If People Are the Same, Why is the World Different?

This world of the early twenty-first century seems completely different from the world of fifty years ago, and for some reason yesterday, that struck me as odd. Except for the accoutrements of our lives, such as computers and clothes, why would things be different? Most people want the same things now as they wanted then — a safe world for their children to grow up in, a degree of comfort and security and happiness, a chance to succeed either in their chosen career or in their daily lives, freedom to live the best way they know how. So why is life today so different from what it used to be?

Admittedly, those were not the halcyon days people remember them as being. There was strong prejudice in certain areas in the United States, though not all people or neighborhoods or cities participated in the prejudice against blacks, woman, gays. There did seem to be restrictions against what women could accomplish, though women who wanted to accomplish big things often managed to succeed anyway. But most women thought they had it good, staying at home, taking care of their husbands and children. Is it any better today when women are forced by circumstances or custom to work?

People are still basically the same, yet now married couples seem to be unable to find a way to stay together. Back then, divorce was rare, and now it is all too common. The number of single parent homes are increasing. Children are being shuffled between parents. Some children have too few parents, and some have too many. You’d think that with the fluidity of life today that people would be more accepting of each other, but our society is still pigeonholing both men and women, forcing them into roles they might not want. We seem to always be categorizing people, foisting labels on them, making them conform to fashionable ideas and attitudes. And we seem to be even more polarized now than ever before, whether religion or politics, with less tolerance for opposing points of view.

Looking back on those long ago days of the mid-twentieth century, it seems a completely different world. Children played in the streets, walked to and from school, rode their bikes to distant neighborhoods, ran errands for their mothers, walked to the park for pick-up games. Were things safer then? Or was it simply that people were not bombarded with images of peril on TV and the internet and so did not know how unsafe they were? No matter how graphic newspaper stories and photos were, no matter how detailed radio news became, they were still static words and images, without the horror that today is thrust into our lives in full color, making us fearful for our safety.

If things were safer then, and it isn’t an illusion of nostalgia, then why were things safer? As I mentioned, people want now what they wanted then. Is it simply that there are more people in the world? Is it that the neighborhood schools have been consolidated into district schools so that the neighborhood is no longer a separate entity? Is it that we move more frequently now so we ever gets to know our neighbors? Are we less trusting, perhaps, and if so, why? Does it make a difference that someone isn’t waiting at home when kids get home from school? Or maybe it’s that no one is home during the day and so whole neighborhoods are deserted, giving us a feeling of being ungrounded? Is it that two salaries or two jobs are necessary to maintain the same level of comfort that one mediocre salary could handle back then? If so, why is that? Is it simply inflation (or perhaps a conspiracy to kill the middle class as some people believe) or is it that more things are necessary now, that a comfortable life today needs more equipment than a comfortable life fifty years ago?

There used to be one car per family, one television, one telephone. (Some families had two of each, of course, but most only had one.) Now each person in each family seems to have their own mode of transportation, their own television, their own telephone, their own computer. Games were simple back then, too — a bat and ball, board games, jigsaw puzzles — and you needed someone to play with. Now expensive game consoles take the place of neighborhood companions.  After school activities seem more structured now, though family life seems less structured — families eating meals together at a set time used to be the norm and now is a special occasion. But then, families themselves are different.

I don’t know if any of this is important or if it means anything. Whatever once was no longer exists, and we can only live in the world of today, but it does seem strange to me that despite people’s goals remaining the same, the world has changed so much.


Pat Bertram is the author of the conspiracy novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+

4 Responses to “If People Are the Same, Why is the World Different?”

  1. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    In the 1950s there was a lot going on that was good and a lot going on that was not so good. Fear of Communism meant censorship was running high.

    This inevitably meant that television shows couldn’t be too daring or too questioning of government in the USA, Australia or Great Britain. I Love Lucy came under fire because Desi Arnes was originally from Cuba. There is an episode of the show where it is proclaimed that the only thing red about the show is Lucy’s hair.

    Reportage of war in the 1950s was mainly in the hands of government. What went to air on radio and television was basically what the government approved of. This went for the Malayan conflict (later on the country of Malasia was born) and also for the Korean War (since upgraded from a conflict to a war). In any event, it was during the Vietnam War in the ’60s that television provided fairly unbiased reviews of what was really happening.

    In the 1950s the Russians scared the hell out of Americans by successfully laiunching a man-made satelite into space. It circled the world which included the USA. Fear of weapons being launched from space or from the moon meant the USA and her allies had to have some claim on space. Also this meant a race to get to the moon first.

    There was a great deal of prosperity in the USA after WW2. Economists still don’t really know why this happened. One solid theory was that the USA would sink into a depression worse than the Great Depression but this didn’t happen. New products including new plastic items help keep the USA economy solid for at least two possibly three decades.

    Yes, life was simpler back then in the 1950s but I don’t know how safe. My belief is that the Cold War stayed cold because neither the Americans or the Russian leaders of the day wanted WW3. Compromises were made. The win/win scenario was born in which both sides get something they want but not everything they want. If religion had come into it then we’d both be standing on one great big blackened cinder by now.

    The frightening thing is that, in a future nuclear based conflict, religion may well come into the picture and no one will be safe anywhere on this planet. You see, it is only through religion that someone will be able to justify ending all existence on Earth.

  2. Carol Says:

    I think a lot of the minor differences are simply in our perception; just as increasing age changes our perception of passing time, so also does it affect our emotional memories. But increased population has made a huge difference in how the world functions both economically and socially, as has increased awareness due to advances in technology.

    Attitudes about family and personal finances have changed, too. I think equality of all people is a good thing, but when women decided they wanted the right to work alongside the men, the family dynamic changed, and not all for the better — children lost much of the good examples, in-home training and parental discipline that once grounded them. Two working parents increased standards of living until we were living beyond our means and it became the norm to need two working parents just to make ends meet. I think greed and self-centeredness have increased, especially for our youth, and once again I think that’s a parental failure.

    I have all sorts of personal opinions about why things have changed but if I really knew anything, I’d be more successful in efforts to change the world around me, wouldn’t I? Then again, as a parent I’m extremely proud of my children and the lives they’ve made for themselves and their families, so I’m optimistic about their futures even if the world in which they live scares me.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Thought-provoking comments.

      I’m not sure we can do much to change the world around us, especially since so much of it changed without stopping to ask if we wanted the changes. Maybe being the best people we know how to be, doing the least harm and the most good is all we can expect of ourselves.

  3. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Times certainly have changed, but I don’t know if mealtimes are exactly “special” nowadays. Whenever I go home, we all eat at the same time together if we’re all at home together. And I’m not big on video games. In fact, just last week i was playing a game of LIFE with a friend. Both times, I somehow ended up winning, and he ended up in the old folks home.

Please leave a comment. I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: