A general myth abounds that things were ‘better’ in the old days. Life was less complicated and certainly less busy. There was less stress, less greed, people were innocent and, in general, things were simpler. As for the generation or two coming up, well they’re a complete abomination! Today’s teenagers are spoiled, lippy and far too sexually aware while children are also much more advanced than their predecessors, manipulative and highly indulged. All in all, the world has gone to hell.
These are general thoughts that you often hear expressed. Is there any truth to such negative thinking or has every generation looked at the one coming in its wake and shaken its head with disapproval? The rate of change between 1950 and today is much, much greater than the changes that occurred between 1900 and 1950. To be fair, two world wars probably held things up a little, but there is no comparison between the rate of improvements in the first 50 years and the amazing developments since.
I think perhaps one of the most obvious areas would be the vast amount of time saving gadgets, machines and methodologies available to us in the developed world. If you stop and consider it, we should all be roaming around, stress free, blissfully calm, with lots of time on our hands enjoying all that life has to offer because we have machines to do things. Time saving, efficiency and speed are historically the top selling points for dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers, kettles, toasters and other household appliances. Home entertainment gadgets are all super efficient and operated by remote controls and if you have a Sky Box you can record and watch things instantly; no more fiddling about with video tapes that take forever to rewind. Microwave ovens, speed grills and even convenience food have taken the time out of cooking. Cleaning products are sold on the basis of saving time.
Television ads are very fond of showing family homes in total disarray as a man sits around watching football on TV. Then just before his partner or the family is due home, he whips out a wipe or a spray or throws a jar of sauce on a pan and suddenly the floors sparkle, the bathroom gleams or a gourmet meal appears on the table. It really is quite miraculous. It has been happening since the advent of television. Remember the Mr Sheen ads with the little guy zipping around a house in a very fast aeroplane almost suggesting that he came with the furniture polish and you could drink coffee while he ‘flew’ through the dusting. What about today’s version where that ridiculous man shouts, “Bang, and the dirt is gone.” What a lie! There’s a little more work to it than just ‘bang’, but we say nothing and let another subliminal speed message enter our psyche.
The supermarket was supposed to be the pinnacle of choice and time saving. No more fussing about with a brown coated shopkeeper slowly reaching for one item at a time from inside his counter while you stood outside. No, no, no; self service was the future. For time saving though, nothing can outstrip the advances in products for babies. Disposable nappies and tetra packs with ready to go food are just two of the things on the shelves today and yet if you meet any mother with two children under 5 they are very quick to tell you how hard it is and how exhausted they are. What about our grandmothers who often had families of 8, 10 or 12 children without the aid of a dishwasher, washing machine, tumble dryer or an SUV for the school run, let alone a disposable nappy or a tetra pack!
The joke’s on us
The joke is totally on us. We have been sold a pup; a mirage of twisted thinking that instead of leaving us with all this quality time on our hands, it has actually robbed us of simplicity and, in many cases, left us fat, anxious and mentally exhausted. No wonder you here people talk glowingly about the ‘good old days’.
The good old days weren’t the best. It was drudgery in sometimes very difficult conditions. To look back with such rose tinted glasses points further to how selfish and ungrateful we have become. The machines, technological advances, the sprays, the disposable nappies and even the convenience food are not to blame for our woes. They have all fulfilled their end of the bargain and, while not exactly like it says on the tin sometimes, they have saved us time and effort in washing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning up and cooking. The reality is that we have created the mayhem with how we have then spent all that extra time.
Do we spend those saved minutes playing and investing in our children? Do we spend it enjoying our gardens, growing flowers or even food? Do we take the time to get out into nature a little more and enjoy the simplicity and abundance of it all; walk through any wooded area right now and you’ll see that there is no recession there whatsoever. Have we given the time to family and friends, using it to deepen and improve our human relationships? Have we used the time to help those less well off? Of course we haven’t. Instead we have used it to watch more TV; soap operas and sport being top of the list. We use the time to drive the kids to tennis, karate, music and camp. We take a part time or full time job with the extra time in order to pay for the tennis, karate, music, camp and all the gadgets that we need to save the time! We spend the time shopping; buying stuff to amuse and decorate ourselves and our homes with. You can bring it back to the fact that we generally squander all that time currency on entertaining and pampering ourselves in one way or another.
Born to live on Easy Street?
Of course few of us would admit to it but it’s the truth. I recently popped into Tesco for milk and came home with a packet of highlighter pens, a new bathroom mat, a beach cover up and some tea light holders and milk. Did I need any of the items other than the milk? Not really, but they were on sale! I saved a fortune because the several bathroom mats I already have will one day wear out, it’s good to be prepared for a day at the beach if the sun shines unexpectedly and you can never have enough highlighter pens. Now you can, as I discovered, have too many tea light holders! My point is that I totally overcomplicated buying a litre of milk and spent more money and time than I really needed to.
We have taken our advances and good fortune for granted. We now believe that we have a born right to live on Easy Street. We have become so soft. Thankfully it’s just a recession we have to deal with; God forbid we ever have to live through two world wars without any time saving devices and no electricity. I must rush off now as the dishwasher has to be filled and Coronation Street starts in ten minutes!