Alone amongst millions

fear_poster_medToday I read an extremely intersting post from the very excellent site entitled Is This the “Better World” You Were Talking About?”.

The question is posed if in today’s media saturated world are we better off than say 50 years ago?

I responded on Mr. Monk’s site but would like to respond here as well with my story.

When I was a boy in the 50’s and 60’s we of course had television but it was in no way the center of our lives. Nor was radio.

What we had were neighbors, friends and relatives.

What we had was a true sense of community.

A typical Summer evening was spent with all of the adults gathered on the front porch and in the yard of my grandparent’s home. Nothing was organized people just showed up.

The adults would talk.  They would talk sometimes about world or national events but mostly the conversations were about local subjects.

The high school football team, crop and livestock prices, local politics, church, people who had died were sick or were born.

The talk was of people and events that they knew and affected the daily life of each one.

Even thought there was a television set in the house it was never turned on during these times. The adults found it noisy and distracting and the children had better things to do.

Important things like catching fireflies, seeing the new calf, playing kick the can or  thousand other things that kids can do when their imaginations are given free reign.

The adults gathered there all raised me and my brothers and my cousins and my friends. I had the accumulated wisdom of not just my parents and grandparents (a time machine back into the 1800’s when they were born) but the extended family and their friends. Mrs. Clinton was certainly right about a village but I think she did not mean what I mean.

This all seemed to have started in the early 60’s when President Kennedy was assasinated and we were glued to the tube for days at a time. Then the media circus of the Beatles. Vietnam was brought into our homes in living color.

However, the whole tenor seemed to change with Watergate. No longer did journalists seek to just get the facts and report the story it became more about the “gotcha” factor.

So is the world better?


Today we hardly know our relatives much less our neighbors. I read an article in the newspaper this morning (there’s a shocker) about a man whose neighbors had lost their home in foreclosure and he never knew until they were packed up and gone. he didn’t really know these people at all but wished he could have at least given them someone to talk to.

Today we live in virtual isolation in these 3 bedroom prisons of our own doing. We sit in our homes and offices quaking in fear from the latest panic foisted on us by the media.

It’s not even the media’s fault. Oh, of course they are to blame for giving in to our worst inclinations (my how the world could use Edward R. Murrow) but we have asked, pleaded for the shallow blather that we get. And I’m not even discussing what passes for entertainment I’m talking about the “news”.

There are those lonely voices crying out such as Wendell Berry and Rod Dreher but their voices are lost in the clamour.

I don’t think we can go back. We can try but we are a nation and world of self imposed agoraphobics.

The loss cannot be measured. When we lost our community we lost part of what being human is. Perhaps we are on the cusp of a new humanity but it looks very much like the world of “THX1138” or “Brave New World” and I don’t really want to be a part of it. I guess it’s good that I’m on the downhill side of my 50’s.


10 Comments on “Alone amongst millions”

  1. willohroots says:

    You know you can live that way now, it is not illegal, yet.
    The TV has messed with our generation, but those video games are really screwing up the younger set. They can not amuse themselves at all!

  2. Justin says:

    I, too, read the original post on IM. But, I’d like to present another point of view, from another generation.

    I was born in the ’70s. I’ve never known life without TV or before men walked on the Moon. I’ve never known anything but instant, global communication and live breaking news via satellite. I’ve never known a day before video tape or cable TV. I’ve never known a day where kids were free to roam town fearless of the next pedophile or gang-banging drug dealer.

    What you wax sentimental for is a myth to me. Furthermore, I don’t believe it ever existed.

    I believe all the troubles we see today, have existed since the Fall: broken families, innocence lost, murder, disease, wars, and immorality. Tell me one time after Adam when those things did not have a firm, rampant grip on humanity. Nothing has changed. There is nothing new under the sun.

    What has my parents’ generation done to alleviate all this… ?

    Instead of taking us fishing or out to play catch, they worked weekends and holidays to pad the retirement account.

    Instead of teaching us life by spending time with us reading and tucking us into bed at night to calm our fears, we were bought off by gaudy presents and digital babysitters at Christmas and Birthdays to distract us from the fact.

    When we cried out for help and direction, we got Dobson books and ritalin.

    When we were most vulnerable, we were left with child “care” who abused us while our parents were out bonding as a couple. Those parents who couldn’t bond, abuse us directly.

    Instead of exampling hard work and dedication to a goal, every shortcut that could be found was, from diet pills and bariatric surgery to interstate highways and “make $10000/month from home”.

