The title actually needed a bit of a “bwahahaha” tone to it, but we’ll leave it as is.
Seriously, though, the idea for this article arises from the following quote:
The Earth is degenerating today. Bribery and corruption abound.
Children no longer obey their parents, every man wants to write a book,
and it is evident that the end of the world is fast approaching.”
Assyrian tablet, c. 2800 BCE
I’m sure we’ve all heard it somewhere, at some time from our parents, or perhaps from our grandparents. It’s the kind of quote that starts “kids today just don’t …” this may then be followed by things like: know how to read and write, obey their elders, plan for the future, socialize appropriately, and so on, and so forth.
This time, though, note the date of the quote – somewhere around 2800 BCE. So, since that time someone somewhere has been convinced that whatever he sees in society that he disapproves of is surely a sign of the impending apocalypse. Could the quote have been dated 2011? Very certainly.
Being a new parent, I’ve started to think about this more. What kind of world am I leaving for my children? What has my generation done and how will this impact the future? It’s easy enough now for many of us to look back and see what “our parents’ generation” has done to the world, and how we’re stuck with it. But are we any different? Will I someday look at my children or my grandchildren and start on about how the “kids in my day were more obedient, smarter, better looking,” etc, etc, ad nauseam?
We, as humans, seem to have a desire and natural tendency to romanticize our history, even when we’ve lived through it. History viewed through the rosy-hue of the present always looks better. The world was greener, children smarter and less addicted to their cell-phones, and more books were published every year! But if we actually investigate our so-called “memory” of those better days, we often find just how skewed our vision really was.
Take my parents and grandparents. Let’s look at the 1950s as the so-called “better” times. This is where children obeyed their parents more, the world was simpler, people knew their place, and (to keep with the tradition of the quote) things were just generally that much better.
Yeah, sure, in a world just recently decimated by world-war, with the Cold War almost a continuation as powerful nations built up their nuclear arms and planned for Armageddon. Where women and many racial groups were practically as powerless and disenfranchised as in the 19th century.
Of course, I’m an outsider. I never lived this time, so my view of it isn’t colored by personal experience and nostalgia, but fed through media, my parents and grandparents, and history books. And yet, I know I look at the 1980s with some nostalgia because, from my perspective, it was simpler times. Was it safer? I’m not certain. Only now do I know we were living in an economic down-turn, almost a second Great Depression, and yet I recall as little of this in my day-to-day life as my grandmother does of the Great Depression in the 1930s.
And knowing this, I still think “kids today” don’t listen as well, spend too much time engrossed in electronics, are forgetting the basics of communication, and woe to all when they inherit the world. J
Why is this? Is it because we’re afraid of being left behind, of being less relevant? Is it fear of passing on this world, which was and will be to our end, so very precious to us? Like passing on a treasured heirloom or toy to the younger generation, do we fear it will be broken? Or are we just afraid of becoming irrelevant ourselves? Is it therefore better to think the world ends with us, that our children are obviously hooligans bringing about the apocalypse – and obviously undeserving of a bright future?
Hmm. Not sure. What do you think?
I’m off to go shout at the kids outside and shake my fist at them – may as well get a head start at it, right? Of course, I could always try to do something to save and preserve this precious world we live on, create something positive to pass on to my children and future generations, but they’re all just bringing about the end of the world anyway, aren’t they?