The grass always seems to be greener in the past. We lived those past lives and grew up in those idyllic days of yore, we played in the schoolyards and parks, rode bicycles in the streets, went swimming in public pools, walked with our friends to school, took buses and trains, shopped in local delis and supermarkets, and knew the local butcher and shoemaker by first name. A night out to eat was a large pie in a local pizzeria, and many of us who grew up in more urban settings, like myself, hardly ever stepped foot in a car from Monday through Friday. What happened then? Why did the majority of our generation give all that up to live lives quite the opposite? Our past being just a rosy memory we bore our children with, or nowadays start groups on FB to try and recapture those days as we live in extra large houses, spend close to a full day a week behind the wheel of an automobile, and shuttle children everywhere else to play except on the local streets or neighborhood schoolyards? I think the answer may be we have been hoodwinked.
Yes we have been tricked by the constant striving for the better life. Every generation harkens back, and now we have our earth and lifestyles in such a muddle that the simple life seems to be an impossible dream. Some of the modern movements called Ecovillages, Transition Towns, co-housing communities, all seem very similar to what we all once had. Families eating dinner together at the table, knowing our neighbors and neighborhood, and basically living more in tune within our localities.
Weekends have now lost their appeal to sit and relax, and most times weekends seem more hectic than the work week as children seem to get every choice imaginable, and people shop for something else to squeeze in the closet, but to what end? As we look around us and see what is happening it gets more difficult because we can get sucked into the past, or drawn away from the present in over-busy lifestyles.
Built-in obsolescence began in our lifetime to shorten the life of products that once outlived one maybe two generations of people and were repairable. Now the computer technology that promised a life of luxury 30 years ago, has made us all slaves to it’s insatiable appetite of constant growth. Now we can work on the train to and from work without ever speaking to the person next to us. We are in constant contact, but have forgotten how to make eye contact. Our lives are not more simple and fancy-free, but we are bogged down with mobile phones, computers, tablets and a constant onslaught to buy buy buy. The constant growth economy has eaten up our local food growers and sellers, independently owned shops are becoming extinct as the Walmarts and Starbucks take over the many small shops lining the avenues and the cozy privately owned Cafe D’oro on the corner. Every choice we make as a consumer affects the whole world in a much bigger way than anytime in our history as every electronic gadget we use has probably depended on the resources of 3 continents, and the exploitation of many workers.
I was inspired to write this because I do look back at my days in The Bronx with rosy glasses, but at the same time know I do not live in 1970 anymore. The earth and its people are asking me and all of us to take a bit more care, we can’t escape the fact that the constant growth of everything from cars and private houses to large corporations has stamped its indelible mark on the planet, and no matter how many groups harken us back to a different time, we are right here, right now. If we want our children and grandchildren to be able to look back at their childhood with similar fond memories we need to be conscious that we are heading down a destructive path, being led by big money interest to not let that reality be a possibility for future generations. We can’t lose ourselves in the rosiness of the past, or somehow the promise of a wonderful future. We were promised that too many times and have been handed war after war, unprecedented world unemployment and poverty, superstorms, rising tides, multimillionaires shaping the world the way that suits them and their interests best. Our future is being forged today, our children watch us, they see our choices, and we just have to ask ourselves a simple question so we can all sleep at night. Are we doing enough to ensure there will be a rosy past for them to look back upon? When we’re all able to look the younger generation in the eye and honestly say, “I’m doing the best I can, I don’t see any other way into the future,” the world and its problems will start to slowly recede.
We can’t sell off our planet without throwing our kids into the bargain. I am far from living the perfect life, but I try to live conscious of my actions and improve on a daily basis. I know many of you feel the same way and are trying as well, but something is obviously off kilter when there are so many petitions to sign, and many of those are asking those elected people in charge to please not continue with the pillaging of the natural world. I don’t have the answers, but I do know that enjoying looking back to a rosy childhood is something I do want my grandchildren to enjoy as well.