Judging from the cornucopia of commentary abroad in the land since the Parkland, FL shooting, there is a sudden and urgent concern for the status of our “society”; specifically “how the hell did we get here?” Responses have ranged from Woodstock to CNN, marijuana to internet porn, public schools to the NRA, NFL Instant Replay to Harvey Weinstein. While one might contend the above are inextricably connected in ways that could only thrill reclusive sociologists and myopic data miners, the answer and cure may have a common point of origin. Put another way: “chicken” or the “egg” is immaterial; the two may be synonymous!
Toward the end of the Baby Boomer generation and beginning of Gen X (1965-1985 approx), new consumer toys began hitting the market. “Pong” appeared in 1972. The new shooter game “Space Invaders” invaded circa 1978. With its overwhelming success, the floodgates were opened. Arcades with similar but more graphically sophisticated war-like games appeared in shopping malls around the country. In-home “play stations” followed by more interactive games and uglier themes. Today, hand-held Smart Phones and Tablets provide everything now-extinct Mall Arcades did while home “gaming” has reached professional proportions. Following in the innovative footsteps of Radio and then TV, the Techno-Monster was born! Its first tentacle wrapped around otherwise imaginative, physically active, family immersed children. Initially, parents were just happy with a new rainy-day distraction.
The Audio Department wasn’t to be outdone. Over a similar period, AM began losing ground to FM; by 1990, satellite-delivered XM-Sirius appeared. In cars, big, clunky 8-Tracks gave way to space-efficient, multi-purpose, less expensive cassette players which gave it up for in-dash CDs. Today, with streaming audio, video and a pair of earbuds, kids of all ages can be distracted and silenced, eliminating any of that pesky old-fashioned parental input. Peace and Quiet are so much preferred over inconvenient efforts needed to raise well-behaved, socially adept youngsters – even though child psychologists and juvenile court tend to be more expensive. And embarrassing. And detrimental to a child’s long-term well being. Nevertheless, that trip to Grandma’s house got a lot more serene. With typical child-like interruptions neutralized by technology’s terrific toys, adult conversation in the front seat reigned sans static from the crumb-snatchers asking “why?” in the back.
Human’s latest selective mutation – cell phones – evolved from a shoe box alongside the head with operator-assisted calling and party line eavesdropping, into something smaller than a deck of cards with the capabilities of a lap-top computer. Armed with Bluetooth and those ubiquitous earbuds, perpetually distracted children of all ages can now blissfully stroll into a utility pole or drive into on-coming traffic with virtually no effort. Or a sense of awareness. Or brains. Of course, restaurants have become much quieter; the top of one’s head is the new “Facial Recognition”. Otherwise instructive conversations about family values or table manners have been Tweeted into oblivion.
Similar but different, the “VCR” arrived at department stores in the mid-70s. With Due Diligence, one could be found “On Sale!” for just under $1,000 (mine: Rich’s, Atlanta, 1978, $999! What a deal!). Their immense popularity spawned Blockbusters and other outlets renting a ginormous selection of pre-recorded major (and many minor) motion pictures. With the customary speed of technological refinement, those thousand dollar boat anchors gave way to DVDs and now “On Demand” streaming, appealing to the “Instant Gratification” addiction of Millennials and other children. The ultimate Coup de Gras de Ville arrived in the mid-00’s: The Mini-Van With Optionally-Equipped In-Dash DVD and Seatback TV Screen Upgrade! Now little Silas and little Olivia could be strapped into their government mandated Child Safety Seat and be mesmerized from coast-to-coast, further alleviating Mummy and Daddy from the non-stop chore of conversing and establishing a deeper relationship with their children. Hey! Maybe the kids will get all the vital character-building essentials they need to appreciate Honesty, Empathy, Morality, Respect, Socially Acceptable Behavior and other civilized nutrition from “The Lion King”! Or “Transformers”! Or through osmosis like any other vegetable…
Taken together, the evolution of devolution was well underway.
We “got here” when one generation of parents bred a new generation employing a stupendously ignorant, self-indulgent, inattentive and lethargic child-rearing philosophy, abdicating parental responsibility to an electronic baby-sitting cabal of TV shows, computer games joysticks, monitors, and sound systems. Their conversation has all the rich content of monosyllabic texting; the Facts of Life are handled by sexting. It may not be accurate to call it a “philosophy” at all; that would require the practice formerly known as “parenting” along with the required perception, attention, instinct, intellectual construction, and unceasing personal effort. Rudimentary “artificial intelligence” has already lobotomized Millenials. Sadly, snappy comments constructed of 140 characters and a few emojis don’t create brilliant thinkers and conversationalists any more than “Doom” and “Grand Theft Auto” builds mentally-healthy, socially-respectable, compassionate, empathetic individuals who might, one day, save the Republic and Civilization.
As current events have revealed, just getting through high school can be a life-or-death struggle. Now with several decades of this techno/parental partnership, society can claim only a dwindling collection of cultural achievements, basic manners of human interaction and a continuously falling quality of education. What will the next generation pass along to their progeny other than nice personalities, snarky repartee, questionable driving skills, an abundance of pop culture factoids, and amazing digital dexterity? Disrespect for civility, ignorance of history and narcissistic indulgence makes for a paltry bequest.
We got here like we always do: incrementally, alongside the legendary Boiling Frog. AI and the robots may not be in complete control yet, but the table has been set for them. With technology and other media, materialism and other contributions like Dr. Spock’s child-rearing advice and those insidious government “social engineering programs”, Mom and Dad were in the Perfect Storm to alleviate their parenting chores. The One-Eyed Gods of TV and Computer, along with the ever-doting government schools could handle raising little Dick and Jane while adults returned to adult things like Careers and Golf. TV provided the wholesome learning experiences of “Sesame Street“, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” and “Barney & Friends” while Computers were popping up in classrooms and libraries, earning hard-core learning creds.
Parents were no longer pressed to inculcate invaluable lessons in Reason, Civility, Logic, Critical Thinking, Objective Analysis, Intellectual Curiosity and all that other character building stuff. The Brady Bunch or The Partridge Family provided “family values” now, authored by all those virtuous Hollywood writers. Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and their progeny prepared the way for Angry Birds, Candy Crush and similar iconic recreational distractions that didn’t require a ball or bat or strenuous activity beyond moving more than opposing thumbs. Disregarded history is bound to repeat itself – but not with the same quality.
With contagious apathy, “Society” added some dots of its own: tacit approval of fatherless “one-parent” families, abortion-on-demand, the dumbing-down of students incarcerated in Government Training Camps (see: “public school”), denigrating intelligence and academic accomplishment while rewarding aggressive ignorance, sports/media hero-worship and an entitlement mentality to suffocate whatever was left.
The Freedom, Liberty, Natural Rights and other swell things American society has enjoyed cannot – and will not – continue to exist without the robust exercise of Individual Responsibility, including Parental Responsibility among the Breeding Set. Failure to do so means Government will step in and make decisions for you. In fact, this is happening before our eyes even as you read it here. Hopefully, as a sentient being, you are aware of this, will act promptly and encourage others to join you.