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This changing world - Input Junkie
October 19th, 2013
06:56 pm

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This changing world
Here's something I posted to a conservative discussion where sympathy was offered to boomers and older people for being very sad about the moral decline of America. My post got very little attention, possibly because it was quite long and posted late in the discussion, but probably because I'm wildly out of sync with the group.

I have no hope that it's complete, even about my own views.

Anyway, I thought I'd repost it here, with the some general questions. What major non-technological changes have you seen in your life-time? Do you think they've made things better or worse?

If you think things have gotten worse, could you be specific about how they're worse, rather than just saying that they're bad.

****

I was born in 1953.

I think the moral record has been mixed. We do suffer from a morale decline-- there's been a clear rise in pressure to not get anything wrong rather than respect for getting things right. I'd like to see a better balance, but I've never seen a good one.

One of worst things I've seen on the moral side was the financial collapse, and I'm not talking about too much kindness to poor people. I'm horrified that a lot of people in the financial industry were willing to sell bad mortgages as good, and that a fair number of people in business and government knew what was going wrong, but so many people with the power to make a difference were riding the boom that nothing got done to stop it.

Yes, there were people who should have known better about the mortgages they were signing, but banks used to be more careful about what they lent. I've seen a rise of "if it's legal, it's moral", and this is a disaster.

Another extremely bad thing-- possibly worse-- is Americans coming out in favor of torture. 9/11 made us crazy, though it's possible that Americans have always been in favor of torture, especially for interrogation, and 9/11 just made them more willing to admit it.

On the plus side, there's more decency to homosexuals, and sexual abuse (of women and children, though not yet of men) is taken more seriously. Treating pedophile priests as criminals is clear moral progress, and part of the credit goes to the sexual revolution-- if you can't talk about sex in public, you can't talk about sexual abuse.

On the minus side, there's more acceptance of public cruelty. I remember a newsgroup I was fond of (this was in the nineties) wrecked by a troll-- but there were no rape threats or death threats. In fact, there was a convention that the one thing you must not do is wish someone dead. The online culture has come to include much more nastiness.

More minus-- there's more cruelty to fat people, and it kicks in at lower fat percentages. I can remember when adults didn't exercise voluntarily unless they were very eccentric. This was probably overdoing it, but I can remember when eating and exercise disorders were at least very rare.

Plus side-- more acceptance of smart people. I can remember when being intelligent was not properly feminine *or* masculine, and since everyone was supposed to be M or F, being smart wasn't welcome. This changed (to a large extent) when it became clear that it was possible to make a lot of money by being smart with computers.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1021007.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

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From:bemused_leftist
Date:October 20th, 2013 12:40 am (UTC)
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Here's something I posted to a conservative discussion where sympathy was offered to boomers and older people for being very sad about the moral decline of America.

As an early Boomer, I'm surprised at what's being combined here. We Boomers were pretty Leftish, but "moral decline" is usually something talked about by people older than us, who think we were it. Or by people younger than us, Rightwingers who agree with them.
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From:heron61
Date:October 20th, 2013 02:24 am (UTC)
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Except for the impressive number of boomers who became fundys during the fundy movement that started in the late 70s - fears of "moral decline" (and especially other people's alleged moral decline) is pretty much their reason for existence.
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From:heron61
Date:October 20th, 2013 01:16 am (UTC)
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I was born in 1961. Going only with my own experience (thus leaving aside almost the entire 1960s, since I was too young to notice much of anything) I've seen several different sets of non-technological changes.

Acceptance& Equality: This is a clear case of progress over time – attitudes towards women, LGBT people, and to a somewhat lesser extent people of color are all considerably better than they were in the 1960s or even the 1970s. Bigotry is far less acceptable than it was before, to the point that our current difficulties are clearly the last gasp of (mostly) aging bigots who watch their world thankfully fading away.

