The Times … They Are Changing   1 comment

List some of the things that you have seen change or develop in your lifetime.

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I used to marvel at my grandmother’s generation. Born in 1887, she entered a world without cars, airplanes, phones, electricity, running water, radio or television. Women didn’t have the vote in almost any country and they wore dresses down to their ankles and corsets were considered modest. By 1971, when she died, there were cars, airplanes, phones, electricity, running water, radio and television and women were barely wearing clothes in the country at the time. Imagine how thoroughly exciting the pace of discover and development must have been in those 84 years.

Image result for image of changing times

My own lifetime hasn’t changed that much, but there have been a fair number of changes since I drew my first breath.

In 1960, the US was in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, each busily dividing up the world based on their individual philosophies. The Civil Rights movement had already begun, but had yet to be felt throughout the nation. Women had long had the vote, but women who worked outside the home in jobs independent of their husbands were few and far between. Kids were respectful of their parents and what their parents wanted them to do as adults. Religion was seen as a net benefit to society. When my mom in Fairbanks Alaska called my grandmother in Seattle Washington, they had to scream to be heard across the 2000-mile line and a 10-minute phone call cost a half-day’s wage. Computers filled warehouses. You didn’t need a passport to travel to Mexico or Canada. Everybody smoked and, in Alaska, everybody including the kids, drank alcohol, but almost nobody had heard of cannabis. Cars didn’t have seatbelts … at all. Baseball was the national pasttime. Almost no Americans had ever played soccer. Unless you lived in a big city, your television (often black-and-white) only got a handful of local stations. Everybody in the nation watched Walter Cronkite at 6 o’clock and families sat down to watch general-age programs together after dinner.

So, what’s changed?

Almost everything.

In 1960, my parents created me outside of marriage and being a mature adult in her late 30s, my mother considered having an abortion. Fortunately for me, abortion was illegal at the time and the only doctor in Fairbanks who would perform one was a drunk, so she asked my dad for traveling money to go to Anchorage to “take care of the problem” and found out that he was happy with being a first-time father in his late 40s. My parents didn’t really have an option to prevent pregnancy. Condoms were highly unreliable and so were diaphragms. Today, options abound and they are extremely reliable if used correctly. Why this generation continues to fail at that simple task is a mystery to me, but I count effective contraception as a major achievement in my lifetime. For the record — anti-abortion and pro-choice – I just believe your choices should occur before you create a child.

Today, I can call someone in Africa and have as clear a conversation as if they were right here in Fairbanks. More than that, we can Skype as if we’re talking face-to-face. Video conferencing didn’t exist when I was born and for most of my adulthood it was hurky-jerky, but today, it’s seamless. And virtually free. If I Skype, it’s included in the price of my Internet connection. If I call long distance on my cell phone, it’s paid for with my subscription. Even using my landline, it costs only pennies to talk for significant amounts of time.

Of course, that ease of communication is born of the computer age. In 1960, the University of Alaska Fairbanks installed a Honeywell computer the size of an aircraft hangar with a computing capacity comparable to the laptop I am typing on right now. When I graduated high school in 1979, the personal computer was only four years old, you had to build them yourself and do all the programming as well. I remember going over to my cousin’s house in winter of 1981 to see the first Apple. My computer teacher in college, one of the original Bell Labs programmers, referred to the personal computer as a “fad”. I can order a laptop from the Internet for about a day’s wages and it comes loaded with tons of software and will fit in a briefcase. I have more computer power in my smart phone than that Honeywell number cruncher had. It’s a major technological change that has transformed society and made it possible for people like me to become authors and publishers.

I could go on about the Internet of Things, the gig economy, streaming and social media, but if you’re reading this post, you already know about those things.

In 1960, politics were pretty ho-hum. My mother, a fiscally conservative independent, and my father, a staunch Democrat, could congenially argue about their opposing viewpoints and not feel the need to end their relationship. In Alaska, politics was an indoor sport and everybody was permitted to participate. Even kids were expected to have an opinion, which the adults would try to sway us from. Starting in the late 1960s, politics became a divisive issue where people could no longer reasonably debate the various topics and points of view. I blame the first half of my own generation (I’m a boomer) for this. My older brother and his friends felt very passionately about what they believed and their inability to consider the alternatives to their viewpoints or to follow those viewpoints to their natural negative consequences has led to the polarized entrenchment of our day. When you start insisting that everybody ought to walk in lockstep with you toward a mythical utopia, sooner or later someone is going to point out that there is a cliff ahead and refuse to keep monkey-walking with you.

Frankly, because I was raised in Alaska, I didn’t experience the Civil Rights or Youth movements in the same way I would have if I’d lived in another part of the country. Alaska passed a civil rights bill in 1945, so we’d already been desegregated 15 years when I was born. Our schools and neighborhoods were already mixed race. Alaska is considered among the three most racially diverse state in the union. But we did have a few protests in support of the Lower 48 Civil Rights movement and some of the people who came up from other states really didn’t get that nobody here much cared about race. Of course, you can’t dictate what is in people’s hearts, but you can ostracize idiots and it worked pretty well. But in 1960, even racially liberal Alaskans couldn’t have foreseen that there’d be a black man as president within my lifetime. That alone ought to be a testament to some huge changes in our culture and the fact that some people think otherwise suggests there is another kind of racism in the works today..

In 1960, my mother was an odd duck – a “married” woman who worked outside the home in a job not attached to her husband.  This was partially because my parents never married legally, but it was more because my mother had learned from her first marriage that having your own income was a good thing … even a necessary thing if your husband was a fool with money. She enjoyed working and she enjoyed being able to direct her own economic life and my dad was all right with that. They were able to buy two houses and fund a retirement because she worked. But only about 8% of married women in 1960s worked outside the home in an independent job. Today, it’s about 68%. My mom was seriously bucking a trend and she took some flak for it. Today the shoe is on the other foot, so to speak. People tend to look down on women who stay home with the kids. The times shifted and will shift again. Women in the workforce is here to stay, but hopefully we’ll learn to accept that women aren’t being subversive when they decide to tend the home fires instead.

I think the thing that has changed the most in our culture since 1960 is the concept of morality and the value given to those who adhere to morality. In 1960s, pastors were respected and churchgoers were coveted as employees. People might not be regular attenders, but most people belonged to a church and it was considered a gauge of integrity that you attended. Today, many people distrust churches and subtly ostracize people who regularly attend them. Although employers are not legally permitted to discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation, many employers make it difficult for faithful employees to continue with regular attendance and/or any acknowledgement of faith in the workplace. Companies owned by Christians are increasingly under pressure to ignore and violate long-held Biblical principles and practices. They’re told they should keep their beliefs out of the workplace, which is a PC way of saying stopping believing what the Bible teaches. Discrimination against Biblical beliefs and those who hold them is considered by some to be a worthy goal, something to be stated proudly in public. On the other hand, we have had vast improvement in accepting non-Christian religions and their right to express what they believe in the public square. The first is a deplorable mistake. The second is a positive development.

Times always change and I expect my children will be able to write a similar post with different details in 30 years. I don’t think the world has changed as much in my lifetime as it did in my grandmother’s, but I still have 30+ more years to live. What will be different then?

Maybe everything and maybe not much. You know the Proverb, right? “There is nothing new under the sun.” The more things change, the more they stay the same. That’s because, despite the technological and social window-dressing, human nature remains stubbornly the same throughout history. The details change, but we do not.

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Posted August 7, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop, Uncategorized

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One response to “The Times … They Are Changing

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  1. Ah yes I’d forgotten about the seatbelts and the increase in married women in employment. Both good changes!

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