stopped tending to those that were. Was it urban decay? That never made sense to me. My sense was that ennui set in. Is that all there is? Is this as good as it gets? Do I even have a future in this place?

That’s what life around me feels like for young people. They can’t afford to buy a house. They can’t get ahead because rent, food and child care eats up all their money. So Emily’s generation sees that and says, “nah – no marriage or kids for me. I’m livin’ for just me.”

And that’s what happened to the mice. The stronger mice made the weaker ones congregate but not engage in reproductive activities. The females got confused and stopped caring for the few young that were left. Goodbye utopian citizens.

Now back to today. Let’s blame the media for telling us all about the evils that beset us. So if they don’t, will those evils go away? China has stopped publishing the percentage of 18-24 year olds that are unemployed. Will that find them jobs? You know the answer to that.

My adorable Adam Tooze has jumped into the discussion, comparing two theories proposed about China’s woes. One is that harsh government is the root evil. The other is that China has effectively fallen into the middle income trap. What is that? We’ve talked about it before, but it’s been a while. So here it is again. Per Wikipedia, “a country in the middle-income trap has lost its competitive edge in the export of manufactured goods due to rising wages, but is unable to keep up with more developed economies in the¬†high-value-added¬†market.” (blue font theirs). But sociologists add an extra point: income disparity contributes to the problem with the wealthy wanting the struggling lower classes – i.e. workers – to keep toiling away to keep them in their expensive cars and good schools for their kids.

I was watching a documentary called Ascension on this very topic last night. I had to stop watching it, as I wasn’t sure whose life was worse in China: the workers doing repetitive, mind numbing work, or the children of the wealthy staring at their video screens while cigarette ash falls on their chests. Terrifying – yet familiar.

OK, so now you’re doom scrolling by reading this post. You might ask, “What’s your point? Or maybe more importantly, “How do we fix this?”

That gets at the conversation we had with Robin and Colter on Saturday relative to housing. They can’t afford to buy a house in Palm Beach County. They could build a tiny house, but we’re talking 400 square feet. The County will let us build what they call a accessory dwelling unit (ADU) up to 1,000 square feet. But it has to only have one bedroom. That wouldn’t work. In addition, they wouldn’t own the land: the owner of the land has to own the unit. So the only way it would work for them is for Erik and me to die and Robin inherits the house. But what about the other two kids? That’s when we all get stuck.

The solution to this particular problem is to sell this house, move closer to Erik & Tiffany in Maryland and give money to Robin & Colter to help them buy a house. To do anything else is wrong. We are helping Kirsten at the moment, and Erik is pretty much set. It’s time to move on. We’ll let Kiernan finish fifth grade at Allamanda, then everybody moves north. Maryland has a lot of advantages. Erik the Younger thinks Colter can find a job up there that pays as well if not better than Pratt. That’s worth exploring. Housing is possible there. We just need to decide to do it.

Does that help the youth in China? No, but hey: they’ll have to figure out the solution to their own problems. No more doom scrolling, OK?

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