“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
Does that sound familiar? Do you have similar thoughts about the coming generation? Do you fear for the world the young will find themselves in? Do you fear for the future seeing only disorder and destruction, conflict and chaos?
At the same time you fear about the future for your children and you feel that the current generation is somehow corrupt or bereft of control and direction, do you also delight in modern discoveries? Do you recognize medical improvements, technological improvements, and even some social improvements? Certainly members of the LGBT community recognize that while things are not perfect they are a far better than they have been. Just today another pro-athlete felt the ability to publically announce that he is gay. That was an unthinkable act just one decade ago. And that is a small reflection of the troubled past of the African American community, while an African American is now president of the United States.
The truth is that every generation is a little more free than the generation before. Newly found freedoms create tensions for the previous generations. They do not understand it, or they are jealous of it, or they feel that the freedom represents a lack of control that will lead to disorder. There is recoil and the two generations tug at each other, one pulling back while the other marches forward.
The fear of the future denies the facts. Statistically crime is on the decrease. Just as you become more afraid for yourself out in public, the truth is you are safer out there now than humans have ever been. Crime is on the decrease for a variety of reasons. One is that amazing technology that we embrace. Everywhere there is a camera, and committing crimes is becoming more difficult. Granted, we now have to concern ourselves with our privacy, but less with our safety.
Automobiles are becoming safer, resulting in fewer traffic deaths. Medical science is improving, increasing survival of even naturally occurring suffering. Additionally, to quote Barney Fife of The Andy Griffith Show, we are now “nipping it in the bud.” Simple, small acts of harm are being recognized at earlier stages, and society is doing some bud nippin’. Take those pro athletes that have announced that they are gay. It is becoming socially unacceptable to jeer and harass. Life is becoming safer and better.
Even wars are becoming less frequent, and less deadly. It is estimated that 37 million people died during World War 1. For World War 2, and the beginning of the era of “the bomb” the estimate is 60 million, more than 2 percent of the world’s population. The Korean War carries about 1.5 million. The Vietnam War carries an estimated 3.8 million. The Iraq War is estimated at 1.03 million. The Afghanistan War is difficult to calculate, it went on with the Soviets prior to U.S. intervention and it is currently the U.S.’s longest war, and yet death estimates float in the hundreds of thousands – not millions.
No, things are not perfect. But each generation does gain a little more freedom and safety than the one before it. We often fight against a false fear, fearing a future, a place we cannot clearly see. But is there really any better time to exist? Would you wish your children into the past? I think not. The future is always the brighter place.
That quote at the top is a translation of Plato, written more than 2,300 years ago. Those darn kids have always been those darn kids. It seems they have always had a lack of respect for their curmudgeon elders. The future has always seemed uncertain, but in truth is always getting better.