in our day

17 06 2012

2011 05 01 1304258118

a friend just forwarded me this chain email:

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.
The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another “older” person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person…

We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off.

oh i just love the finger-pointing game!  can i play too?

by the logic in this grumpy old man’s missive, it wasn’t the fault of old people who “didn’t have the green thing back then”, but honestly, nor is it the fault of snotty-nosed brats coming into receipt of a ravaged, depleted, sick world full of the vestiges of thoughtless, selfish old people.  or is it?

 
maybe, just maybe, there’s enough blame to go ALL around, in retrospect, and in advance?
 
…to the older generation who didn’t just accept their lot in life so humbly and honourably as depicted below, but who also sought to make life ‘better’ and easier for their children, most of them in blissful ignorance of the impact it would have on the world and its finite capacity.
 
…to the current generation who continue to strive for an easier life and who perpetuate and expand the culture of consumption & disposable products despite the knowledge of its many and varied negative impacts and in continuing disregard for the future generations, bamboozled as we collectively are by media long ago bought out by powerful commercial vested interests who misrepresent fact, disproportionately highlight scientific debate, and cunningly swap the popular meanings of “believer” and “sceptic” in the sham climate “debate”.
 
…and to the future generation we inculcate with these same ideals, who will follow in our footsteps, laden with overinflated senses of entitlement that will crumble when the world finishes collapsing in an eco-heap (which started at least half a century ago), who will then be forced to make extremely difficult decisions about their future (the ones that we’ve failed to make thus far), and endure an environment, and a lifestyle quite different and measurably inferior to what they were promised, due to the selfish actions of those in past generations.  at the same time they’ll want to reject the wisdom of those damn fools from the older generations who fucked everything up and who’ll probably only ‘fess up after it’s too late to do anything about it.
 
maybe, just maybe, finger-pointing and blame isn’t helping.
 
“back in my day” – it’s a phrase used by old and not-so-old alike.  Gen-Y altered it a bit, “back in the day”, to make it sound a bit less grumpy-old-man-ish, but i even hear Gen-Xers using “back in my day”, as if their lives are entering twilight, a sense of impotence in their ability to effect change.  but what does “back in my day” really mean?  halcyon days sometimes, but usually that things were harder back then and that the younger generation have somehow got it easy – which they do in a material sense, but they absolutely don’t in a whole lot of other ways older people conveniently forget.  but i think there’s much more to it than that.
 
the older we get, the less we seem to care (as measured by our actions, as distinct from our words), the less we are willing to change our ways, and the less we are likely to put our foot down and say “enough is enough!”.  teenagers have their pre-programmed rebellious phase, part of the process of growing up and discovering the boundaries of society, until they finally accept the world around them to large extent and fall into line with the status quo.  the older we grow, the less we want to change the world.  there are exceptions, of course, but that’s what they are: the exceptions, the troublemakers, the misfits, the square pegs in round holes, the ones who actually change the world.
 
“back in my day” almost always refers to collective culture, even if it’s invoked with individual experience to illustrate a point.  but “back in my day” isn’t just brandished to mean “life was harder back then”, but often as a claim to virtuousness, or at least retrospective credit for past sacrifice as measured by today’s standards, that “we were so ‘good’ to have endured such hardships back then, the likes of which these younguns couldn’t imagine”.  it becomes an unspoken “back in my day, things were better, WE were better“.
 
i call bullshit.  i think it’s also how we whitewash the consequences of our decisions and chosen lifestyles, even if that choice is made from the narrow range society considers appropriate.
 
“back in my day, we were better”.  maybe, maybe not.  but how did we get to this point?  on the rare occasions such questions are asked, the response, the suggested causes, are often presented as external factors, collective cultural pressures, or maybe the actions of Others, rather than the choices of the individual.  we even blame corporations for our plight, forgetting that it was us and our forebears – by deed or inaction – who imbued corporations with power that often exceeds that of the individual, but without the conscience of one.  and as we get older we even believe it’s too late to change those rules by which we, as shareholders, demand those corporations operate, blind to our own conflict of interest.
 
we are all responsible for our past.  we are all responsible for now.  and we are all responsible for tomorrow.
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2 responses

17 06 2012
Tyroga

Wow, go get ‘em. I think you’re completely right. We are all responsible for it all. And there’s definitely part of the older persons’

“back in my day” missing from each part of the story it would go something like: “Back in my day, we used to take the bottles back to the store to be washed and reused, but someone of my generation figured out they could make some money if they stopped this reuse nonsense and charged bottlers and stores for new containers each time.” And “back in my day, we used to walk to the corner store, but someone of my generation came up with the concept of the mall and put all the corner stores out of business and now you don’t have one to walk to.”

It’s funny that just the other day I was talking with friends about how the milkman used to come and you put the bottles back outside and he’d take them away and come back with clean bottles with milk in them and the little foil cap and how sometimes they might be a little scuffed from reuse. And one thing you never see these days, the little bit of cream that would be sitting at the top of the bottle that you’d fight with your siblings to have on your corn flakes.

The same for soft drink that was delivered by the crate. So some of this “back in my day” wasn’t so long ago. We still had corner stores when I was a kid. Man I’m old!

We really have boomed in a very short space of time. But yes you can’t say “back in my day” without the realisation that it was like that because it was just like that. The past generations didn’t make the choice not to have clothes dryers or powered mowers. In fact they chose NOT to have to hang the washing out and push mowers and invented the things we have now.

17 06 2012
techydude

thanks Jamie. yeah I remember those things too, being the decrepit Gen-Xers we are :)
i was trying to be at least a little charitable in reflecting on the actions of the older generation. I didn’t want to put the boot in too much, because in their own way they too were sold a dream that has kind of materialised, but with an awful flip side legacy; that image of a perfect life that was promised in the post-war 50s, but at a terrible ecological price that has only begun to be tallied.
Gen-Xers too were sold a dream that in some ways never quite materialised, with a large proportion denied the nice homes our parents enjoyed as property prices skyrocket, and a dearth of jobs in more senior positions because of the weight of numbers that is Baby Boomers hanging on to power.




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