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In the Catbird Seat/Joe Kirkish

Living then and now

August 30, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

An old French saying, loosely translated, says, "The more things change the more they stay the same."

Well, yes, true of generalities, as, for example, "What's the Copper Country like today?" or "What's going on in politics?" Contrarily, change is truly change where both living creatures and nature are concerned. Consider a few comparisons between then and now where there is real change:

In medical science, for example, we have advanced remarkably. People who used to die in their 50s or 60s now live into their 90s, with a prediction that soon 120 will be considered a normal life expectancy. The same is true about other advances - in technology and a host of sciences. We live in a far more sophisticated world.

But what about the quality of that living? Is change better or worse?

What about our local communities? They have changed - grown by leaps and bounds. From a quiet and simple rural existence, they take on the looks of bustling city life, with all related good and bad aspects.

Traffic, for example, with all its excesses, grows exponentially. Television brings an amplified sophistication as each new generation becomes more sophisticated.

Youngsters rarely play out of doors with homemade toys; instead, they play either on motorized vehicles or, indoors, with their eyes glued hypnotically to all things digital by the hour.

Home cooking in a rushed society is replaced with fast foods, and diet changes have produced a generation of unhealthy, overweight people with a sluggish attitude toward anything smacking of exercise.

Even the brain has undergone changes, now crammed with an overload of relatively useless, repetitious information for amusement rather than a building of life; technology often replaces the learning pleasure of widely varied literature.

A survey of college entrants in 1945 indicated that the average student had a usable vocabulary of 5,000 to 7,000 words - not bad. A similar survey made 50 years later indicated the average vocabulary had dropped to a shocking 300 to 500 words. Since then, by reading less, by gathering knowledge mainly from movies and TV (which rely almost exclusively on non-scripted slang and profanity), the downhill trend is abysmal.

There was a time when only one parent worked while the other tended to two vital responsibilities: home and raising children. Today, "latch-key" kids who fend for themselves as both parents work, have resulted in a significant change in family living.

Remember when a child's education came importantly from parents and relatives in their lives? No longer. The generational family has all but vanished, with children growing up rarely or never getting to know or learn from those magnificent sources of practical knowledge in social skills, health, creative pleasures and manners; the new authoritative skills are fed helter-skelter from the bottom up. So for whatever reasons, the kids now dominate; the tail now wags the dog.

Decades of affluence have also brought changes in communal living.

Teachers are wagged by pupils; employers by employees; consumers by venders and repairmen; politicians by lobbyists, corporations, tea parties and other special interest groups.

Half a century of affluence has had other effects, too. When people had to rely on one another, they were more aware of neighbors, more community oriented. But when people don't have to rely on one another, a kind of egocentric wall is set up. Greed is affordable. What's more, for whatever reasons, we rarely grow up and raise our families in one area; we lose our precious roots, and that rootlessness comes at a tremendous price - a loss of ethnic continuity.

Are we aware of changes? Is there a price as well as value from them? Does tradition stand in the way of progress or vice versa? Where does logic enter into deciding what to retain and what to eliminate in an ever changing world? As values, where do such things such as money, power, social structure and religion stand?

Are we happier now? Good question.

Rotten Tomatoes average: "Moonrise Kingdom," A.



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