Economics & Poverty: This is a huge negative. In addition to the 1980s & 90s dismantling of the Johnson Welfare reforms (reforms that halved poverty in 3 years), a mixture of globalization and a shift in business attitudes, combined with an alliance of government and business to destroy labor unions has left most people no better than they were 40 years ago, the poor & lower middle class considerably worse off, and the rich much wealthier than they were before. In the 1960s & 70s the US was a nation with a fairly high degree of social mobility, now it is very much not.

Overall Morals: I'm not certain what falls under this – the decline in open bigotry and increase in acceptance of all manner of non-mainstream people is a huge victory. The only major negative point is fairly recent – 9/11 effectively caused much of the US to be seized with a mixture of panic and hatred, which have been expressing themselves in all manner of horrid ways, from an acceptance of torture to increase in a few sorts of bigotry (primarily against Muslims or in fact anyone who could possibly be mistaken for a Muslim). However, much of this has faded, and will likely continue to fade and today is far more of a marker of political identification than any sort of general feeling.

The other major negative trend finally seems to be reversing, but was the rapid increase in extremist religiosity starting in the late 1970s. I'm told that the middle of the US was still staunchly Christian in the 1960s & 70s, but on the East Coast, being strongly & openly religious was considered eccentric in the early to mid 1970s, just as it is now, but for quite a while evangelical Christianity had a truly horrid flowering. It's still very much a part of US life, and sadly liberal Christianity seems effectively dead, but it has been replaced by the same growing passive and in some cases active rejection of organized religion that is far more advanced in Western Europe and which looks likely to continue. Despite not being either an atheist or an agnostic, except for the fringe atheists and their evangelical attacks on anyone who disagrees with them, I can't help but see this as a truly wonderful development and look forward to watching religious fundamentalism gradually fade away over the next 20-30 years.
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From:heron61
Date:October 20th, 2013 01:17 am (UTC)
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Continued:

Politics: This ties closely into both morals and the economy. From what I've seen, for my entire adult life, the GOP has continued an ever-rightward march to the point that the term "conservative" is now meaningless when applied to official GOP positions, and instead phrases like bizarrely reactionary seem more appropriate. This change has warped both US politics and public opinion in a way that would have been incomprehensible 40 years ago.

Today, we have the upper East Coast, the West Coast, and portions of the rest of the US in general holding attitudes that are from my PoV vastly more enlightened that anything I grew up with, while portions of the Midwest and Southwest, and the entire South becoming increasing unpleasant places where popular attitudes are a bizarre mixture of attitudes from the 1960s and earlier and a general mixture of hatred and fear brought on by the fact that their believes are increasingly marginalized in the rest of the US. It’s a far more partisan and divided nation than it was when I was younger, but given that one side of this divide supports attitudes and enacts changes that fill me with joy & hope and the other side seems largely to be a more embattled version of attitudes common shortly before my birth that simply haven't changed, I have difficulty seeing this as a negative thing as much as a change that is in progress but not going smoothly.
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From:bemused_leftist
Date:October 20th, 2013 05:11 am (UTC)
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Most of what we're calling improvements, the Right would call decline!

As for a large number of the poor getting poorer, I don't think that necessarily means a large number of the rich are getting meaner than they were before. Perhaps the same number of mean ones are getting more power than they had before, or there is some sort of impersonal economic snowball effect going on.
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From:acelightning
Date:October 20th, 2013 05:26 am (UTC)
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I was born at the end of 1947. I was a hippie when I was in college. And what I think of regarding societal changes mostly has to do with the hippie phenomenon.

When I was a little girl, girls and women wore skirts or dresses unless they had a really good reason not to, like horseback riding. We weren't allowed to wear pants to school, ever. After a certain age, young women were more or less required to wear a bra, a girdle, and a slip under their dressses. The girdle wasn't only for fat women; going out in public without one, no matter what your size, was faintly immoral. It was as if unconstrained flesh indicated that you were literally a "loose woman". And women wore medium to long hair, which had to be curled, "set", styled, and coated with hair spray. Adult women in public were required to wear nylon stockings, and makeup - face powder or "foundation", eyebrow pencil, eye shadow, and lipstick, at the very least. Boys and men wore trousers - the Utilikilt hadn't been invented yet. If their hair covered their ears, they were overdue for a haircut. They wore ties, and even jackets, most of the time. Blue jeans were only worn for manual labor.

