According to Wikipedia the sport of demolition derby may go all the way back to 1930’s in the USA, where folks amused themselves by arranging collisions between the plentiful but obsolete Ford Model T’s that were evidently cluttering the landscape. I wonder what those young men were thinking as they laid waste to the previous generations iconic vehicle. Was it perhaps a bittersweet endeavor, tinged with regret at watching such an earthshaking invention reduced to twisted scrap for the entertainment of teenagers? Or are we ascribing too much introspection to the type of folks who would pioneer such a quintessential and destructive American pastime? Either way I’m sure there was beer involved.
Nostalgia is today’s subject. And not the good kind of nostalgia, sepia toned memories of misspent youth fondly reviewed from from the comfort of our rocking chairs. No, today we review nostalgia of the more pernicious sort. Cramped, crude, conservative and curmudgeonly nostalgia crafted into a bludgeon to assault the always failing “kids these days”. Today’s meme (read the whole thing here) was passed around on our Facebook wall, originating in this version from the feed of 95.7 KJR in Seattle (playing the greatest hits by white people of the 60’s 70’s and 80’s, therefore missing any interesting music actually made in Seattle by a decade.) We’ve noticed that a lot of radio stations have basically handed their social media presence over to the Morning Zoo’s unpaid intern and they tend to simply cut and paste the latest hilarious cat video or humorous greeting card everyone else is sharing that morning, thus replicating and spreading the meme and abetting the viral nature of these little cultural treasures. So we aren’t going to blame the oldies station in Seattle for the dreck we are about to fisk. But we do notice the link to “nostalgia” between the two.
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL BORN IN 1930’s, 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and Early 80’s !!!
Ok… an auspicious beginning. So we are sending out congratulations to a population that covers over fifty years of US American history. Basically it’s the Greatest Generation, The Baby Boomers, and Generation’s X and Y. What could such a diverse collection of people possibly have in common? (Hint, it’s that they are better than kids these days…)
First, you survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a tin, and didn’t get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, your baby cots were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.
Wow, that does sound harrowing. Where do we start? Well first of all, Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States wasn’t released until 1964, so all those Mom’s in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are off the hook a little. Secondly, it’s bleu cheese. If your cheese is actually blue, then yeah… don’t eat that shit. And what is it about the tuna? There was a Consumer Reports article about avoiding tuna because the mercury levels have risen sharply in the last few decades. But that was in 2006. In fact, pregnant Moms, here’s a list from the respected Mayo clinic of foods to avoid during pregnancy. The FDA recommends limiting canned tuna to 12 oz a week and albacore or tuna steak to 6 oz a week.
Not tested for diabetes? Gestational Diabetes was first observed in the 50’s and can lead to such fun developments as (from the Wikipedia) “being large for gestational age (which may lead to delivery complications), low blood sugar, and jaundice. If untreated, it can also cause seizures or stillbirth.” So congratulations on not being stillborn?
Baby Cots? Now we’re starting to wonder where the fuck this writer is actually from, because in this country we call them “cribs”. And covered with bright colored lead based paints? According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development ”
“Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves and blood. Lead may also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and in extreme cases, death. Some symptoms of lead poisoning may include headaches, stomachaches, nausea, tiredness and irritability. Children who are lead poisoned may show no symptoms”
Isn’t that HILARIOUS? Please go on…
You had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when you rode your bikes, you had no helmets, not to mention, the risks you took hitchhiking .. As children, you would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a van – loose – was always great fun. You drank water from the garden hosepipe and NOT from a bottle. You shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
So here we have an interesting juxtaposition of disparate phenomena. Childproof lids, doors and cabinets, seatbelts and airbags, a series of proven advances in safety that have saved literally COUNTLESS lives over the decades are grouped with hitchhiking, a decidedly risky behavior, but one still in use around the globe, and drinking from the hose and sharing a soft drink with your buddies, which evidently never killed anybody! Why this strange arrangement? Certainly the author isn’t condemning seatbelts, are they? Airbags? No, but what they are doing is laying the groundwork for further outrageous curmudgeonliness down the line, conflating reasonable regulation with what would (in the olden days) be considered “hysterical overreaction”
You ate cakes, white bread and real butter and drank pop with sugar in it, but you weren’t overweight because…… YOU WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!
You would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on.
No one was able to reach you all day. And you were OK.
