Print Edition: November 23, 2011
Here he lies at the last – propped up on his deathbed. Awaiting proper burial in his crystal coffin; stoicism is at long last stone cold dead.
A recurring theme I seem to revisit is the theme of golden age thinking – that is, a nostalgic reflection on how things were better in the past. Some might say that I am in denial of the painful present. I might even agree with you if you caught me at the right time. It’s true, I’ve always been one of those types who has tended to glance back at different eras and say “I would’ve been better off living in that day and age.” I’ve more or less looked back at every decade of the 20th century and yearned to have lived in it at one point in time in my life. Each decade had it’s own charm, warmth, and allure, and while I should probably be more focused on living in the now rather than reverting my gaze to a romantic past (all the while ignoring the problems of the day and age such as polio, famine and cholera) it’s much more easy to look back to a day and age when men and women seemed to be of a more stoic mindset. A mindset I find myself relating to more than the mindset of my own generation.
I’m getting tired of starting off articles with the words “these days” but – here it goes. These days, it almost seems like things are a little too easy for us. A little too dumbed down. And we seem to sit around and complain. Whereas back in the day, our forefathers were too busy ducking from mortar shells, and standing in the breadlines, or riding the rails west to find work to have time to complain. In those days men had to grow up fast. There are no more muddy trenches to die in, there is no great world war of our time to be fought. As such, we’ve had nothing to shape us into a generation of men and women of iron. Most of us are barely old enough to even remember the cold war. Us 90s-children grew up in the wake of it, only seeing the ripples of fear on the surface of the pond. So that didn’t really have much effect on us. And it seems that because of that, we’ve gotten weaker as a society – both mentally and physically. We seem to be getting less and less tolerant to any kind of suffering. We haven’t built up an immunity to pain, something those who went before had in spades.
I’m not saying war and strife is a good thing. There is nothing glorious about dying alone in the mud, or starving, and not being able to feed your family, and I can’t express the horror of it into words. But times of great strain build men and women into soldiers. It forces one to be tough, and able to last through anything. It develops skills which extend beyond the battlefields and breadlines into the realms of every day life, creating a functional, capable human being fit for action in any scenario. The human race has lasted through all the peril and torment imaginable. We’ve seen every kind of natural, and manmade disaster imaginable. We’ve built monuments, sailed the seas in ships, and slain armies of darkness and evil. Every time there has ever been one of these events, mankind has risen to the challenge and made every effort to better itself. And each and every time we have come out of these incredible circumstances, reborn from the ashes, risen anew.
If it is indeed the perils we go through in our formative years that make us tough, there’s not much hope for this generation to recover what has been robbed of it. Perhaps we’re better off not having been through too much conflict. On one hand we haven’t developed certain survival skills that may be necessary one day; on the other we have had pretty comfortable, coddled lives. What scares me about this is that if something does ever happen, something major, something catastrophic – will our generation be able to rise to the challenge? Will we too be men and women of iron, with the strong resolve and determination of our ancestors who have gone before us? Or will we be too used to being a nation of feeble-minded basement dwelling teenagers to get off our bottoms and do something?
The thought scares the hell out of me, because to be honest, I’m really not sure which way it will go.