Sunday, April 24, 2011

Only the survivors get to be nostalgic

Those were the good old days, when people weren't so dumb or weak, back when we were kids. Parents disciplined their kids instead of coddling them, and we were stronger, and we didn't have all this technology in the way of everything, and so on. You know the drill.

It's awfully compelling, tears off into easily digested chunks, makes us all feel better about ourselves and our lives, and that's all on top of the natural endorphin-release of nostalgia. But it's also a load of hooey.

Were we better disciplined? Certainly there are some things that they do these days for kids that seem ridiculous and overwrought. Does that mean that everything that has been figured out in the last forty years is completely wrong-headed? Certainly not. If you're the kind of person who came out okay in that style of child-rearing, and that leaves you well-balanced enough to be able to pontificate nostalgically, that doesn't prove anything. Are you sure that everything about how your generation was raised is perfect? After all, the world you're in right now is the world that was created by the way we were raised. Is the world you live in right now perfect? Is everyone well-adjusted, happy, rational, well-informed, and emotionally balanced? Maybe there was room for improvement after all. The fact is that you only are in a position to make self-righteous statements because you were one of those ones who did well enough to make them -- and that's even assuming you're totally content with yourself, and how everything about your life turned out.

Were we tougher because we weren't coddled? Sure, there's some evidence that some of the ways we protect our kids from exposure to some things might prevent them developing some resistances, and that there's some overprescription of some drugs, and other things like that. But that's a small factor compared to the number of kids in our generation who didn't get a fair break. People with special needs, or people whose health didn't do well because of exposure to things we can avoid now, or people whose illnesses are treated better now. Despite a world where, for largely economic and ecological reasons, disease spreads faster than ever, kids are healthier than ever. Was everything about how we were raised really that ideal, that lacking in room for improvement?

The common theme of all those bits of nostalgia that are just repeated without being thought through, in addition to the white-washing of how wonderful your own life really is, is the fact that you have the luxury of being able to pontificate about it because you did all right. But there's all the other ones who didn't. The real question is whether there's more of them now than then, or less.

No comments: