The culture's alright, the kids are alright

I’m a Gen Xer, age 37. With one child. Looking across the landscape of people my age, I have some news: We’re doing a pretty good job of living our lives and raising our kids. Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America, South America, and elsewhere. A bunch of people reproduced, and here we are today, doing the same work. We’re doing alright; the human race will be fine.

Thousands of years ago, people had the same complaint: the kids are different, the kids have looser morals, the kids don’t get it. Looking at the teenagers and kids of today, what do I see? That ol’ myth is busted.

Kids in high school are doing their thing–studying, playing sports, listening to tunes–the same as it ever was. Young children like my daughter are watching TV, reading books, taking a look at the world–the same as it ever was. We, as parents, are lending a helping hand. It’s working. The kids are fine. Or pretty much as fine as they ever were.

The culture is fine; literacy is fine. There are plenty of intelligent people out there digesting the wealth of culture that is the gift of the past to us; there are plenty of people thinking about and blogging about all manner of things. If anything, we have greater access to, and appreciation of, our ancestors’ accomplishments than ever before.

All the decrepitude we ever feared–drug use, sexual immorality, violence, laziness–was there back in 1950, in 1850, in 1750, and in 50 B.C. Now, as then, we have for us the daily work of building and preserving civilization and keeping the barbarians beyond the gate, but we as parents are not particularly bad, and our kids are not particularly bad. Indeed, a lot of things are better than they used to be. I have read that, for example, in 19th century England perhaps even a third of the population was drunk all day long. Sexual immorality? There was open prostitution everywhere (in Europe and in the US). In 19th century America, there was a significant percentage of the population severely addicted to alcohol, opium, or morphine. A common medicine–available at apothecaries everywhere–was laudanum, a powerful tincture of opium in alcohol.

It is difficult to keep things in perspective–things can and do get worse. Back in the 1940s, people were slaughtering each other. We’re not there today (WWII ended just 28 26 years before I was born–hmm, not that long ago). There was a fairly awful period in our country after WWII when cities got more violent and ugly and society frayed more than just a little. I remember New York City in the 1970s, visiting with my father, who was from there, and seeing the graffiti on the subway and not feeling entirely safe. But we’re not there today.

They say it’s the worst economy since the Depression and there’s terrorism and did you hear that–but give it a rest! If you’re my age, you’re probably a parent, doing a decent job at your job and raising your kids decently well. That’s life, my friends–that’s what it’s about. Perhaps in the year 2008 at last we’ll accept that the present generations are competent–that we’re as good as any that came before us. Only then will we truly have accepted our mission of preserving the past, managing the present, and preparing for the future.

  • Share/Bookmark

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.