    We are alone because my parents taught it was okay to choose career and the American dream over family ties and community.

    We are faithless because the elders didn’t practice what they preached.

    We are immoral because we were never honestly told what true morality was instead of having our behavior dictated.

    We are addicts because we were taught a pill will cure anything.

    We are paranoid because we couldn’t trust even our parents.

    Is the world a better place? I agree, no. But neither is it worse. And my generation and later are too busy cleaning up the pile of crap the previous generations have left us to sentimentalize about the Good Ol’ Days.

    To us, there is no such animal, and never has been. We have no choice but to live through the times now as they are, and work to make them better instead of wishing things were different.

  3. Rob says:

    I agree with you about everything except that the time was not a myth.
    I lived it and know it was real.
    The difference is in the post. It was community.
    Life was better.
    It can be but we, I, are cowards.

  4. Rob says:

    “To us, there is no such animal, and never has been. We have no choice but to live through the times now as they are, and work to make them better instead of wishing things were different.”

    If you work to make them better the times WILL be different.

  5. willohroots says:

    It existed. In my little town no one locked their doors, how could someone bring something in for you? I was blessed to live then.

  6. Rob says:

    We did not lock doors either. All that I said above is true and all the reasons that they changed that Justin pointed out are true as well.
    Baby boomers were so hopeful but we ruined our own world and that of our children and grandchildren.
    I should have never stopped being a hippie.

  7. Justin says:

    Now for my perspective (my earlier post was not wholly mine, but a conglomeration of many people’s views).

    I’m not quite so down on previous generations… mine can be pretty selfish itself. And I believe that is the problem at the base of it all–selfishness.

    I don’t think selfishness is any more rampant now than in the past. I too, now, live in a community where we don’t have to lock doors, where children can roam reasonably safely, and we know and care for our neighbors. At the same time, the sins of our fathers are hitting my community hard, manifested in abuse, addiction, strife and loneliness. Not that we are any harder hit than previous or future generations or communities.

    I just don’t believe things are any worse, or better. It just is. I bristle (perhaps wrongly so) at the suggestion that the world’s problems are my, or subsequent, generations’ fault (not that you suggested that); or that our reactions to the problems are somehow exacerbating the issues. For the most part, we only do as we have been taught.

    Whatever diversions were available in the past–’40s, the 1800s, the 1000s–are still available today, and more so. It seems the same remedies and cures, however, that were available then are available now–community, relationships, sacrifice, love.

  8. Rob says:

    I hope you understand that I am not saying that the current woes are your generation’s fault.
    We did it. the baby-boomers.
    First our post war parents spoiled because of all of the deprivation they had gone through with the Depression and WWII so they can hardly be blamed.
    Out of that a narcissism grew that all centered around how I feel no matter what type of flowery language it was couched in.
    Like all things it wasn’t all bad. There was some true idealism that sadly has been replaced my ambiguity and cynicism.
    No, my friend, we made a mess and have left it for our children and grandchildren to deal with.
    I certainly don’t think that men’s hearts are more dark or evil now than at some time in the past.
    The entire point is that we as a people have lost something that I would hope we could get back. That something is being a part of a true community.
    It is unlikely that the worship group you belong to is a true community in that what ties you together is worship, study, prayer etc.
    I’m talking about something much larger than that but also much smaller.
    A connection to people in a very real and deep sense that pervades every part of your life.
    And I believe that mass communication and mindless entertainment has contributed greatly to this loss.
    That’s all.
    Your generation is not to blame.

  9. willohroots says:

    I saw a car go by with a mom and son. both on their cell phones. when i was kid I learned to sing harmony riding in the car with my mom.

    “It seems the same remedies and cures, however, that were available then are available now–community, relationships, sacrifice, love.”
    Justin is right, it is just that people do not go there as much.

  10. Justin says:

    I hope you understand that I am not saying that the current woes are your generation’s fault.

    Rob, thanks. Whenever I discuss my frustrations on this subject, I always run this risk. I understand where you are coming from, and I don’t blame you, either. (Will, on the other hand…) 😛

    I really just appreciate the ability to discuss this with a couple older guys without such blame being tossed about.

    Will, we’re guilty of letting our kids watch DVD’s all the way to California, but that is really a low percentage of the time we are all in the car. Mostly we’re pointing out the cows along the road or playing license-plate bingo.

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