Have you ever listened to old people bellyache about modern society and compared it to the past? Did you ever hear them say something along the lines of, “Back in my day we did this and that, and we had A, B, and C and we didn’t do this or that, and there was no X, Y, Z, and everything was grand.” It gets tiring, doesn’t it? Senior citizens always talk about the past with their rose-colored glasses on as if everything was dandy, and then the world went to hell in a hand basket once they reached middle age. I’ve heard this song and dance a thousand times before from my parents and others. That’s because the ‘good old days’ was back when they were young and in their prime. They had more energy and fewer health problems. They were probably out partying, getting laid more, and more in tune with pop culture. They weren’t staring down death’s doorstop. And I’m sure the prior generations never did the same because life was so grand. I had this conversation with my Uncle Michael a few years ago. He concurred and added they weren’t as aware then as they are now. Because they weren’t in tune with all that’s happening is why they’re so cynical.
The Usual Suspects
Almost every problem we hear about on the news didn’t begin yesterday. The real issue is nobody ever talked about it until now for fear of shame and humiliation. They’ve had gang violence in America at least since the Great Depression with Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, and company. The media didn’t make a big deal out of it until the 1980’s the Crips and Bloods emerged with the crack epidemic. Not until we saw dangerous black and Hispanic men and boys in the inner cities carrying automatic weapons did everyone begin lamenting. The crime rate in Chicago is lower than it’s been in sixty years. The number of rapes and sexual assaults in America has decreased 50-percent since 1993, but you would never hear these statistics from the mainstream media, third wave feminists, the NRA, or any of the geniuses in Washington. The violent crime rate in America period has continued to surge since the early 90’s, but most people don’t know this because the number of murders, rapes, assaults, and whatnot being reported has increased.
The Good Old Days
All that clamor with Bill Cosby and Brett Kavanaugh happened during the 70s and early 80s. The other folks mentioned by the #metoo movement like Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey committed sexual harassment at least twenty years ago to my recollection. It’s just nobody discussed this then. This is one reason I loved that show Boardwalk Empire. That program starring Steve Buscemi was about the mayor of a New Jersey town during the Prohibition Era who moonlit as a bootlegger. It showed what took place behind closed doors during the 1920s and 30s and that life wasn’t a bed of roses. Sure, the fashions and music may have been soothing, but I can’t even imagine how difficult things were during the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl. There wouldn’t be enough jazz or swing music to cast away my woes.
Choose Your Battles
Yesterday, at the VA hospital, I had to practice restraint while conversing with two old men. We talked about martial arts before one went on a tangent about Stephen Seagal and wondered why Seagal didn’t make movies anymore. Things started going downhill when I stated the reason Seagal’s more recent movies are all in Eastern Europe and why he’s no longer famous is because he’s been Hollywood blacklisted after several sexual harassment suits filed against him. The guy tried using a strawman argument stating there should be a statute of limitation and that he’d report it right away as if his car were stolen. It did no good when I tried elucidating most people would have discredited those women then because they didn’t have the recourse they do today. The other guy said if he was rich and famous like Seagal and had women throwing themselves at his feet, he’d do the same thing. That’s when I knew it was time to walk away. A few years ago, I would’ve been shocked. I might have even scorned them and told them they’re old enough to know better. I wasn’t surprised, though, seeing this was the VA hospital with military veterans many of whom were lifers. I may be autistic, but I’ve been socialized to know how to choose my battles. I therefore chalked it up as they were just men of their times.
A Grain of Salt
My first gig after graduating college was that of an enumerator during the 2010 census. I remember discussing kids with some 70-something Irish-American retiree from New York I’ll call George. He would regurgitate the same platitudes I heard from every other guy from his generation. George would say, “Back in my day, when I went to Catholic school, the priest swatted us good with a paddle whenever we misbehaved, and it made us tough.” Hogwash I say! Back in your day, people would lose their marbles if they saw a black person living in the same neighborhood or using the same facilities as you or a woman. Back in your day, it wasn’t uncommon for men to get drunk and beat their wives, so let’s not kid ourselves, George. I’m sure those priests expressed their love for children in other ways, but we don’t need to go there. Nobody knew then that corporal punishment causes depression and anxiety and makes kids more aggressive. The general public knew jack about psychology. It might have worked in the short run, but it was detrimental in the long run. I’ll bet the truancy and teenage pregnancy rates were high back then, but I’m sure George and others wouldn’t acknowledge that. While they may be wise and knowledgeable in some areas, many of their ideas I find outlandish and obsolete. This is why I don’t bother explaining autism to most folks over 70 and take what they say with a grain of salt.