People I love: The “back in my day”ers

21 Apr

angryoldmanIf I were to create a list of my most infuriating pet peeves, the people constantly spouting off those “life was better in the past” rants would be near the very top, likely trailing only “loud chewers.” For those unaware of this annoying line of thinking, ask anyone over 40 what they think about text messaging, hip-hop and innovative baseball statistics and you’ll see what I mean. Anything new or different or outside their comfort zone automatically makes it worthless new-age crap.

These wistful folk are apparently allergic to advancement of knowledge or evolution in any way. You could invent a device that would cure the common cold, and within seconds they’d be rocking on their front porch swing saying that the kids these days are bunch of pussies because they’ll never had to deal with the sniffles like they did. To these nostalgic a-holes, even the bad stuff was great.

I suppose it’s natural for the old folk to hold an unjust belief that life was so much better back when they were young, when they had the world by the short hairs and their whole bright future ahead of them (even though the generation before them claimed theirs was the generation sure to ruin society). But it’s these blind claims of generational superiority that piss me off the most. It’s stupidity bordering on the delusional.

Look, gray-hairs, we know you wish you could return to your sprightly formative years. Your worsening vision, loss of hair, jiggle chin and inability to control your facilities pretty much makes that a given. I’m sure I’ll feel the exact same someday when I’m working my way into a pair of geriatric diaps. But you need to cool it with the attitude that life was actually better back in the day. Know why?

Because it wasn’t.

We’ve known this all along, of course; that life keeps getting better in every measurable sense with each generation. But I was presented with fact after fact of this truth when finally getting around to reading Gregg Easterbrook’s “The Progress Paradox” recently. The book explores the life improvements throughout time and the corresponding happiness levels. Interesting read.

For someone like me, who has a near meltdown every time this ridiculous, pining for yesteryear, “back in my day” thought is voiced, this book provided every fact I’ve ever needed to callously (and, likely, disrespectfully) shoot down every argument concerning a superior past. Life sucked more, and no one was any happier. OK?

For those of you interested in boning up, here are all the facts you need to make your grandparents cry (all cited in the book, and though the book was written in ’03, my initial research has shown the facts remain currently true):

{+}  The 2002 homicide rate in New York City was the exact same as it was in 1963.

{+}  The liberal regions in the United States suffer less crime (and especially murder) than the conservative ones.

{+}  Use of illegal drugs has been dropping for two decades.

{+} Alcohol consumption in the U.S. has declined so much that it’s among the lowest of all Western nations.

{+}  Cigarette use among teens is as low as it’s been since the 1920s.

{+}  The divorce rate in the U.S. began flattening in the mid-90s and is now in a modest decline.

{+} The percentage of children living with both parents has been steadily increasing (this includes African-American households as well, for you racists out there).

{+}  Teen pregnancy has been dropping drastically in recent years (teenage abortion rate has also dropped at the same or better pace).

{+}  IQ scores have risen about 20 percent in recent years, a number that has remained steady throughout racial and gender breakdowns.

{+}  The black poverty rate continues to decrease with every passing year; most of the credit has been given to a 1996 “workfare” legislation.

{+}  The child poverty rate is the lowest it’s been in a generation.

{+}  A person living in 1850 was twice as likely to be sued as they are today, making the belief that lawsuits and lawyers taking over daily life today a myth.

{+}  The typical number of meals eaten together between parents and children in the U.S. hasn’t changed since the nineteen century.

{+}  In 1924, only 60 percent of fathers spent an hour a day with their children; that statistic today is 83 percent.

{+}  Global poverty has dropped more in the past 50 years than it did in the thousand years before.

{+}  Global population is only increasing due to longer life spans, not increasing childbirth. Childbirth around the world, including developing world nations, has been cut almost in half. So, your theory that the population is increasing is due to welfare-receiving idiots popping out a dozen kids with no regard for raising them? Wrong.

I’ll conclude this post with a chapter-ending passage from the book: “Americans speak of the 1950s as a Golden Age, a time of affordable life and a simpler, unsullied ethos. Yet in real dollars almost everything costs less today than it did then, health care is light-years better, three times as many people now make it to college, and the simpler, more innocent ethos of the 1950s denied the vote to blacks and job opportunities to women.”

That is damn near perfection. Sorry, old-timers, your outlook has been totally and utterly obliterated. Guess it’s back to bitching about text messaging.

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6 Responses to “People I love: The “back in my day”ers”

  1. Jon April 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

    text messaging, hip-hop and innovative baseball statistics

    Otherwise known as “The Big Three.”

  2. Murph April 22, 2009 at 6:16 am #

    Gr8 post B, thx.

    Suck it old people.

  3. Cool Rut April 22, 2009 at 7:10 am #

    I know I am old and my argument will fall on deaf ears but I am content with that. I will always long for the days when I plugged in the VCR remote. I never had to worry about pointing the remote at some new-fangled sensor. Swear they have tried to improve remote technology and every innovation moves farther and farther away from a user-friendly device that I used in the 80’s. I will suck it.

  4. Brandon April 22, 2009 at 7:20 am #

    Cool Rut, you forgot to yell at us to get off your lawn.

  5. A.B. April 22, 2009 at 9:42 am #

    At last, a post for the old people! I really do not have a problem with the world’s natural progress. I love my iPhone. And I think in many ways, life gets better with each passing generation. Thank god. This is what parents want for their kids; it’s a natural old-person desire, like “Murder She Wrote” and dinner at 5:30 p.m.

    From personal experience I can say there are some ways the planet is better than when I was in my youthful prime. For one thing, parachute pants. Good riddance. For another, the prevalence of soy products. In my day, we didn’t have meat-free mini corndogs. They are FABULOUS. Now it is easy for me and my family to not eat meat, and that’s definitely an improvement over when I was young.

    Most problems I have with these kids today have to do with my personal preferences. For example, flip-flops. The majority of people do not have beautiful feet. Actually, most feet are ugly. Yet it seems to me that the average Millennial has no problem making me look at their feet six months out of the year. For god’s sake, how about a little common courtesy? I don’t want to look at the feet of people I know and love. And now I have to avert my eyes from the ground when I’m out in public from now until the snow flies? Thanks, young people. Put on some socks, fer chrissake.

    Another thing: extreme texting or excessively being on the phone when one is in the physical presence of others. Okay, I’ve been there. I’ve had to take a call when I’m out with friends at the OCB. It’s understandable. What I’m talking about is the d-bag (come on, we all have seen this) with his/her phone in his hand while he/she enjoys a few at happy hour. The eyes constantly glance downward, the thumbs tap away. The phone goes to the ear twice, three times. No apologies, no “excuse me,” to the tablemates. Just a constant state of interrupted conversation. We oldsters mock young folk who do this. They don’t know that to be here now is better than anything. Even a Grand Slam breakfast.

    Lastly, the world is as populated as it has ever been. How will Earth sustain this many people? You are inheriting quite an environmental clusterf*ck. I don’t envy you that. One thing I genuinely am thrilled about with the younger generation is that they are very service- minded, and volunteerism is often a part of their daily lives. So keep on helping others, carefully consider having children, wear your shoes and bring on the soy pepperoni. I am grateful for you, Millennials and GenY-ers. You keep me young.

  6. lattewarrior April 23, 2009 at 4:54 pm #

    Do they do COW here? If so, bow respectfully and hand it over to A.B.

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