Faith Hill for The Atlantic examines how personality changes with age in ways that raise my hackles a bit.
Granted, old-age personality changes don’t always result from a sense of helplessness or an endlessly shrinking life. Research has shown that when people get older, they commonly recalibrate their goals; though they might be doing less, they tend to prioritize what they find meaningful and really appreciate it. A decline in openness to experience, then, could reflect someone relishing their routine rather than seeking new thrills; a decline in extroversion could indicate that they’re satisfied spending time with the people they already love. That may involve adjusting to what they can’t control, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re reacting to a bad life—just a different one.
Unsurprisingly, I can’t read something like this and wonder why we can’t afford autistic people of any age the same courtesy shown here by an assumption that we might be defining our lives according to preference and circumstance, rather than pathologizing our similar behavior.
It brings to mind something I was looking for a way to mention: Talos’ apparent grand plan as told to his daughter in this week’s episode of Secret Invasion: to continue looking like humans. “Keep contributing," he says, "show them our hearts.”
This is a plan that depends entirely upon continuing to mask to as not to disturb or annoy other, more normative people in the hopes that maybe someday Skrulls will be allowed to be themselves. What’s more, it suggests that we must normatively “contribute” in order to be seen as having dignity and worth. This is absurd, and I hope at some point this pretty terrible show outs this as bullshit.
Nathan Gardels for Noema heads into the weeds of “post-anthropocene humanism” and I just wanted to pull out this about Jacques Ellul who’s appeared here before through L.M. Sacasas’ newsletter.
Back in the middle of the 20th century, prominent thinkers already worried that human autonomy would get the short end of the stick. In his 1954 book, “The Technological Society,” the French theologian and sociologist Jacques Ellul focused his critique not on any given technology, but on “technique” itself, which he defined as “ordered efficiency” — any complex of standardized means for realizing a predetermined outcome aimed at achieving “the one best result.” For Ellul, “all-embracing technique is, in fact, the consciousness of the mechanized world.” The programmed monopolization of possibilities disables human agency by robbing it of any alternative competency.
Back to Faith Hill:
At the same time, not all of the changes that come with old age are inevitable. And if older adults had more support from their communities and society, perhaps they’d be better able to command their circumstances—rather than having to compensate for factors slipping out of their grasp.
There’s a stereotype that older people are grumpy shut-ins—withering away inside while yelling at some kid to get off their lawn. That judgment is obviously sweeping and unfair, but perhaps it’s also emerged, in part, from some real tendencies—tendencies that might be better understood as justified reactions to a harsh and inaccessible world.
Senior citizens, autistics, and (sure) Skrulls all have one thing in common: normative society disables and others us—but per Gardels on Ellul, the reality is that we are all disabled and the only answer is solidarity.