Tuesday, October 5, 2011
I want to talk about something that was alluded to in conversation today.
“Our country is going to hell in a handbasket.”
“Kids today just don’t understand.”
People like to say this about America generally, or about generations succeeding them all the time and I think it’s bullcrap. The sentiment is pervasive, and no one is calling anyone out on it. Were there aspects of life better “back then?” Absolutely. Are there aspects of life that are better now? Absolutely. Which is better, then or now? Which generation is better? It’s hard to tell, people. I’m just tired of the rhetoric that says that clearly things used to be better. At best, it’s a tossup.
Now, look, I’m a lover of history, and I can wax nostalgic about anything, I understand the urge. For instance, I went to high school in the era before grinding was invented. At some point in the late ’90s-early ’00s, pelvises that were slowly moving closer together finally met and started rubbing. The first people that it happened to looked around, because it had embarrassingly happened before, and were shocked to see that no one was shaming them, so they kept them there and grinding was invented. Soon, everyone was like, “Wait? What? We can vertically have sex with our clothes on while dancing to a man rapping about thug life? Come on everybody!”
I wouldn’t recognize a high school dance now in that regard. I was scared to touch any part of my body to any part of a girl’s body. I don’t understand the grinding epidemic, I just don’t get it. I had dance moves, lots of them, in fact, I still have them. My dance moves require me to not be tethered to a female’s pelvis and/or butt, they are too elaborate.
It’s true, things were different in my day in that respect. I would even say that it was better. I stop short of that example informing me too much of my opinion of things overall though. It’s hard to touch what the Greatest Generation went through, really, I mean the Great Depression, WWII, unparalleled prosperity, we can’t compete with that. If you’ve gone through something that has a name, you know it was a big deal. However, the Greatest Generation in their prime also had systemic racism, violent puppet governments in Central America, a complete disregard for the environment, a restrictive view of what women could do, and Communist witch hunts. Overall, the Greatest Generation comes out a big winner in my book, but like the hot girl in high school, there are still plenty of blemishes. Would I want to go back to their heyday? Sure, but I am a white, Protestant, non-Commie, male.
I’m kind of between official generations. I was born in 1978, on the edge of Generation X and Generation Y. One thing that I can point to in positively comparing the now to the past, is the concern for the poor across the world shared by younger people. People want to talk about morals decaying, and it’s hard to argue with the changing standards for acceptable debauchery on TV, but first remember, you gave us TV. Secondly, most debauchery occurs on reality TV, and everyone thinks reality TV sucks, it’s not real, and all generations secretly watch it. Anyway, back to my original point. People in the past, particularly young people, cared far less about starving and diseased people in third world countries. Now? Tons of money is sent overseas in the form of aid, and tons of individuals make their way over to help out in sweat and tears. So, morality is growing in some regards and decaying in others. If I had to choose morality that helps poor people or morality that says what words can be said on TV, I think the one that helps poor people is more important.
Also, secondarily in regards to morality, which is better? The married guy who is secretly having sexual escapades, as in the past, or the married guy who is overtly having sexual escapades today? I don’t know, they’re each gross. Let’s give everyone the benefit of the doubt, here, and call morality a tossup.
When people say things were better way back when, I think that “way back when” usually starts with their childhood. That has to be true, because no one can argue that the time before anyone alive today was overall better, or more moral. Want to know why people are going on trips to Africa to help the destitute? Yes, it is because Africa does not have a lot of natural resources, and would ordinarily have a tough time due to that fact. But, it is also because colonization a century plus ago systemically really effed things up, for generations. Plus, even our Founding Fathers had their foibles in the form of various unethical and unmoral actions.
Listen, the Founding Fathers were still great overall, just like the Greatest Generation was great, just like the Baby Boomers were great, just like America was great, just like the myriad of people that lived before were probably great collectively and individually as well. I’m not claiming that they weren’t.
I think the issue is that the older we get the more forgiving we are with the past, and the more judgmental we are toward the present and the future. The past gets the benefit of the doubt, while the present just gets the doubt. In regards to the past we say, “Yeah, there were some bad things, but overall it was good.” In regards to the present we say the opposite, “Yeah, there are some good things, but overall it is bad.”
I suppose that is natural, nostalgia is a strong force. If we were to say things are better now, that would mean things weren’t as good for us in our prime, and no one wants to say that. I am no sociological or anthropological expert, I just know what motivates me when I have the inclinations to say that things have gotten worse. I say resist the urge. Give the benefit of the doubt forward. The babies born now may become the Greatest Greatest Generation.
Let’s just call it a toss up, let’s say that the overall goodness of things are the same as they used to be, it just looks a little different. When I was in high school, after I got home from a dance without grinding, I watched TV until I fell asleep. Today, a guy goes home from a dance where he grinded his little heart out, and gets on the computer to check the status of his micro-lending account to Africa.