“And you were OK” is one of the main thrusts of our meme’s thesis, being that today’s kids unlike every other kid born since the depression, are soft pudgy couch potatoes, whilst back in the day kids were made of sterner, more independant stuff. I don’t know what decade the television was invented in this guy’s universe, but we were born in the late 60’s and saw every episode of Gilligan’s Island despite there only being 4 channels. And let’s not do anything rash like look into the effect poverty might have on the issue of childhood obesity, or maybe see what the government might have to say about it. Much easier to wail about lazy brat kids with their XBoxes and iPhones.
In the interest of brevity we’ll skip ahead, past a lot of moaning and griping about how much fun kids used to have before 99 cable channels, video tape machines and internet chat rooms. They used to play outside with sticks and stuff and still they “did not poke out any eyes.”
Local teams had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!
Because it is important that losers, wimps and geeks learn early on how to deal with failure at an early age. This is most likely a swipe at the common conservative bogey man, the “everybody gets a trophy” phenomenon. This trope proposes that youth athletics are ruined by the coddling of underachievers, by handing out awards for participation, by lollipop soccer squads that don’t keep score. This is a massive straw man, conflating YMCA youth activities with Little League competition (which ESPN assures me is alive and competitive enough to have a World Series on TV every year.) But who cares, anything to demonize todays youth and marginalize anyone who doesn’t live up to your particularly patriarchal standards.
The idea of a parent bailing you out if you broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
Wow… just wow… I’m stumped. I can’t come up with any snark on this sentence. The well is suddenly dry. All I can say is this author reeks of spoiled upper class white male privilege. Only the kind of person whose interactions with the police are always deferential and routine could say something so asinine. No matter how much my kid screws up, I’m bailing him or her the fuck out of jail if I can.
And now for the big finish…
This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. You had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and you learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL! And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS! You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good. And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen… everyone who grew up in the past EIGHTY YEARS, those BRAVE HEROES who created the modern world through the sweat of their brows before the looters and moochers took it all away from them. Before the government with their lawyers regulated our lives for our own good. So tell me the truth audience, who had “Unhinged Glibertarian Rant” on their bingo card? Because that’s what all this nostalgic wanking adds up to, yet another plea to get the government off our backs, to reign in the overly litigious society and return to a time when men could be men without looking over their shoulders to see if the nanny state is watching. And yes, it’s Men we are talking about here. Or at least boys that will grow up to be men. It’s cleverly left unsaid in the text, but notice how the activities are all rough and tumble outdoor fun. Now, if you are one of those people the author is speaking to, look back and remember what we called little girls who climbed trees, ate worms and played with the guys. Tomboys, that’s what, or worse depending on the era.
The whole package is wrapped up in a little fallacy called Survivorship Bias. (from the source of all knowledge)
Survivorship bias is the logical error of concentrating on the people or things that “survived” some process and inadvertently overlooking those that did not because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to false conclusions in several different ways. The survivors may literally be people, as in a medical study, or could be companies or research subjects or applicants for a job, or anything that must make it past some selection process to be considered further.
Except in this case we can be fairly certain that the term “inadvertent” may be a little generous. Essentially our interlocutor is asking us to fondly remember the wind whipping through our hair as we rode our bikes without a helmet, the visceral rush of driving without a seatbelt, confident that he’ll be unlikely to deal with the complaints of those who cracked their skulls open on the concrete or flew through the windshield because those people are unlikely to have Facebook accounts. And considering the obvious political intent of the entire screed it’s obvious that this author is purposely exploiting this bias to push his agenda.
Which is really too bad, because like most of these memes, there’s a kernel of good advice tucked away in there. It would certainly be nice to see more kids playing outside nowadays. I’m an avid reader of Lenore Skenazy’s “Free Range Kids” blog, and Lenore has made a fairly good case that overprotective parenting has ill served our children over these last few years. We do have a bit of a problem with how to best prepare our kids for life as responsible adults while at the same time allowing them to enjoy the short period they will get to be children safely. But nonsense like today’s meme does nothing to help solve this dilemma. It’s at best self indulgent congratulations for for doing nothing more than being born before we knew better and at worst an insulting straw man of the Free Range philosophy put to use by ideologues bent on pushing a selfish agenda.
Every place I have tracked this meme down it has been applauded, mostly by white middle class Americans. This clueless nostalgia is really poisonous. It creates a callous disregard for the victims of accidents and misfortune and a purposeful rejection of all the wonderful work done by public servants and activists to make our world safer, our corporations more accountable, our air and water cleaner and our lives richer and more entertaining. You people sharing this dreck can have the sepia toned past. The Internet Demolition Derby takes place in the Future, and we’re quite happy to be here.
Featured Image Credit: Model T Ford Forum