Tea and hot buttered crumpets. Coal fires. Spitfires. Light entertainment. Politicians what you could trust. Proper snow. Hot summers. Stockings. Steam trains. Bunting. Boy scouts. Bottled milk. Make Do & Mend. White people. Tuberculosis. There’s so much to love about the good old days. You used to be able to have a good old chat back then, too. On buses and trains and out on the street. About the, er, weather and the, er, sky. But nowadays everyone’s more interested in looking at their phones instead, aren’t they? Idiots. I bloody hate nowadays…
The strangest thing about people who laud the good old days is that they aren’t usually that old themselves. They talk as though they grew-up midway through the pomp of the Edwardian age, whereas they were often born just either side of the introduction of Ceefax. They have Facebook accounts, Twitter feeds, Amazon Prime and Netflix subscriptions, yet still bask in the glory of the fact that they were around long before technology ‘took over’. Palpably unaware of the irony of doing so, they’ll share memes which boast vacuous, mid-Atlantic phrases like this:
‘I was part of the last generation to walk to school, play outside until the sun went down, write my family, talk to my neighbors, carry an old man’s groceries, and contract Rubella (until the sun went down).
And it never did me any harm.
Click share if you agree!!!’
The general insinuation of these memes is that people born pre-1990 are good, strong, sturdy, reliable members of society (as a result of our back-breaking childhoods in those workhouses of the late 1970s) and that people born post-1990 are mollycoddled, entitled wimps who get driven to school and don’t know a thing about the real world or how the sun used to go down.
The beauty is, of course, that if the youth of today are indeed mollycoddled, entitled wimps who are unappreciative of celestial patterns, a portion of the blame must belong to those people sharing the memes i.e. their parents and elders. They’re ones who are coddling their mollies, or mollying their coddles, or whatever the fuck that phrase means. Take walking to school, for example. At the last YouGov count (2013), almost of half of the people who drove their children to school lived less than a mile away. It’s not a stretch to suggest that at least some of those people who spend their evenings bragging about how they walked to school may actually drive their children to that same destination the following morning. According to the YouGov report, they do this for two perfectly understandable reasons: first, because they’re worried that if their children walked to school, they might get accosted by a weirdo (a weirdo who was born, most likely, before 1990); second, because of the reckless driving and parking around the school itself by other parents.
All this is nothing new. History is littered with people proclaiming that the latest generation are all ignorant softies. If they’d had memes in the Middle Ages, they’d play on exactly the same themes:
‘I was part of the last genyration to sweepe the crop with mine scythe, joust until the sun did retreat, man the oxen, quoth allegiance to mine Lord, and holdeth an aged serf’s plagued coarpse whilst breeving bubonic aire into mine lungges.
And ne’er once did it serve me payne.
Clicke shayre if thoust agree!!!’
Obviously, it’s all nonsense. Evolution is a slow mover. Raise anyone in the noughties – Caligula, Cleopatra, Hitler, Anne of Cleves – and they’d be no different to the current breed: they, too, would watch Kinder Eggs being opened on YouTube, know what a Zayn is and send each other photos of sloths. The same goes for people born post-war; it’s highly doubtful they’d exit a 21st-century womb clutching the Daily Express and demanding to walk to school. They’d embrace the only world they knew.
As alluded to in the introduction, one of the biggest gripes these people have is how nobody talks to each other nowadays. But when I think back to my own particular good old days (the 80s and 90s), I have little recollection of a world of gifted raconteurs. The people on the bus didn’t go chatter, chatter, chatter as the song had led me to believe (with Norfolk’s public transport system, we considered ourselves lucky if the wheels managed to go round and round). Instead, they mostly looked out of the window in silence, with occasional tuts. Just like nowadays. In shops, some people spoke to you, others didn’t. Just like nowadays. On the street, some people said ‘Hello’, others didn’t. Just like nowadays.
It was a simpler time. But, as a child, it was also mind-numbing. The world was a closed door. The lines of communication had been cut. There were no smart phones. No free messaging apps. The internet was primitive, only whistling its way down particular telephone lines (mostly belonging to people who liked Dana Scully too much). The closest we got to a global community was playing Bamboozle on Teletext.
Whilst people berate the current generation for allowing modern technology to clog the once great flow of national discourse (!), let us not forget that at a certain point in the tempestuous pre-digital history of our sceptred isle, almost half of the population regularly watched Crossroads. During the broadcast of which, conversation in Britain was limited to phrases such as ‘Will you be quiet!’ and ‘Shut up! I want to hear what Benny’s going to say next! This is the best motel-based soap opera on the telly!’. There were other big hitters, too: Eastenders, The Mike Yarwood Show, Coronation Street, World Championship Snooker, It’s A Knockout, Dallas, and Sale of the Century. They all routinely pulled in twenty million viewers. And they all kept people quiet.
Here’s a new meme:
I was part of the last generation to watch loads of television, pay a fortune to call my friends, waste money and paper by buying physical copies of newspapers, lose touch with my school friends, use the phrase ‘I wish I had a camera’, give myself nausea by looking at a map whilst driving, die of a heart attack because nobody had a phone on them and not click share if they agreed.
Just as old cotton weavers once sneered at how easy the newcomers had it with these new-fangled Spinning Jennies, so some people today sneer at phone-readers and their downward-facing eyes. But mobiles are now so versatile that it’s nigh-on redundant to disregard people’s use of them as anti-social or a waste of time. Granted, if it was 2003 and somebody was spending six hours a day playing Snake II, then that might be cause for concern. But it isn’t 2003. I’ve got the bald patch to prove it. And for God’s sake, who wants to communicate with the people around them, anyway? Morrissey might be wrong about carnivores and Chinese people, but he was right about this: the world is full of crushing bores. On average, one in every ten conversations I have with a random stranger is pleasant. The other nine generally have me wondering whether the person is going to a) bore me to death or b) stab me to death. One-in-ten isn’t a decent return. Ask UB40. You’re best off getting your phone out.
Yes, too much ‘technology’ can have a negative affect, but that applies to almost anything: too much interior decorating; too much Cluedo; too much paleontology; too much dairy farming. That’s why we call it ‘too much’. We’ve taken the marvels and the miracles of modern technology and beaten ourselves up with them. Life is hard enough without feeling compelled to entertain strangers with fluffy conversation. We should no longer have to sit and listen to some random bloke rambling on about how the weather affects his feet or how big his knife collection is. Technology has offered us a gateway out of that particular hell. We can pop our earphones in and listen to Hunky Dory instead; or send a text to a friend in Australia; or find out what time so-and-so’s party starts; or book tickets to a gig; or turn the heating on; or even play Snake II. The world is an open door. Embrace it. Enter through it. Strangers are often best avoided anyway. That’s why people drive their kids to school.
And it never did them any harm.
Click share if you agree!!!