The Good Old Days?

Posted by admin on August 29, 2016 in Life Lessons |

I used to love the band Chicago. Yes, I was in my teens in the 70’s and in concert band to boot. So it was natural that I would love a band that had a great horn section. They also had a string of hits that seemed to speak to me back then. I was always in love, or should I say with hindsight, lust, and those songs just hit me right in the heart (or some other piece of anatomy).

One of their big hits was Old Days. It’s easy to be nostalgic for the Old Days. The problem is, however, while you can be nostalgic for them, you can’t go back to them. Sure, they seemed like simpler times, but only because the times now seem so challenging.

Sure, they seemed like simpler times, but only because the times now seem so challenging. What we forget is that those Old Days were pretty challenging as well. Hell, if you don’t believe me, find time to watch Tom Hanks’ series on The Sixties. The 1968 episode alone will quickly teach you that the Old Days weren’t so great as we’d like to think they were (the Tet Offensive, USS Pueblo attack, assassinations of King and Kennedy, the Democratic convention in Chicago – I could go on).

I know that my fellow white guys are feeling pretty put upon these days. For many, the world has passed them by. They want to return to the days when manufacturing jobs were plentiful, women knew their rightful place in the home, minorities stayed on the other side of the tracks and children kept their mouths shut, unless they wanted a bar of soap in in it.

Well, get over it.

These Old Days aren’t coming back, not even if you put a guy in the White House that tells you the big lie that he’s going to make America great again.

Why? History should teach us all a lesson. Just open up your history book and read all about how the world works. Change is constant and inevitable. If it weren’t, we’d all be still living in caves.

Probably the best lesson lies in the turn of the 19th century. This is the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Thousands of craftsmen lost their jobs as factories became mechanized and automated. The world turned and some people didn’t turn with it. They became anachronisms. Craftsmanship became a niche. Mass production ruled the roost. The economy changed. Workers changed. The world changed.

We are in a second revolution right now. Turn to page 220 in your history book. Go ahead, I’ll wait. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, postal carriers, fast food clerks, data entry keyers, food service managers, electrical assemblers, prepress workers, file clerks, florists, farmers and loan interviewers will all be in the career dustbin by the year 2020. Technology will have replaced most if not all of their skills and responsibilities.

It is the Information Revolution. There’s no escaping it. We aren’t going back to the Old Days – any more than we decided to go back to quill pen and parchment after the printing press came along.

One only has to look at what Boeing is doing with the new 777X to see where manufacturing is going. Robots are doing all the riveting and assembly work. Even the painting is being done by robots. At Amazon, warehouse pickers are being replaced by robotic pickers that never need a break, never call in sick and work nights and weekends.

I know a lot of us are feeling left behind. But it’s not really the world’s fault. Change has always been there, nipping at our respective heels. It comes with or without our approval or participation.

The world changes. There. I said it. It always has. The only difference is that we now have technologies that report the changes to us every second of every day. We can’t escape change, if only because we are addicted to it.

Just look at the folks glued to their smartphone screens. They walk down the street, staring at it as if it is some wise sage that will tell them the meaning of life. They don’t want to miss a second of any of it, even if it is all relatively meaningless.

It wasn’t so long ago that people had to wait for letters to get news. It wasn’t even that many years ago that you would miss a call if you weren’t home because no one had invented the answering machine.

Somehow we all survived. We managed to remain disconnected to some extent from it all. This is largely why we perceive change being so brisk these days; because our methods of communication are immediate.

I remember the so-called Old Days. They weren’t really that great. I know my parents certainly would have looked aghast if you had said those were the good Old Days. It was a struggle for them back then; my father sick, us on welfare, my mother trying to be both father and mother to her brood of four rambunctious boys. She would have loved some of the wonders we take for granted these days.

Me? I could have reveled in the Old Days. I could have taken a manufacturing job at Boeing or Skyway Luggage. I could have found a comfortable blue-collar life and toasted to it with my friends at Dino’s on Sunset Boulevard. I could have just stayed in the past and not relish the future.

I could have given up on my dream to start my own business and remain where I was safe, stuck in the Old Days while I became something of an anachronism because the world changed and I chose not to.

I know that the Old Days are just that, Old Days. They are history. And even if we could magically go back to them, the experience would be different because we are different. We have lost that innocence that came with the rose-colored glasses. Because deep down, we know that those good Old Days weren’t really that good at all.

In the Emerald City, enjoying Chicago’s Old Days, but not wishing to return to my own,

  • Robb

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