Every so often I get fired up about something at work and it always leads to the same conversation; me venting to the next cubicle over about the state of the country. And without fail, she (a boomer) always says with an air of hopeless resolve, “well, it’s not like it used to be.”
The problem is that she only focuses on the effects, the tangible, what she’s personally affected by. Aggressive driving for instance. She says that people drive much more aggressively these days. “It’s not safe. It’s not like it used to be. Nobody takes leisurely drives anymore.” That’s where it stops. Her analysis of the world stops with nostalgia.
I’ve been trying for months to try to get her to ask different questions. Not just what is different, but why it’s different, and more importantly, how did we get to this point? Have you considered that aggressive driving might be born from stress and anxiety? Your beloved leisurely drives have gone by the wayside… what has taken their place? Extreme productivity and time efficiency?
In many cases, these bad things in our society today are not the issues themselves, but symptoms of underlying problems. To continue with the aggressive driving example; local governments can change traffic patterns and reduce speed limits all they want, but at the root of the problem is driver aggression.
But we can go deeper. Why are drivers becoming more agressive? Is it because greater speeds and safer vehicles have unlocked some primal instinct? Maybe, but I suspect it has something to do with stress and how we as a society manage our mental health.
See, the Germans don’t have the same road rage problems that we have in America, and they can go even faster than we can. What does their society do differently? For starters, they treat their workers better. The kids go to school at a later hour. The drinking age is lower. They don’t eat nearly as much fast food.
It’s not perfect, but imagine this: what if Americans as a whole were less stressed, daily. What if that man didn’t have to rush to work every day, because his workplace valued him as a person and not a number, and understood that life happens sometimes. What if he wasn’t quite so worried about things going on at home; that if he lost this job that he hates, his children would starve and his wife would die of cancer without health insurance. What if he was taught from a young age that talking about his feelings was valid and essential for men to do?
Maybe this is stretching the analogy a bit. Try this; a recent study has concluded that high school students today exhibit on average MORE stress that the average mental institute patient did in the 1950s. Meaning that if this were 1950 (the good old days), all of our young people could be put away for “nerves”.
Something is broken. You’re right; in many ways, those were the good old days. But boomers, you have made the world we live in today. Maybe if your generation wasn’t so focused on growing the economy, they would remember that we’re all just people, not machines. Perhaps if your generation wasn’t so intent on gathering as much money as possible, you would remember that your young people are in debt that they will never climb out of. Want to build the economy? Remember the future of it; who will be taking care of you in 20 years. Remember the children born to parents who they hardly see. How can you bring back family values to a world where both parents work 50 hour weeks to put food on the table?
I’m asking, please look deeper than your nostalgia. If you want things to go back to the way they used to be, you need to start valuing people for their souls, rather than the monies they contribute to society.