Say goodbye to theBilly Joel – Keeping the Faith
Oldies but goodies
Cause the good ole days weren’t
And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems
This is a topic that seems as old as time. The good old days. Every generation seems to do it, but it seems to me that the sentiment has reached a fever pitch in the past few years with politics and media as they currently are. In the era of Trump and traditionalists, blame shifting for the sad state of the economy and jobs, Okay, Boomer and Millennial Snowflakes…
When I was younger, “when I was your age” had become something very tongue-in-cheek. My hero Weird Al wrote an entire song about it, the running joke being that older folk tended to exaggerate how difficult things were when they were young and that they used these stories to illustrate how soft and lazy our generation was. I laughed my ass off to it every single time I heard it.
Let me tell you, sonny… let me set you straight“Weird Al” Yankovic – When I Was Your Age
You kids today ain’t never had it rough
Always had everything handed to you on a silver plate
You lazy brats think nothing’s good enough
Well, nobody ever drove me to school when it was ninety degrees below
We had to walk buck naked through forty miles of snow
Worked in the coal mine twenty two hours a day for just half a cent
Had to sell my internal organs just to pay the rent
When I was your age…
One of the issues that I’ve found myself is that as I get older, it becomes more difficult to learn new things. I used to be able to pick up new technology very easily, I was rapidly learning new things in my teens and early 20’s – now, I struggle to grasp things like Twitter and Instagram (I know, they’re not that new, this is how stuck I am). It’s not a great feeling, and I truly feel that part of the bravado with older generations is just a knee-jerk response to the blow to their pride as they realize they lack relevance.
Of course, The Simpsons illustrated this best:
Memory is a funny thing, it’s pretty malleable. People tend to romanticize the past. It’s really, really common and always has been. We like to remember the good while forgetting the bad, or re-framing the bad as something good; a learning experience, something that toughened us up (in true “A Boy Named Sue” style), or otherwise necessary for developing good character.
The truth is that the past was often unpleasant, or at very least, unpleasant for other groups of people than ourselves. When I was a kid, we weren’t glued to devices, but then, neither were our parents. There’s a self-righteous trend of parents who shame other parents for looking at a phone instead of their kids at the playground, and how quickly they forget how we played completely unsupervised while our moms watched soaps at home and carried on hours-long conversations on the phone that was tethered to the wall, instead. Our parents who ignored us over breakfast while reading a newspaper, instead of getting news off a smartphone. Our parents who set us loose after breakfast to roam the neighbourhood, and told us not to come home until dinner. No, those things were virtuous, our freedom, our rough and tumble outdoor time, our exploring, our independence. “Kids these days don’t even do that” adults will say, while silently or not-so-silently judging the mom who is slightly distracted but actually supervising her younglings.
“Look at all these people on the bus, fully absorbed in their phones! This is what’s wrong with society today!” But before phones it was books, newspapers, magazines. All of those things can now be accessed with a phone. Do we all really think that people didn’t have their own solitary activities in generations past? Was there some sort of magic back then that made people, exhausted from a work day, more sociable?
Were the 1950’s or 60’s in North America really the pinnacle of human existence, where everything was perfect, better than ever before or since? Perhaps, if you were male, white, straight, healthy and middle class. Baby boomers had a wealth of opportunities that indeed, hadn’t been seen prior, nor have they been seen much since. In that sense, yes, those times were better – because of what they were afforded, not because of who they were, how they lived, or their morals and values. Yet their strong economy and opportunities for financial security are not the things that they often talk about, and certainly not what they want for younger generations. They will instead actively rail against anything that could be a leg up, under the misguided notion that they worked hard for everything they have, forgetting to be grateful for the chances they were given to work hard and get ahead.
Every generation has its good and bad, some worse, some better, often just different. Were the Baby Boomers all bad? Are they all bad? No. Absolutely not. There are many who don’t fit the “Fox News” mold, who are progressive, who remember the bad as well as the good, who understand history, who are objective.
If I’m to talk about my own upbringing, I go to the 80’s and 90’s. What did we have then? We had independence. We were allowed to explore and play. We were supervised not only by our parents, but by our community at large. We had stronger discipline, and because we had more freedom we had more responsibility. We were expected to follow the rules even when our parents weren’t looking, and we were expected to respect adults. Women had a lot more rights than previous generations, abuse victims were beginning to be acknowledged, helped and validated, we were raised with far less racist notions than before.
We also had massive fear and disgust when it came to gay people, the AIDS epidemic was blowing up and we didn’t understand it. Income inequality was beginning to become a problem. Bullying in schools and workplaces was still a huge issue. Many developmental issues weren’t understood or dealt with, a lot of kids fell through the cracks, indigenous people in Canada were largely discriminated against. Some of the history that glorified white men in North America, that I learned as fact as a child, has now been discredited or shown to be less than the full picture. My generation was largely disenchanted with the world that was being left to us. We were told there would be no pension for us in our old age, retirement age has moved steadily upward, and we grew up to find little job stability, a failing economy and stagnant wages.
We live in a time of great medical advancements, yet people prefer to return to a time when preventable disease killed hundreds of thousands, and are hung up on eating in a way that people ate when the life expectancy was half of what it is now and child mortality rates were astronomical.
We live in a time of glorified ignorance, where people lack the critical thinking skills to properly connect cause and effect, or to think outside of the little box someone gives them.
The good ole days weren’t always good.
…and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.