Friday, November 03, 2006

The Greatest Generation v. Generation Y

Here is an interesting article by Matt Chancey. It is amazing to think of all the upheaval that has occurred in our culture over the past century and just how odd it all must look to the aging generation who remember past times.

Bill Snead came from a generation of Americans that had no idea what a psychiatric disorder” was. There was no Ritalin, no Prozac. Parents didn’t take their children to a psychiatrist when they started playing with fire or hanging from ceiling fans.

As Snead put it, “We applied the ‘board of education’ to the ‘seat of knowledge.’ We didn’t drug our young people. Back then, we called their foolishness ‘sin.’”

When my grandparents recount bits and pieces of their childhood growing up together in small-town Indiana, it seems like a different world, almost - a world where children respected their parents without question, where guns were not feared but respectfully used, and where sin was called just that - "sin." We live in a peculiar and godless society. As Schaeffer would say, we live in a post-Christian society. God help us.

Read the whole article here.

HT: LAF

14 comments:

Ashley said...

Thanks for linking to this, Susan! I enjoyed reading it. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the "Greatest Generation" - our grandparents today. I think that is one reason why I love the 1940s so much. When I look at our culture and society today and the direction where it's going, it makes me depressed.

I remember reading an article once (perhaps you linked to it from here?) that said in times past, the front porch (i.e. neighborly friendship) served as the psychiatrist's couch. We would interact with those around us and share burdens. Now, with our closed doors and TVs in our houses we don't meet the neighbors and are resigned to pay someone to listen to our problems.

Yes, I wish I could have been part of the Greatest Generation.

Adrian C. Keister said...

Perhaps there were some characteristics about past ages that were better than what we see. However, I can't help but be reminded of the passage in Ecclesiastes 7:10, "Say not, 'Why were the former days better than these?' For it is not from wisdom that you ask this."

The fact is, the seeds for today's unrighteousness were sown back in those days, as difficult as that might be to believe. To find out why today seems worse is an extremely difficult question. Sin, obviously, is the chief evil. And grace is the answer. But to investigate secondary causes would be difficult.

We have to live in today's world, not yesterday's world. Monasticism isn't an option, either, for it flies in the face of the command to be in the world, but not of it.

My conclusion? Learn from history by all means. As C. S. Lewis says, we must void chronological snobbery. And I would add we should avoid it on both counts: thinking newer is automatically better, or thinking older is automatically better. Neither is terribly helpful. The older may be better at some things; while the newer may be better at other things. The older, however, is not likely to have made the same mistakes that we make. Hence we can learn much from old books and older people. And then we have to knuckle down and do the thing that is before us.

In Christ.

Susan said...

I've read articles about the role of the front porch somewhere too, Ashley, but I don't think I linked it. Hmm. It is a shame our society doesn't have the same sense of community it once did :(. I wouldn't say I wish I was part of the Greatest Generation, but I do wish those fashions would come back in style :). I love the hats especially. Although a lot of the move to unisex clothing took place in the '40's come to think of it. Hmm. It was a mixed time. Great music and nice feminine hats, though :). And I love the community aspect :). At least there was a prevailing sense of "honor they parents" back then.

I see I've given the wrong impression, Adrian. I don't mean that we should wish for former years or think of them as "ideal." I will not deny that I did think those very things in the past, but I realized the folly of such thoughts earlier this year (ref: "Under Grace" posts). I'd say the Ecclesiastes quote hits the nail on the head.

What I simply meant was that in the early 20th century, the culture was considerably different and still a "Christian" culture in many ways, where things such as respect were honored and sin was discussed seriously. Absolutely the seeds of unrighteousness were sown back then, and a lot farther back! This world is corrupt because of sin, not because the society has changed. The society has changed because of sin.

My purpose in the post was not to "wish for former days," as I'm finally content that I live in the here and now and thank God for it. I was just pointing out the contrast between the "now" and the "then." The culture is extremely different! And I think Schaeffer sums it nicely when he speaks of a "post-Christian" society. He was certainly not a monastic!

Adrian C. Keister said...

Reply to Susan.

And now, I see that I've given the wrong impression. I think I was replying more to Ashley than to you. I apologize for the confusion.

In Christ.

Susan said...

Ah, I see, Adrian :).

Ashley said...

Ah yes, you are right, Adrian. I probably spend too long lamenting my unfortunate birth year. :-) However, I have for a long time had a passion about the 1940s era - I have studied it quite a bit, from writings to the artwork of that day to the fashions and styles. So it's not that I wish for the "good old days", but rather for that specific decade. Had Susan posted on, say, the society and culture of Regency England then I would not have responded the same way. But as you said, it isn't terribly helpful to be wishing for something I will never achieve! I know I need to focus on learning from history and living today.

Susan: I like the gloves and hats and dresses too. :-) I love wearing gloves. I wish we still did that. Ooh I have a hankering to watch some old movies now. Perhaps one of these days I will be able to figure out how to pull off 1940s style and fashion today.

zan said...

I agree, Adrian. My FIL, a WWII vet, and still a quite active 82 yr old, often says, "The good old days weren't really that great." There was sin back then, too. His sister, at 15, got pregnant out of wedlock and was married (very quickly). They were a very conservative Dutch reformed family, too.

I think the difference in that society and ours is that the sister GOT married. However, after 20yrs they did divorce. The husband did not love her and treated her very badly. So was getting married because that was the thing to do really a good idea? I don't know.

