Technology has absolutely exploded in the past few decades, making life today unrecognizable from what it was only 50 years ago. Technological advances have changed everything from everyday communication to how nations conduct warfare. Progress is incredible, as long as we don’t forget the lessons of the past.
I’m part of the odd, half generation between X-ers and Millennial, sometimes referred to as “Generation Y” or “Xennials”. My childhood was analog and my formative years were digital. Facebook didn’t exist until I was in college, and I know how to dial a rotary phone, how to use a paper map or atlas, and how to make a plan to meet someone somewhere and actually find them without the aid of a cell phone. I, like many of my generation, grew up writing actual physical letters that were then stuck in the mail and sent off to the recipient. These days the only thing we mail are formal invitations and Christmas cards. Miranda Lambert (who is the same age as me) lamented this in her 2014 hit “Automatic“.
I see the benefits of technology as well as its limitations. I remember the excesses of pre-9/11 America, and I watched the housing market crash. My experiences have led me to believe that, as well as looking forward, we should also recall the lessons of the past.
The Greatest Generation – so named by journalist Tom Brokaw – consist of the men and women who came of age during the second World War. These folks lived through the Great Depression and fought for freedom in the Pacific and Europe. They remember a time before interstate highways and the information superhighway (that’s the Internet to us whippersnappers). They remember a time before the United States completely abandoned the gold standard. They remember wearing hats besides just baseball caps before hipsters brought that trend back. They have a lot to teach us, if we’re willing to learn.
Here’s an article I wrote for Wide Open Country on what we should learn from our parents’ parents. For more information on some principles from the Greatest Generation, check out my blog post on planned obsolescence.