A Grin at the End: Future’s not all as promised asromised

May 2015 Posted in Columnists & Opinion

By Carl Sampson

I feel cheated.

When I was a kid in the 1950s and 1960s, the future was going to be awesome beyond words.

I remember reading books about how we’d all work four days a week, and fly in our personal helicopters to work on those few days when we had to show up.

Life was going to be a combination of The Jetsons and Buck Rogers.

The U.S. space program was pointed toward the moon and beyond. As a nation and as an international community, we were going to lead the way in discovering and understanding where we came from and where we as a species are headed.

It was pretty heady stuff, and I was so excited I couldn’t sit still when I thought about it.

Then reality set in.

Fifty years later, we are working more than our parents worked. If you factor in inflation, we are making less money than our parents. A personal helicopter? I’m lucky to afford a personal car. At some point I may be lucky to afford a personal bus ticket.

In the 1960s, our generation was promised that the world was going to become a better place to live, and we were going to help make it that way.

We were promised that if we could just learn to work together we could build a great society that stretched beyond political borders.

Now, we seem to be stuck.

There are no leaders  — none! — that have a glimmer of a hint of a clue about what direction to go, about how to build that great society, or even to get along moderately well.

In the 1960s, we thought technology would help bring us to together. In fact, the opposite has happened. The Internet, Facebook, Twitter and a dozen other apps just make it easier to insult each other and to make us mad at each other.

If I hated mankind, I would invent the Internet as a way for people to incessantly poke each other in the eye, to divide us.

I’d invent You Tube so I could post partial videos showing people behaving poorly, so others could wag their fingers and talk about how the “other guys” are always at fault.

I also blame the media, which by and large have decided that the lowest common denominator is as high as people want.

What I really care about is the next generation. I care about our kids, and about the generations beyond that. I care about how, in the 1960s, the rallying cry was “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Now the rallying cry seems to be “whatever.”

The education most children and young adults receive is the functional equivalent of an assembly line: Learn the facts and don’t think beyond that. And the U.S. economy is built on a massive federal debt that will never be repaid.

We as a generation have managed to lower the expectations of our children. They know that our generation only made it harder on them, not easier.

Yes, I do feel cheated. But the next generation is getting cheated more.

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