Tuesday, November 04, 2008

When I was a boy

When I was a boy...

We didn’t lock our car doors or house doors.

Gas was 25¢ a gallon.

Boys swore, but girls didn’t.

We had Christmas plays and Christmas carols in public school.

A single, blue-color worker could support a family on a middle class standard of living.

Doctors made house calls.

We had no health insurance. Medical care was fee-for-service, and affordable.

There were no “Palestinians,” just Arabs.

The milkman brought bottled milk to our doorstep.

Movie stars looked like grown men and women, not high school students.

There were no menus. When you called a business or gov’t agency, a real person came on the line.

You could walk around the neighborhood with impunity. There were no sexual predators lying in ambush.

There were no cellphones.

There were no speech codes.

In public K-12, we had no security guards, security cameras, metal detectors, student ID, or schoolyard snipers.

Democrats were Cold Warriors.

Republicans were country-club businessmen.

A man’s home was his castle.

BTW, this is not so very long ago. And I grew up in a blue state.

Do I think life has gotten better or worse since I was a boy? Both.

We have fewer freedoms. More crime. And more surveillance.

Nowadays it would be unthinkable to leave your house door or car door unlocked.

Today, campus life is a concentration camp of political correctness.

Many things were more affordable when I was a boy.

And life was less impersonal. I already said that doctors made house calls back then. Nowadays you have to go through a menu to go through a receptionist to go through a nurse to reach a doctor.

For example, back in the Sixties, I think it was, my parents subscribed to The Washington Post. But, for some reason, they weren’t receiving it on a regular basis. So my mother called Katherine Graham. She was out of the office at the time, so the secretary took a message. Graham called back, and took it upon herself to clear up the problem.

Imagine trying to do something like that today? Nowadays, menus within menus serve as barricades to buffer the folks in charge from direct contact with the customer.

And there was no attempt, back then, to force Christianity from the public square.

So, in some ways, life was better when I was a kid.

Are there other ways in which life is better? Yes and no. Take technology. As a rule, technology is neutral. It can be used for good or ill.

I like technology. Depending on how people use it, it can make life better or worse.

To take a bad example, I’m appalled by cellphone junkies. I don’t object to cellphones. But so many people are utterly addicted to cellphones. I wonder if it’s a substitute for chain-smoking.

What is it about some people that they can’t stand a moment of silence? Can’t listen to the wind or the waves? Can’t listen to birdsong. Can’t even listen to a friend talking to them face to face.

By the same token, I’m puzzled by people who allow themselves to be on call every minute of the day or night. Making themselves available to every friend or stranger who wants a piece of them. Who have no time to themselves. To eat lunch in peace. Or go for a quiet walk in the park.

What happens to cellphone junkies when they accidentally lose their phone? Do they suffer from withdrawal symptoms? Delirium tremens?

Just as technology cuts both ways, environmentalism is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I’m glad that national parks haven’t been paved over to make way for the latest shopping mall or theme park.

On the other hand, when I was a boy, there was more farmland where we lived than is now the case. We used to buy some of our food direct from a local farm.

But the farm went out of business. Why? Predators (e.g. eagles, coyotes) would attack the livestock. But due to gun-control laws and endangered species acts, the framer couldn’t shoot the predators.

Of course, the olden days weren’t all for the good. There were some forms of arbitrary discrimination. It’s good to see that go.

I’d recommend that young people read G. Gordon Liddy’s When I was a Kid, This Was A Free Country.

Liddy’s a bit of a wingnut, but if you make allowance for his excesses, it’s an eye-opening book for a younger generation which lacks a frame of reference.


  1. Steve

    somewhat related issue perhaps.

    What do you think will happen if Obama wins? Do you think the US will go on an irreversible path towards socialism?

    Although I am european I still worry about that scenario. The US feels like the last bastion of freedom.

  2. While there is a lot that I miss about the days not so long ago.
    I am grateful for advances in technology, which allows me to have access to thousands of great web sites such as this one.

    Keep up the good work, I love the variety you have.


  3. I saw the children getting off the school bus the other day in my neighborhood, and they had cell phones, and were talking on them.

    it wouldn't surprise if they were talking to each other.

    It's craziness beyond insanity.

    Tanks for the good post.

    One more. I lost my 28 foot extension ladder off my truck on a n Interstate. It was in the second lane over. I quickly pulled over and jumped out and stared waving cars off, and even Tractor-trailers.
    Then here comes a Ford Explorer headed right for my Ladder. I'm yelling jumping and waving my arms like crazy. She drives smack into the ladder and it was some sight. But she just kept on going! She was talking on her cell phone.
    Amazing!! I know it must have damaged her Ford, but she just kept on talking and driving.


    Here’s a possible worst-case scenario. The American economy goes from bad to worse—dragging down the world economy in its wake. The Muslim world rises up, as well as Russia, China, &c, perceiving that this is their chance to seize the moment—with a dovish president in office.

    Under the worst-case scenario, Obama will lose reelection and the Democrat Party will be radioactive for a generation.

    In the present state of the economy, Obama doesn’t have the play money to blow on a raft of new entitlement programs.

    Things also depend on the partisan composition of Congress. Will the Dems get a veto proof or filibuster proof majority in the Senate?

    A rosier scenario for the Democrats is that the economy will eventually bounce back in Obama’s first term due to natural economic cycles, but voters will irrationally give him the credit for the spontaneous economic upturn. That might help him get reelected and enact more liberal social programs.

  5. Well there were indeed “Palestinians,” not just Arabs, but you were simply ignorant of the various identities of people in the Middle East. Quite probably you would have, also due to ignorance, lumped all the peoples in Africa together in spite of their various nations and tribes. Maybe, like George W. Bush, you think of Africa as one big country.

    Heck, a lot of Americans think Iranians are "Arabs", so none of this comes as any surprise...but it's both sad and embarrassing to have so many (from what I've seen) Americans who think this way.

    The Arabs, like many other ethno-linguistic groups, have always had a diversity of tribes and, in more recent times, nations. That might not be very apparent, however, if one just read histories written by their contemporary enemies.

    When my grandfather was a boy, there were no "Israelis" since there was only the British mandate of Palestine. That, my friend, is a fact that's not based on ignorance.

    1. No, there weren't "Palestinians." There were Jordanians. Arafat was Egyptian.