Wednesday, September 13, 2017


As an optimist all my 91 years, I certainly hadn't planned to share these rather bleak thoughts with others. I truly continue to feel that humankind is on a positive trajectory toward the "good" (however one might like to interpret that.) However a nostalgic trip to be with my children and grandchildren in Ann Arbor revealed a heightened degree of societal change that caused me to reconsider views about the current and pending changes in the American lifestyle. They may be somewhat trivial but I felt there was deeper meaning in two respects:
  • The loss of permanence.
In my youth there was a feeling that – except for the seemingly few, distant affluent members of society – we were all a part of a rather broad middle class. (Naturally I am aware, growing up in Texas, that two minority groups were not even considered because of their skin color.) As I visited homes of friends and others who seem to be a part of a upwardly mobile class there was one possession that seem to identify them as different status than us – their home had a PIANO!. To me it symbolized affluence and culture, both aspects that were to be cherished and sought after. What a change to see that now they are objects that are almost impossible to even Give Away!

This alone is perhaps quite trivial, but to me it forces me to reassess what really are the permanent and enduring factors in life.
  • The loss of assurance.
As a graduate student in the 50s, I was bothered by the professor in my major field of study who persisted in asking, "What do you see yourself doing 20 years now?" While I disliked the question, there was some logic in the question. I should be able to plan my future with some certainty. Now however the question seems totally out of place in the new world we have created in the past 20 years. Uncertainty and change are all about us. No longer can we find companies that we know will be around to provide retirement security. Except for a few sacrosanct professions (medicine, protection) vocations are either diminished or disappearing.

So what is the point of this old man's tale? I've slept on it and after 24 hours I find two rising to the surface:

  • Why do we persist in measuring progress by the new things we create for only the few? Before we add the next exotic new smart phone why don't we measure progress by making sure that everyone has a smart phone? I recall a time when progress was measured by something like "A chicken in every pot and a Ford in every garage." It's time to go beyond that and make sure all have a pot and a garage.
  • Rather than measuring progress by planning ahead for careers and training for the few, why can't we measure progress by planning to have adequate healthcare for all rather than inventing a new exotic discovery that only a few can afford?
I remain convinced that there are lessons to be learned from looking at the past. There are lessons to be learned from history

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