So when the hippie culture arose, and both genders wore blue jeans and bright colors, and women *gasp!* went bra-less, and men grew their hair long, it was as if the fundamental structure of the universe had been violated. I'm glad that this particular cultural change took place, and there are very few arbitrary rules now about who can wear what under what circumstances. My son's hair is as long as mine, and he wears FiveFingers "toe shoes" to work - he's a clinical psychologist - and nobody thinks anything of it.

The changes in what's acceptable for clothing and appearance indicated a lot of other changes, of course. Mostly it meant that arbitrary rules were being questioned... which led to deep changes in society's attitudes towards women, gay people, people of color, gender and other social roles, and diversity in general. So many things have gone from "unimaginable" to "unremarkable" in fifty years!

I do wish we hadn't lost the space program, though...

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From:bemused_leftist
Date:October 22nd, 2013 05:47 am (UTC)
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Yes. Girls wore girdles (and waist cinches) to school.

Girls high school age and up, wore 'straight skirts' -- sort of tubes from waist to knees. The exact position at the knee was critical -- within an inch or two. When you sat and crossed your legs, it had to show exactly the right amount of kneecap. Some years none, some years about half of it. Showing the whole kneecap when you sat, meant you weren't a Nice Girl. Not that the kneecap itself was obscene, but with the skirt up that way, someone might Look Up Your Skirt.

We complained that hemlines kept going up and down each year, but we obediently hemmed them up or let them down or bought new skirts -- just for an inch or two difference. Total uniformity in that height.

Then came mini-skirts. Then the designers tried to bring back longer skirts -- AND WE REBELLED. From then on, every woman wore whatever length skirt she wanted to, from one day to the next. Every woman on the street might have a different length skirt, and maybe a different style blouse, and maybe a striped skirt with a printed blouse....

And most of us were no longer having permanent waves or spraying their hair. Previously, the sculpted and sprayed hair was almost always between top of the shoulders and bottom of the skull. Now hair too, dangling limp, was any length you wanted: very short to very long. Hair was blowing in the wind.

Edited at 2013-10-22 05:51 am (UTC)
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From:acelightning
Date:October 22nd, 2013 06:15 am (UTC)
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"Gimme a head with HAIR, long beautiful hair, shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen... gimme down-to-there hair, shoulder length or longer..." :-)

And it wasn't only skirts any more - you might see a woman in a long skirt, a "midi"-length skirt, a knee-length skirt, a mini... or blue jeans, or bell-bottoms. No girdles, no waist-cinchers, no bras, no nylons! But what was really important was that this anarchic freedom of fashion represented a challenge to all kinds of arbitrary rules that had been assumed to be immutable. Why, it's the total breakdown of Civilization As We Know It! (Fortunately, Civilization had other ideas...)

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From:bemused_leftist
Date:October 22nd, 2013 06:36 am (UTC)
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I don't remember anyone being shocked about skirt lengths. We were all doing it, all ages, career women, old women....

When the store window dummies got nipples, that shocked some people.
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From:elenbarathi
Date:October 20th, 2013 10:35 am (UTC)
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I was born in 1957. When I was growing up, girls were supposed to be pretty, neat, polite, charming, submissive, domestic, and not physically or intellectually active enough to threaten the Male Ego. It wasn't okay to be either a 'tomboy' or a 'brain'. It wasn't okay to express ambition to do anything but be a Wife and Mother.

Then the 60's hit; everything changed; by the 70's the Sexual Revolution was in full swing. Instead of being told we weren't allowed to want anything but marriage and family, suddenly we were being told we had to be 'sexually free', viz. open to getting screwed with "no strings" by any random guy who wanted to. It was a profoundly dangerous era in which to be a girl. Women had lost the traditional social protections, and hadn't yet learned how to protect ourselves in a world without them. What's now called 'date rape' was the common custom, but no one ever talked about it. A lot of the over-the-top militant feminism of the 80's grew out of womens' rage at having been so thoroughly sold out and screwed over by so-called 'sexual freedom' that was just another name for nothing left to lose.