That is just one example of how things weren't any better or worse. Another was how many children died prior to vaccinations. My FIL tells me of many children he knew who died. I do think that the people then were stronger. When my FIL's mother miscarried, it was my FIL at 14 who took the premature baby and buried it in the back yard. The father just couldn't do it (they had trouble conceiving and only had two children that survived). Now adays a boy doing that would need ongoing counciling.

We definately can learn from the past and it is the sins of the past that make the world what it is today. My husband and I were discussing how The Greatest Generation could produce such an ungreatful generation. It is really interesting to think about and discuss.

Susan said...

I love the gloves also, Ashley. Those really "make" a 1940's outfit. I'm daring enough to wear hats in public, but not gloves, except winter gloves. I'm not sure why. Isn't a hat more noticable?

Zan, have you read The Good Days, They Were Terrible? Parts of your comment reminded me of that. It's an interesting read, though I'm not sure of the accuracy.

John Dekker said...

What's with this "Greatest generation"? Let's not kid ourselves - our grandparents lived in a godless society, also.

I think that is one reason why I love the 1940s so much.

Yes, and half the decade was taken up with a world war!

Anyway, Schaeffer put the "line of despair" at 1890 in Europe, and 1935 in the US. (See The God Who Is There.) So even the 1940s was post-Christian.

zan said...

Yes, Susan, those are just a few stories he has told me that I can think of. We definately can learn from the past. Unfortunately, history seems to always be repeating itself. People's memories are very short. Winston Churchill call WWII the unecessary war. Twenty years earlier WWI had just ended. Germany spent all that time between wars building weapons and an army and nobody did anything. Europe didn't even act when Germany conquered Poland. It took Pearl Harbor for the US to wake up. I am amazed how short Americans memory is. I not a military expert, but one thing I do know is that Republicans have been able to keep another terrorists attack from happening on US soil. However, the Democrats who want to stop the Patriot Act and the phone tapping are ahead and may recapture the House and Senate (though, I am not entirely convinced they will). They want to give terrorists lawyers. I am just amazed that Americans forget what the consequences were when America was soft on terrorism. It's only been 5 yrs since 9/11. I don't know what the answer is in Iraq, but it certainly isn't to tolerate terrorism like I hear the Democratic canidates say. I will tell you. If the Democrats do win and start excercising their ideas, I won't be visiting many cities.

John,

If I am not mistaken, "The Greatest Generation," is a phrase coined by Tom Brokaw of NBC. It was the title of his book. They are an amazing set of people. THey were raised during the Great Depression and fought in WWII. They are a tough generation and one to be admired as we would admire the founding fathers of our country. Different generations of human beings in crucial times in history stand out. They are either admired or critisized. My FIL joined the marines in WWII at age 17. My FIL wrote a detailed account of his war experience for his decendents to read. It is quite the read. A generation that was as brave and selfless as that of my FIL produced the self absorbed culture of the 6os and 70s. How could that happen? It is very interesting to think about.

Becky Miller said...

Thanks for the tipoff that LAF updated!

The Happy Feminist said...

I am always amazed when I read that people view past decades of this century through rose-colored glasses. Both of my father's parents were subjected to terrible discrimination growing up. My grandmother grew up hearing all sorts of terrible things about "hook-nosed Jews" and other epithets directed at her people -- and my Italian-American grandfather often could not apply for jobs that he wanted or was barred from certain schools, social clubs, etc. And what they faced is as nothing compared to what African-Americans endured.

Obviously, comparing today to the past is like comparing apples and oranges. Some things are better and some things are worse. But I tend to see a kinder, gentler, safer, more tolerant society than ever before. I am quite glad to have been born in the generation I was, and thankful everyday that , as a woman and as a person of "ethnic" heritage, I have the opportunity to participate fully in the life of our fantastic nation.

Susan said...

Thank you for clarifying on Schaeffer, John. I didn't realize he placed the 1940's as post-Christian. I have that book, but haven't read it.

And I never knew that Churchill called WWII the unnecessary war, Zan. Interesting. WWI was really just perpetuated in the form of WWII. The Treaty of Versailles was far from kind to the Germans, contrary to original cease-fire offers, and it just caused Germany to brew for two decades before exploding in 1939.

You're welcome for the tipoff, Becky. Did you know you can sign up for e-mail notifications of LAF updates? There is a sign-up in the sidebar. Quite handy!

HF, you are quite right that past centuries had their own problems, racial discrimination being one of them. Certainly some things were better and others worse. I would definitely not say our society is safer today, though! More tolerant, yes (except towards conservative Christians), but tolerance is not always a good thing, depending. Tolerance of sin, I would say, is a step in the wrong direction. Tolerance of other races is a step in the right direction.

zan said...

My grandmother was an Irish Catholic. Those are some of the most persecuted people in the history of this country that you never hear about. She was repeatedly raped by her employer (a rich Jewish man, btw, discrimination doesn't discriminate) and didn't even bother reporting him because her station in life was so low and she needed the money for her family.

I am very glad that we have achieved tolerance in our society regarding race. To see past the outside should be how Christians view men.However, we are not to be tolerant of sin; forgiving, yes, tolerate, no.

I thought the Winston Churchill quote was very interesting. I read about that somewhere. Some writer was saying how becoming an isolationist country like some people want, isn't that great of an idea. America and the UK were very much isolationists pre-WWII. It took the enemy attacking before they snapped out of it. It think the writer was using that as an example to the Bush policy of attacking the enemy in their homeland before they attack us on our soil. I am no expert, so I don't know. Thought the comparison was interesting, though.