Editor’s note: This submission for AWR explores new and thought-provoking ideas about society and the way it is structured. It toes the line between innovation and delusion which is exactly what we look for here at AWR.
A model for a better society
The society we live in today is a stratified one, whether we like it or not. Our society is defined by racial, religious and class divisions. These divisions are blurred and are not impenetrable, yet they do exist. Terms like ‘people like us’ and ‘the other half’ are not figments of your imagination, nor are they terms from a bygone era. These are real-life phrases which capture real-life social divisions. The question is, are social divisions a natural and inevitable occurrence in human society? History would suggest they are. The only societies that have ever worked without divisions are fabled micro-societies in China which could just as easily be a product of communist propaganda. No, divisions are necessary but that doesn’t mean they need to be evil or discriminatory. This essay is going to outline a proposal for a society based entirely on divisions but which would seem the most logical and natural option.
The society proposed by this essay is one based completely and utterly on age, and more specifically, generational groups. It will be argued that the most rational, hierarchical divisions a society can form are those based on age. For example, ‘respect your elders’ is one of the most universal of the universal truths. Societies across the world have a deep respect for their elders; whether it is vacating a seat for the elderly on a bus or giving the elderly unelected positions of influence in the community. This essay will outline how a society like this would work, touching on the criminal justice system, the economy, the social sphere and various other related topics. Moreover, this essay will constantly compare an age-based society to our current society to show that it truly is a better option.
Firstly, the structure. I hate the imperial system, it is stupid and nonsensical. I don’t really use it for anything so I can somewhat ignore it’s existence most of the time. However, it appears to have a verbal monopoly on the descriptions of someone’s height, even I am unable to divorce myself from the use of feet and inches to determine height. Anyway, a system which escalates in multiples of 10 is far more sensible than the imperial system. Indeed, it is the system outlined in this essay for an age-based society – groups of 10. The first age group one operates within would be the 0-10 age group. This group does not need much explaining because in an age-based society and in our current society their role, rights and responsibilities would be much the same. Similarly, with the 11-20 age group, this group would be charged with completing their education or training but would not have the ability to work full-time.
Next, we have the 21-30 age group, broadly speaking, when one is in this age group you are expected to work a certain number of hours each week in the services industry. Within the services industry, there are a huge number of options available to these members of society. Their freedom comes from being able to choose which of these they would like to do.
The 31-40 age group would be the professionals, these people are expected to work a certain number of hours in professional services such as auditing, tax, recruitment, banking etc. It must be said that not all people will be suited to these jobs and in this case, there are further options available, this system is not meticulously applied. Furthermore, in this ideal society, it is in this age group when adults are expected and encouraged to have children. Tax breaks and benefits will be offered to those who have children in this age group, particularly for those who have them early on in this bracket as this would decrease the likelihood of physical illness in the child.
The 41-50 bracket would see the roles and duties begin to wind down and members of society beginning to focus on family or other extra-curricular activities. Indeed, for those members who have children in the 31-40 bracket this period in life would serve as the formative years for their children and so increased parental presence would be beneficial.
The 51-60 bracket would see a further winding down of responsibilities. 51-60-year-olds would be expected to work a certain small number of hours a week and would have a wider choice in what work they wanted to do than other age brackets, depending on their qualifications.
As we get closer to the older age brackets the roles and responsibilities of each group must be adapted to suit the economy. It should be the driving motivation of society to lessen the burden of work on the older generations. This is a vitally important aspect of this age-based society. Although divided, the society works together in the pursuit of less work for the older generations.
It is vitally important for this essay to explain that this system is not rigid and is manoeuvrable through certain achievements. For example, if a talented writer aged 22 were to decide that his hours in the services industry were getting in the way of his creative passions then he would be able to appeal to the state for an adjustment in his age group. The state then would give the writer a chance to prove his abilities and justify his adjustment, should he produce a piece of art that impresses on a yet to be decided, arbitrary scale then he has succeeded on changing his age group so that he can focus on more creative endeavours. Should he cease to make more art then he would go back to his born age group. This way, society rewards individual exceptionalism.
Furthermore, each bracket could manage its own internal affairs to a certain degree. For example, the 21-30 age group could decide, through political discussion, that they would be in favour of further internal stratification based on other discussed and debated factors. They may have decided that those who performed exceptionally well in the 11-20 age group are allowed the first choice of service industry jobs but also that those who begin to perform well in the 21-30 group are able to attain the first choice later. This situation, this text argues, would lead to an increased engagement in politics from all brackets of society. A drastic improvement of the situation that exists today.
The true beauty of the age-based system is the novel ways in which one could punish petty criminals. Those who steal and cheat and repeatedly abuse social norms could be punished by a reduction in their age bracket. Using the example of the 21-30-year-olds (as indeed this can prove the most unruly bunch), a thief could be punished by being returned to the rights and responsibilities of an 11-20-year-old. Imagine the embarrassment of being forced to complete training with those much younger than you. Moreover, those in the 11-20 bracket who come into contact with a thief who has had his bracket reduced would learn a valuable lesson for the future. This essay would argue that this form of criminal punishment would be more conducive to rehabilitation than throwing them in prison with other criminals.
The problem with creating a new system of social structure is that it inevitably will lead to anger and resentment from large chunks of society who perceive themselves to have lost out. The application of this system, this essay would argue, would not cause as much destruction as many other utopian visions. Indeed, it could be fed into the public consciousness slowly but surely until it was as natural as giving birth.
Finally, the age-based society, this essay argues, would provide a solution to many of the mental issues suffered by young people today. Upon finishing university, young people are thrust into a society and a world where there appears to be an infinite number of jobs available. There appears to be a job for every possible thing you can think of and we stay up late at night marvelling at how amazing it would be to work as an investigator at the BBC. However, when young people leave they realise that the options available to them are far more restricted and the entry to some of the wacky jobs around the world are less than clear. Young people, it would seem, would benefit from a little bit of structure.
The age-based society is a work-in-progress and requires constructive and destructive criticism if it is to improve as a new model for society. However, from the arguments presented here, this essay hopes that it is clear to some that there are answers to many of society’s problems in an age-based system.
Written by Sean Daniels