Thursday, 18 November 2010

Are we getting poorer?

Having Lucy set me to wondering what her adult life would be like.  Clearly I don't have any idea!  There is no way that my grandmother, when young, could have imagined TVs, mobile phones and all the other technical ‘stuff’ that we take for granted.  She would have been happy if she could have believed that her children would grow up to live in a home with an indoor bathroom. 

My parents, having survived one world war as babies, matured into the Second World War as young marrieds.  My mother struggled to raise her daughter, born in 1939, on her own for the next six years of war; during which she lost three homes to bombings.  My father served in the army and returned to my mom and sister in 1945. I was born later that year!

I clearly remember my impoverished fifties childhood.  We lived surrounded by bombsites, food was rationed; our shoes, clothes and household goods were few and far between.  If you didn’t have the actual cash to buy something you simply couldn’t have it and, with working class parents, there wasn’t much money around. 

Fortunately, as a member of The Baby Boomer generation my life went on to blossom and flourish under the rapid changes of the sixties.  By the time I married in 1965, our first home had all we needed.  We had enough food, clothes, everything.  Best of all we were a generation who had a good quality education, which opened up all kinds of employment choices. 

My parents had to leave school as soon as they could to help their family’s finances. They were intelligent, articulate, talented and ambitious people but had never been given the opportunity to ‘do more with their lives’.  They were thrilled and proud that both their daughters used their chances and went on to good jobs and, much later in life, returned to education to get BA and postgraduate degrees in English and Education and go on to teach.

How proud we all were to keep making these giant strides forward and creating a more and more comfortable and luxurious life for our children and ourselves.  How sad then to think we may have lost something even more important along the way.

I am of an age where I look back to pre TV and computer times with a deep longing, not just a sentimental nostalgia.  As a species aren’t humans predisposed to live in a communal group of some sort?  Don’t we need to continually interact with an assortment of other people to absorb all kinds of information that is necessary to make us part of a harmonious ‘tribe’.  We assess people and situations in a few seconds without analyzing how we do it.  Unconsciously we read all kinds of nuances from their dress, speech, facial expressions, tone of voice – a gazillion outgoing human messages received by a gazillion inbuilt receptors.  Using our previous experiences our brain passes on the conclusions.  We need to feed this gift as much richness and variety as we can to make us fully rounded members of the human race.  This can only be done in reality, not in a cyber world.

Often my generation grew up surrounded by their extended family; if not in their own home, they might only be a few doors away - Aunts, Uncles, Cousins who had friends and neighbours we also got to know.  Children learned how to interact with all kinds of people and their quirks and accept imperfection.  Social behavior is learned at a subliminal level; more by copying than by instruction. Our first lesson learned after leaving babyhood was that we were not the center of the Universe, merely part of a group.

Now we surround our satiated nuclear family with luxurious, rather than just comfortable, homes.  We bombard ourselves with vacuous information and images hour on hour from television and other media gadgets.  It is normal to communicate via computers and cell phones for hours.  Indeed, by texting, we can avoid having to actually speak to anyone.  For hours each day we are truly isolated from any real human interaction.  Like modern Frankensteins we can all create an avatar and live a perfect life. No wonder we already have two generations who often deal badly with the foibles of unscripted real life when they come face to face with it. 

No sensible person would wish to return to hunger and poor living conditions but I do wish we could return to a simpler moment in time where we were not impoverished by our wealth.

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