Social Changes

There are a few social elements which have changed through the years: sports, food, school, politics, information sources, music, and movies to name a few.

When I was born, baseball was king.  The king is dead: long live the king.  It took the coming of football to show us how foolish we had been to worship at the ballpark.  When I was a kid, our teacher would bring a radio to class so we could keep up with the latest from the World Series.  Baseball is a slow game, a painfully slow game, if you’re sitting in the stands; it’s not improved much if you watch it on television.  Football is only okay if you’re sitting in the stadium; it becomes a thing of drama and glory when viewed on television.  Steroid supplemented homerun hitters could only add a moment’s interest in what was going on in the majors.    Baseball is a game well suited to be played by kids and middle-aged men on a Sunday afternoon; that is, if there is no football game on TV. 

Fast food.  Fast food.  I love fast food--not because it’s fast--because it’s good.  Fast food is so much better than most food prepared in slow restaurants.  McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack-in-the-Box, Sonic, Dunkin Donuts, Carl’s Jr., Arby’s, Domino’s, Dairy Queen: they all have specialties, and they all do their specialties well.  What is the alternative to these fast food chains?  Well, there are your local mom and pop restaurants and chains.  Many are very good: many are not.  Most provide a better ambiance but for a little greater cost.  When I was a kid, these fast food folks were not ready for prime time.  I remember the first McDonald’s arches just off the LSU campus when I was a senior there.  I never ate there; I didn’t realize it was the future.  We didn’t eat out as much as folks do today.  We cooked at home more, much more.  Just as Campbell’s soups got me grown, Dairy Queen’s fare sustains me.  I praise you, fast food.

Public education is not the same.    We started school at about the age of six, not three or four.  There were not a lot of frills.  We generally started the day later and ended the day earlier.  In high school we only took four academics a day and altered a study hall with P. E., five hours plus lunch.  Athletics was pretty much handled outside the school day.  We didn’t always behave as angels, but we knew the consequences for bad behavior would be swift and severe.  In spite of our lean academic structure, we learned, we graduated, and went on to college or other bigger and better things.  Hell, when I was in school, I never knew anyone who couldn’t read or do simple math.  In the generation older than me, they too could read and write and do simple sums, and they only went through the eleventh grade or less.  Today, well, I don’t know what we think we’re doing in public education.  I do know that it’s much more complex and less effective.  If one has the basic skills of reading and math, all things are possible. 

Politics, we are constantly reminded, has always been ugly: well, maybe, but we’ve taken it to a new level. It’s not just the politicians who have become more vicious; it is also the followers.  In years past there truly wasn’t a penny’s worth of difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.  Today we’ve herded all the people who believe the world operates by magic into the Democrat party and all the people who believe the world operates on fundamentals of history and science into the Republican party.  In the past these folks were pretty well mixed about evenly throughout the two parties, and sensible compromise was possible.  Today the gap between the two is fundamental and never the two shall meet in the middle.  The future depends on which population grows faster.

How people get their information today is different.  When I was growing up, one depended on newspapers and magazines, and, to a limited extent, the radio and television.  It seems to me that both newspapers and magazines were more balanced than the few survivors are today.  They seem to be trying to appeal to narrower and narrower segments of society.  There was great hope for television as an educational tool in the early days.  The pioneers of television believed this and tried hard to make it so.  They were soon pushed aside and replaced by men who had different interests: thus, the “idiot box.”  If we can just keep the government’s hands off the internet, there is hope.  News, entertainment, in-depth reports, and basic data are all available on the internet.  There is hope that the internet will end ignorance, but the best thing the internet accomplished is killing the necessity of door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen.

Music has changed, but it’s still the same.  When I was born, the 78 was the standard, then came 45’s, then the eight track, then...well, you get the picture.  Dorsey, Crosby, Basie were huge.  Then Elvis came and ushered in rock-and-roll which ushered in noise which settled into weirdness which settled into a panorama of musical choices.  The nice thing about music is that you can take it or leave it with the possible exception of when we ride on elevators and when slow moving vehicles pass by that just wish to share their music with everyone. 

People don’t go to the movies as much as they once did.  They still have their place which is unique, but with television you don’t risk as much.  Still when a good product hits the screen, people still show up.  I guess we still produce as many movies as we once did, but more of it is crap now.  You don’t just run down to the movie house to watch whatever is playing.  You need to be a little more selective at the prices that are now charged.

Some of the social changes in our society have been good; many, however, make one long for the good old days.



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