Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dismal Outlook On The Past, The Present, And The Future

First of all, I skipped yesterday. The post I made wasn't intended to be the only post of the day, but it turned out to be. I was very worn out from work and I had a lot to do last night, and although I knew what I wanted to write about and had most of the post formulated in my head, I couldn't actually sit down and concentrate long enough to write it all out before the midnight deadline. This was the first Tuesday I've skipped since ever as I've been trying to keep at least my Tuesday and Sunday posts regular, but yesterday just didn't work out for me. So with any luck, you'll get yesterday's post next Tuesday. It's not that I failed you, because you don't know of my goals or mind if I skip a day here and there, but I feel like I've failed myself, and I can never get accustomed to that feeling.

The other day, I was watching a movie that took place in the Fifties, and it made me nostalgic for a time period during which I never existed. I noticed how perfect everyone's lawns looked back then and how shiny everyone's cars were and how immaculately clean everyone's houses were, and it impressed me that these people all did this themselves. People's kids were polite and respectful. People dressed moderately and modestly. Aside from the whole hating the blacks thing, people acted with courtesy and dignity. Yeah, we still kind of fucked over the blacks during that time, but we were at least making progress, and stupidity exists in every generation, and there's no more excusing it then as there is now, but aside from that, people just seemed to enjoy life more.

Of course, that's the movie depiction of the Fifties. The reality, I'm sure, was far worse. I'm sure that beneath the polished chrome, tightly knit, and copiously dusted facades, people were faced with just as many problems. Depression and suicide, alcoholism, domestic abuse, rampant drug use, gang violence, and petty crime. However these problems were embraced and pushed under a smiling veneer of blind ignorance. It was perfectly acceptable to hate blacks or beat wives or dare a drugged-up suicidal child to stop fucking whining about it and just fucking do it already, because everyone knew they could just blame the devil's music, rock and roll, for their problems. Street gangs dressed in tights and danced around flamboyantly, singing about stabbing people in the gut. Backwards masking in a Beatles album drove my children to ritual suicide. The sway of Elvis' hips drove me to put out my cigar in my wife's eyeball. As long as you didn't listen to that demonic rock and roll with its jungle beats derived specifically from blues and the smooth jazz your parents grew up with, you wouldn't disappoint your father, and life would be keen, and tobacco would never kill you.

Still, there was something to be said for a certain aspect of the quality of life back then when compared to today. No one locked their doors. Neighbors talked to each other. Everyone in town knew everyone else by name. Houses were clean, yards were trim, and cars were shiny. Compare that with today's vision of suburbia. Not only are the doors locked, but the windows are barred. Neighbors fight with each other. No one in town cares what anyone else is doing. Houses are lucky if no one can smell the rotting stench of decay wafting from the basements, the yards are dead yet somehow overgrown, and the cars are barely held together long enough for the lease to expire.

We have all these time-saving devices in our lives now, so where is all this saved time going? You'd think if we have all this technology to make our lives so much easier, not only would our living conditions be immaculate, but we wouldn't need to rely on energy drinks as a viable replacement for the sleep we're losing. We have cars and computers and cell phones, yet we don't have any extra time. We have DVD recorders that will record shows for us to never watch while we're out doing other things. We no longer just do things like read or sleep, we "catch up" on our reading and our sleeping. We replace home-cooked meals with the drive through of fast food restaurants as we hurriedly whisk ourselves from Job One to take our children to the babysitter while we go to Job Two. Both jobs will one day fairly soon be replaced with no more than a vending machine to save us even more time that we will never get. We drive our cars through automatic car washes, and our oil changes only take ten minutes. What are we doing with all this extra time?

Back in the Fifties, people were able to take pride in their shiny cars. They would spend all of a Saturday afternoon washing and polishing it to gleaming perfection because that's all there was to do back then. These days, we take our cars through an automatic car wash that doesn't even get all the bird crap off, just so we can race back home and continually hit "refresh" on our LiveJournal Friends Lists to make sure no one's published a new post in the last five seconds. In the background, a largely ignored daytime talk show blathers on while our TiVo is recording a prime time show for us to ignore later, while we're TiVo-ing Leno. We use the time wasted on human contact at the checkout counter chatting with our friends on our cell phones who are waiting outside in the car, and don't get me started on that huge chunk of time wasted on the road in commute. We could better spend that time talking on the phone or watching a video than actually paying attention to the task at hand, because watching for the off-chance of danger is boring.

We didn't have the Internet or cell phones back in the Fifties, and the four shows that only played once a week on the three television stations all sucked, so no one felt an overwhelming urge to watch them. People went outside and interacted. If you used the phone, it was to talk to your friends or family that moved to another town, and you set aside time to do so because the phones were fucking attached to the wall, not our ears. Time was spent enjoying life, learning new things like why women aren't just for fucking, and why blacks might not be all that bad, and why Communism certainly is. People were interested in doing things like discussing politics and camping, and spending time with their families, playing outside, waxing their cars, and sucking on corncob pipes. People still discuss politics, but the discussions are less about serious socio-economic reform and more about "Bush lied, people died!" Spending time with the family is more like watching reality shows on television while the kids trip on acid and play online MMORPGs or make pipe bombs in their bedrooms. No one camps, the only things people wax anymore are their cocks, playing outdoors can get you shot in the street, and the only pipes people smoke are full of crack.

I'm not saying that we should divert back to the Fifties, where men openly berated their women, people were routinely persecuted for they way they were born, and life was generally a dismal progression of depressing tedium, but there were certain perks too. Economics were far better, people made far better use of their time, and they made at least an attempt at civility. People today, with all of our progressive thinking and technology and comfort seem to be lacking a great deal of dignity overall, and that is the thing from the Fifties that I would most like to see recaptured. If we could take that sense of dignity, that sense of pride, from back then and apply it to today's society, then maybe, just maybe we could get somewhere besides closer and closer to the swirling drain.

We look at the World War I and World War II generation as the Golden Generation. This is the generation that we believe most triumphantly sums up the American ideal. I started thinking that sixty or eighty years from now, people might look back on us right now and believe we're the Golden Generation, compared to their lifestyle, and I find that as disturbing as I do just sad.


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