Change-once again

Of the things that bother me as “I move along in years” is yesterday. I can trace my yesterdays back to the 1930’s to a culture that is gone and not only unlamented, but forgotten. It was also a culture that with few changes, went back to beyond the beginning of the 20th C. World War I and the Great Depression had to have generated changes of which I was not aware as I was living through them. It is not possible to kill 5 million young men in five years and not have some effect. Great stretches of Northern France and Belgium were stripped of people and buildings. The Depression that followed reduced economic activity and jobs. Following World War II, while much of Europe was again destroyed as were substantial parts of Asia, the United States suffered no damage and was booming. In WWII deaths were somewhere around 415,000. After that war medical care continued to be provided to the wounded, and about 7.8 million out of 16 million veterans had participated in some form of sponsored education. This was everything from registering for courses and degrees at George Washington University to taking workshops in agriculture at a local high school. For me, the Korean War provided the same benefits with which I acquired an education that I otherwise might never have gotten. The change from these events has been massive. I knew they were happening, but I didn’t realize how different my life was becoming.

As I work out it the gym in the morning I am subjected to the discordant screeching of instruments and vocal moaning and wailing. Fortunately, I can turn off my hearing aids. Where are the people who dominated popular music through the 1950’s; Benny Goodman, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Duke Ellington, the Andrews Sisters, Nat King Cole? Obviously they are gone, but their music isn’t. It’s still around on the occasional station, but when my crowd is gone it will be too. Classical music stretching back to the 1600’s is likewise disappearing. Beethoven, Mozart, Handel, Bach are heard on one radio station, if at all, and on one channel of XM radio.

This is just one example. Others are the way we dress, the way we address each other, the way work is changing, increasing social isolation. This last has particular resonance with me. My wife and I had four children beginning in the late 1950’s. As soon as the weather was agreeable, we got out the baby carriage and walked around the neighborhood. In warm weather people were sitting on their porches and we exchanged bits of conversation. I came to feel that I knew these people. When the fourth child arrived, no one was porch sitting; they were inside in air conditioning. We still had “next door” neighbors who were available to tell me why the storm window I had just hung was crooked and how they dealt with a child who didn’t want to wear the dress her mother had bought for her. Today, most social interaction is with people in the work place and with family. And, there is still the bar for some.

What happens to cultures through the passage of time? Whatever it is, we gain and we lose. As I sit here writing, I don’t have to leave my chair to pull up any information I want from this computer. A typewriter didn’t do that. If I want to have someone to review this article, I go to email, send it off and expect a reply within a day. There is no getting an envelope, putting on a stamp, walking to the mailbox and then waiting for as much as a week for a reply. Technology creates convenience, but what does it cost? Or, can we judge change as cost and benefit?

  1. #1 by Bridget Cooper on December 28, 2014 - 2:41 pm

    I loved reading these! They remind me of our invigorating class discussions and my quest to better understand social capital. Thank you for continuing to expand my mind. 🙂 You’re one of my favorite teachers ever…and I’ve had nearly a million!

    • #2 by John Boswell on January 4, 2015 - 6:47 pm

      Dear Bridget, thank you for putting me on a pedestal, whether I belong there or not. Since I can’t recall information I need immediately in a discussion any more, this blog is my attempt to stimulate thinking on the part of people who read it. For better or worse, you have encouraged me to continue!

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