Member Rara Avis
Time has a way of changing perspectives, and the result is often nostalgia. We shouldn't forget, though, that nostalgia, almost by definition, is a less than balanced viewpoint. Anyone who thinks those were simpler times has forgotten polio, the bomb shelters, the race riots, the assassinations, and two "conflicts" that were waged more with human life and less with smart bombs. Baby cribs with lead-based paint were as wrong then as they are now. We should have had childproof lids, and we should have encouraged bike riders to wear helmets. Yea, somehow we survived. But many didn't.
Those risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors are the very people who built the world we live in today. That explosion of innovation and new ideas is the complexity we too often decry. No, we didn't have cell phones. So, we invented them. And because we were taught to accept the consequences for our actions, we have to accept the consequences for cell phones, Nintendo, cable TV, personal computers, and Internet chat rooms. We built them. But that's okay, because we were also responsible for civil rights, human rights, feminine rights, and many other concepts that helped destroy the simplicity of injustice. Yea, it's a more complex world today. Thank God for that.
Looking back, if there's any single thing we've lost since I was a child, I think maybe it's a sense of trust. I hitched rides with strangers. I jumped freight trains. I spent entire summers at the lake without the benefit of adult supervision. I went trick-or-treating alone and ate candied apples with homemade apple cider. We trusted people more. We trusted destiny, too, I think. But I suspect our trust was always misplaced and blind, the result of living in a much bigger world. Human nature hasn't chanced in a thousand years, let along in just fifty. Is anyone really na´ve enough to think there were no "bad people" alive back then? Or maybe we just didn't see so many of them until television and jet planes and cable news made our world so much smaller? I was lucky and never hitched a ride with one of those bad people. I survived. But many didn't.
The world has changed a lot in the last fifty years, but I think our perception of it has changed a great deal more. We trust less because we see more, and I think that's a bad thing only if we let the pendulum swing too wide. The world is smaller, we are wiser, but we're still far from being done. The innovations and ideas will continue to explode, and as the world grows even smaller I think we'll begin to see there really are more good people than bad out there. We'll learn to trust again, and this time our trust will be less misplaced. I see that happening, to some extent, already. Here. In these forums.
I'm glad I grew up when I did. But I'm even more glad my grandchildren will grow up in a different time, what I think is a better time. They will be more educated and live healthier lives. They will better understand different people, different cultures, different ways of looking at a world that really isn't all that terribly different. They, too, will survive. And I have some small hope that the innovations and ideas they will bring to the table will someday result in a time when we can no longer say, "Many didn't."
Great post, Rex. You made me think today, and I appreciate it.