You know how every once and awhile you get an e mail or Facebook post that compares how simple things used to be to how problematic they are now. They are usually ironically titled something like “remember when things were tough” or “We’re lucky we made it”. They go on to demonstrate by list or pictures how things were different when we were kids. They tongue-in-cheek say things like “we never wore seat belts and we survived” or “we ate candy made with sugar, and we grew up healthy.”
I classify these posts the same way I classify the ones that show something “old” like a TV antennae and ask “Who remembers what this is?” Oh nostalgia you make me feel so grown up.
But c’mon. A lot of people remember a TV antennae for cryin’ out loud. So they are not around anymore, neither is polio but no one is pining for the simpler times by posting pictures of wheelchairs. Times have changed and we have all grown up. We have learned, and our most valuable lessons have always come from failures. We wear seatbelts now because too many people needlessly were damaged by not wearing one. We control our sugar intake because we have learned the repercussions of consuming too much of the stuff. Our advancements came at a price, but looking back and proudly claiming how we survived doesn’t make the state of our past ignorance any easier to swallow (unless it’s coated in sugar).
I love to watch old television shows like I Love Lucy or Dick Van Dyke and I am always baffled how, at the time, so many people were smokers. Truth be told, we didn’t know how bad it was back then and tons of people smoked. Then the studies were made public and laws were enacted and restrictions laid, and finally people changed their habits. It took fighting past kicking and screaming resistance but we finally advanced our behavior. Do I want to look back and say, “everyone smoked back then, and they turned out just fine.” NO! Lucille Ball died a withered and cancer-ed lady with a voice that sounded like a frog with TB. Were those the good old days when everyone lit up? I should say they were days when we didn’t know any better.
I was running with a friend a while back who was on medication for a health condition and was complaining that he had to take pills. He said when his grandparents were his age they weren’t made to take all this junk to be healthy. I responded by telling him that the average life expectancy of his grandparents generation was less than 64 years old, today it’s 78.7 years. Shut up and listen to your doctor.
It is true that we live in a culture of fear and everyone is trying to scare us into acting one way or another. If your kid rides a bike without a helmet he will have a major brain injury. If you let you kids play in the park they will be abducted. If you don’t re-post this you will have bad luck for 10 years. The fact is that some people did smoke without getting cancer, some biked without helmets, some drove without buckling, and some ate sugar and kept their teeth; but the research is out there. You are more likely to experience a negative outcome than a person who takes precautions, and precautions are easy. We grew up and we learned. Remember when we were young and dumb? Would you really want to go back to that time, knowing what you know now? Me neither, and it’s an antennae, geesh they haven’t been gone that long.