of Hope

October 31, 2011

Rougher than I like but it made for decent toilet paper.

I wish I’d asked my Grandmother, before she passed…well…alot of things, actually, but in particular, if she felt that, during the 40’s and 50’s, we, as a Nation, were worse off than when she was a child.
I’m sure she might have told me that life had become more complicated, harried and that things were just simpler for her as a small girl.
Of course, much of that impression might be attributed to her having become an adult. One with the pressures and responsibilities that generally come with adulthood. Back then.
I don’t think, were she pressed (at your peril), she would have said that the Country was a less attractive idea, a perceptibly failing experiment. I don’t think she would have thought that, during the 40’s and 50’s, we were less morally grounded or even civil, for that matter, then when she was reared.
Now…ask yourself the same question.
I ask, because recently I was in line at an airport behind a Father and his two Children and they were both shockingly beautiful kids. Most noticeably, was that they both, boy and girl, had the longest eyelashes I think I’ve ever seen. So long, that I recall thinking they must brush the lenses of any eyewear.
My first instinct was to comment to the Father, “Such beauties, these two!”. Already smiling in greeting and raising my hand, minutely, to point to them as I did so…then, letting it drop, my smile faded and I looking away, as the second instinct took hold.
The one that told me Dad would think me a predator, were I to remark, in any way, on his Children.
It at first disturbed me, then saddened me, then, made me angry. Because I would have felt the same, were they my kids and a strange Man had even noticed them. much less thought to make comment upon it.
I can’t help but wonder at what else has changed in these past several decades. What we as a society have lost, that we once took for granted.
The answer I keep giving is…no, we are not as well off as we were 60 years ago. We are not even as well off as recently as when I was a child, though I think the corruption of spirit had already a solid foundation by then.
If so, if that be a general consensus, shouldn’t the next questions be to why?
What has changed? What are the common denominators of our decline?
The obvious, at least for me, is apathy,  a sense of entitlement, coddling, drugs, Family, Education, Faith, and decadence, both moral and spiritual.
One can argue or highlight the many significance advances we have made in American society. The obvious ones, rooted in race and gender. Perhaps not as obvious, are those in technology and science. From reaching the Moon and beyond, to understanding and mapping the human genome. So many fantastic, inconceivable achievements…yet…what will they, or have they, contributed to our the hope of our future, that of our our youth.
Is your Child better off today, than you, at that age? I kinda doubt it.
Are they safer, smarter, more driven, more compassionate, considerate, hopeful, or…dare I say it, healthier?
I kinda doubt it. (well…except yours, of course)
Globally, Seven billion, this year. Less than a century ago we were half that number. Is THAT the promise of the future?…boundless humanity? This, the boon of our advance…or the price?
There are no truer words whispered to us than those of history.
If looking back, at every redrawn boundary, every calculated resignation to the impulse of society, there could be a bygone appreciation.
We could and have done worse than to savour it.
It may well be all we are left with.

4 Responses to “of Hope”

  1. K8 said

    There are some groups of people for whom things have gotten better. You might have heard of them: women, girls, black people (all racial minorities pretty much), gays, people with disabilities, people who have been abused have more acceptance in telling their stories, (and getting support from police and other institutions), people with mental handicaps have more educational support. Many diseases have better treatment options, relationships between men and women are more equal, which is better for both. There’s probably more, but I think you get the point.

    • ofreh said

      Yes, K8, I may have heard of them and yes, I get the point. This is made plain by my having mentioned them in the post “gender and race”.
      As to those remaining on your list of victims, I think we are diametrically opposed in our perceptions.
      I would contend that we have reached a critical mass in pursuit of an environment of victimization, further disabling the disabled and disenfranchised by robbing them of any semblance of self reliance and, by proxy, drive to prevail.
      An injustice, I think, in the bigger picture.
      The tyranny of the few. The 19%.

  2. Alice said

    R – I fundamentally agree with your points here and felt it was more a commentary on the erosion of a certain genteel innocence in our culture now, and less a study of the Issues of Social Justice in the Year 2011 (cringe).
    Having said that, I want to add that its always fascinating to hear of your assumptions about the parenting experience. Feel free to refer to my children’s beauty…as often as you like. You oft have, and even in the early days, I appreciated it. Never once did it occur to me that your remarks were predatory. I would hope you won’t check yourself quite so vigorously in the future…and am in some way saddened that someone so forthright and candid has been tempered…that jacket doesn’t fit, dear R

  3. K8 said

    You can’t just mention gender and race and be done with it. Who is this “we” that you are talking about when you say “we are not as well off as we were 60 years ago”?

    You can’t take not commenting on the beauty of children and then jump off to vague lamenting about the corruption of spirit.

    Be specific: coddling, entitlement – take a stand. Who are you talking about?

    The children you mention: Are they safer, smarter, more driven, more compassionate, considerate, hopeful?

    If they are girls or minorities they are probably more hopeful, probably smarter, and probably more driven because they have much more equality than they did 60 years ago. They have a world of possibilities available to them that were not there 60 years ago.

    You can’t dismiss these two issues: gender and equality and racial equality and then wash your hands of it and go back to lamenting the good old days.

    Now don’t get me wrong there are some things that were better then and some things that are better now. But see things clearly, please.

    As to the comment about children specifically: The reason you feel weird about making that comment in our current culture is that we are far more aware of pedophilia now than we were then. Would you prefer that issue were back in the closet of secrecy and shame? Just because we are aware of bad things now doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist before. They were just hidden away from the open air.

    And BTW I think saying someone has beautiful children is fine.

    This nostalgia for the good old days often co-occurs with a pretty warped view of what they were actually like for real people back then.

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