When I was a kid, children ran free. When we weren't in school, we were mostly playing outside. Almost all the Moms were home all the time, so neighborhoods were guarded by a network of sharp-eyed women, and if one of them hollered at you, you had better be respectful, because she may call your mother if you're not. All the families with children knew each other, because the kids were all over the neighborhood all the time.

Everybody had radio, television and record players, and some people did play theirs all the time, but electronic entertainment was not the all-consuming obsession it's become in this century. Kids had chores and hobbies, read books, played board games and musical instruments, did arts and crafts, and - mostly - roamed around the neighborhoods, on foot or on bike, till the street-lights came on at dusk.

The first shopping malls began in the mid-70's and quickly became wildly popular, but respectable teens didn't just go and hang out there. As a rule, even well-off parents didn't just give their kids money to blow on non-essentials. We mostly got allowances, yes, but they were mostly pitiful, so we baby-sat or did yard work - nobody had to hire adults for such tasks; there were plenty of neighbor kids eager to make a few bucks.
From:paulshandy
Date:October 21st, 2013 02:28 am (UTC)
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I was born in the early 70s. What strikes me since I came into political awareness in the 80s is the decline of political discussion. Reagan and Tip O'Neill could work out compromises, but it's getting harder and harder. And back then Rush Limbaugh was a talk radio crank; now he has set the tone of Republican talking points. This is partly because the political divide between Republicans and Democrats has become a cultural divide with little common ground, and partly because the 80s conservative political machine whipped up a lot of slanders and lies about liberals and raised an entire generation to believe them. Now those conservatives are in Congress, with predictable results.
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From:bemused_leftist
Date:October 22nd, 2013 06:02 am (UTC)
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I think cable tv had a lot to do with it. ABC/CBS/NBC, chocolate/vanilla/strawberry. Just those three. Huntley-Brinkley was strawberry - as colorful as it got.

Actually, that situation was healthier than we appreciated at the time. All three were trying to be middle of the road, mainstream, neutral. So instead of getting viewers by controversy or ideology, they had to compete by doing the best job of -- remember? -- NEWS. Who got it first and most accurate, got the most thorough story. Inaccuracy was called out. There was also the Equal Time doctrine; if an old Ronald Reagan movie was shown, his opponent got equal time.

Then that all splintered into cable tv, cheaper newspapers, cheaper book publishing, etc. Conservatives could start their own news networks.
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From:bondo_ba
Date:October 21st, 2013 02:08 pm (UTC)
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I think that first line about the respect for not getting anything wrong vs. getting things right is spot-on, not just on the work front, but also in things like the rise of PC and the fact that you can't offend anyone for any reason...
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From:cakmpls
Date:October 21st, 2013 05:51 pm (UTC)
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In everything here, no mention of civil rights? I was born in 1947, and the situation for African Americans, as well as other people of color, has changed radically in my lifetime. No, I am NOT saying racism is gone, and there seems even to have been some resurgence of it--or probably more its being acceptable to show it--in recent years, but the overall improvement has been huge.

People who long for the "good old days" they lived through almost never seem to be recalling them correctly, and people who didn't live through them cherry-pick just the things that seem appealing.

I think the U.S. is overall a more moral country today than it was when I was born.
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From:selenite
Date:October 21st, 2013 06:56 pm (UTC)
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On torture--this is not new. Remember what drove the Miranda Warning and the Exclusionary Rule. That's how we treated our citizens, not our enemies.
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From:bemused_leftist
Date:October 22nd, 2013 06:05 am (UTC)
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Doing torture in secret always happened. What's new, and more evil -- is ADMITTING it. Justifying it.

Violating the standard happens in an imperfect world. But attacking the standard itself -- that's new.
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From:whswhs
Date:October 22nd, 2013 01:38 am (UTC)
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I have to say that encouraging poor people to buy houses that they can't really afford does not fit my definition of "kindness." I might call it an example of pathological altruism, if I understand the concept correctly.
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