Blog: R.E. Tales
Hey, not every place is pretty.
Changes in Our Society
For a long while now, I have not been proud of what our generation is leaving to yours. But have wondered if that is not something that generations before me have thought as well. And maybe ones after me will feel the same. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, my own observations are that as they age, folks tend to get more conservative. This is not just in politics, which scientists study, but in the general outlook on life, and that encompasses a whole lot more than politics. It's about change and the rate of change. You can be conservative and liberal at the same time. I tend to be fiscally conservative, socially moderate to liberal, moderate in my clothing, liberal in my eating habits, both liberal and conservative on environmental issues (depending upon what they are: remember there’s a relationship between “conservation” and “conservative”), conservative to moderate in my adoption of technology…. And I feel the word “radical” can apply to both Left and Right.
Our generation was different than those before, and those after. “Different" does not mean “better”, though it could, but I am not using the word that way. Nowadays people like to assign names to generations and assume each one has certain characteristics, which, while overly simplistic, makes it easy to grasp without having to think too deeply. Before our time, that didn’t happen. People my age were rebellious as young adults and took up causes in numbers never seen before: free love and openness about sex, drugs, certain music (folk and rock), weird clothing, Left causes, wide-spread outdoor non-competitive sports, civil rights, environmentalism (that was not a commonly used word before our time), opposition to war (our country had never before experienced such widespread opposition to war; always before its had been tiny fringe groups),opposition to things previous generations had stood for (such as working for a corporation) along with a large dose of innocence about the change we wanted society to make. We were idealistic in number that had never been seen before. We were, stupidly sometimes, more concerned about living a complete life than earning a living. As naive as this was, we did make changes in society. But not nearly as many as we thought we’d make. Our parents did not like many of these changes either. But with time, everyone adapts. This is how come you see many folks still living happily and peacefully in some totalitarian countries (a good subject for another treatise).
Our generation was born on the cusp of many things. We did not share our forefather's experience of the Depression and 2 World Wars (wars which were well-supported at home). We had more money than previous generations and took it more for granted (thanks, parents); it was not a subject of great worry for most of us. We had freedom to be our own selves, whatever we thought that was at the time. My generation was forgiving about gay life and allowed it to surface. This has reached silly proportions now. Today you see this carried forward in confused teens thinking they are supposed to be a different sex than they are. Assigned roles for our children give them structure, which people need to a larger extent this younger they are.
The operative word throughout this is, I think, “change”. Today this is carried forward especially fast in the technical world. I can't keep up with it and my parent's generation would have been helpless. We are being led in directions that are simultaneously exciting and fearsome. We are being freed and chained at the same time.
One of the really big things behind all this is population growth, the huge downside of which tends to be ignored today. It’s a doubled-edged sword. One one hand we need more people to do the work and pay the taxes. And on the other, the more of us there are, the harder each thing becomes. Since I was born, the US’s population has doubled - twice. Probably similar in most countries. Yet the world has the same natural resources which are being replenished at the same rate, but they are now being used increasingly faster. Malthus' prediction is still essentially correct, even though it gets put back time and time again. Eventually, widespread starvation will result, unless of course there is a mass kill-off of humans. This is a scenario I can now envision without straining the limits of imagination.
I remember in the 60-70s there were widespread demonstrations about civil rights, the war, and other big issues. Our county had not seen anything like this before. I noticed at the time every one took place in cities. And in the warmer months. There are practical and explainable reasons for this of course… but still…. What happens when you overcrowd, say, mice? They begin fighting among themselves. I thought of that during those demonstrations and riots.
One of the good - and necessary - features of technology is finding out ways to handle larger and larger numbers of people without adding employees. Instead of personal service, we get “personalized” service, then chat boxes which purport to be human, then ones who don't even attempt that masquerade. Instead of someone showing you how to do something, there's a video on U-Tube to watch. Instead of attending a ball game, a lecture, or a concert in person, you watch it on TV.
So with a far larger population, everyone is scrambling to find ways to handle more work with fewer employees and at each step we get further and further from normal human contact. Which is not good for society and leads to a further dichotomy and division. It’s bad enough now. Algorithms cause you to find only things that reinforce your own way of thinking and leads to less contact with others. It becomes easier and easier to disagree with someone who thinks differently if you don’t really know them as people, if you don't have shared experiences and background. Folks no longer know their neighbors like they once used to. Friends are picked from a broad geographic area and it’s common interests that hold you together. It used to be most of one's friends lived near them and shared geography was one of the things which helped keep people close. There were fewer widespread interests back then, so it was more likely that you shared more with neighbors as well as proximity. We need to have greater human contact with people who think differently than we do if our society is going to go back towards being more benevolent and caring.
Out of door activities, hunting, hiking, biking, canoeing, backpacking…. give us a prime example of these changes. In my youth, you could go pretty much where you wanted (though we didn't enjoy the same latitude our fathers had) and no one much cared as long as you were decent and didn’t screw up top badly. But as population grew, solitude became harder to find and became more prized as a result. That is a prime reason why many folks move here - less people, less pressure and regulations, a more laid-back atmosphere. But some who moved here remember what it was like where they came from and they guard their property more jealously than they would have had it been 50 years earlier. So Posted signs appear where none had been before. On our public lands, the managers now have to grapple with a choice of giving folks access and protecting the resources they come to see. You have to make a choice now when 50 years ago, that was not an issue. So now in many areas there are now permits required, lottery systems, off limits areas, closed to the public hours, and so on. Coping with population change starts to limit the things we want to do. It will only worsen; we are on a slippery downhill slope, one which will be exacerbated by coming environmental change.
It’s an odd juxtaposition: the bonds of friends and family become increasingly important, just as the same time they are lessening. Just when we need our kids around to strengthen these bonds, they scatter further. You don't take the job your father and hisi father had. If you want to advance in your work, you don't do it at the corporation where you started; you go elsewhere - where you don't know people, where they don't know you.
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Some blogs are designed to amuse; others can be an immense help. All are interesting.
After 40 years, I've learned a lot, & acquired unforgettable experiences. Follow these long enough and you'll eventually get the whole book. (Names probably changed, for obvious reasons.)