People fascinate (and too often infuriate) me for a wide range of reasons, one of which being the vehemence with which so many resist the idea of change and the total acceptance of it once it has arrived. I started this particular blog a couple days ago, then when time came (today) to post it, I realized it needed to be in two parts: material changes and societal changes. So let’s start with the material, which seem to be faster to come along and generally with less resistance than social changes.
Humans have a general historical suspicion and distrust of technology. The knee jerk reaction to anything new is either “it’ll never work” or “well, I’d never use it.” The first automobiles were greeted with catcalls of: “Get a horse!” Orville and Wilbur’s idea of a flying machine was generally denounced with the firm general conviction that “It’ll never fly.”
Yet we have experienced, in a just a little over a hundred years, a sea change in how technology has totally and forever changed our lives.
I do not think my immediate family…my mom, my dad, and me…had an indoor bathroom until I was approaching puberty. I know we didn’t on the little house on Loves Court in Loves Park; I’m sure there wasn’t room for it in the 14-foot-long trailer in which we lived in Gary, Indiana, where I broke my leg and was in a body cast for a month or so during the heat of summer, and I know we did not have air conditioning. We did not have an indoor bathroom until we’d been living on Blackhawk Ave. for some time. I seem to recall a hand pump for water in the kitchen, and I definitely remember a hand-pumped kerosene stove in the trailer.
Impossible to believe now, but few of us had even heard of television before 1945, and in 1949 people would stand outside appliance store windows to watch the bulky sets with the blurry black and white photos. Radio was our primary source of entertainment, and we usually went to the movies once a week until I was a teenager: then I’d go once a week with my family, and every afternoon on my own with, as stated before, my “allowance” of $1.25: 50 cents for the movie, a quarter for a chocolate ice cream soda, 20 cents for two tall bags of Manley Popcorn, and 30 cents for the bus to and from.
Mail was delivered twice a day, for three cents a stamp. Electric refrigerators and washing machines were in very few homes prior to the 1940s. On ice-delivery day, you’d put a card in your front window with a little arrow pointing to the amount of ice you wanted, and it would be brought in an open truck with a heavy tarp in the back covering the ice, and all the neighbor kids would run up to it on warm summer days and take little chips of ice to suck on.
It’s impossible to totally separate technological change from societal change, since technology is a river on which society floats.
The past was not all nostalgia and warm snugglies. Now-eradicated or easily treated diseases cut down tens of thousands, and for improvements in medicine alone we should give thanks.
But with change also comes a degree of loss. The more technology takes us out of ourselves comes a loss of innocence, of security, of a sense of physical, emotional, and geological closeness with friends and family.
Like it or not, change is constant and we are carried along with it willingly or no. All we can do is remember what was and use it as an anchor or a guidepost to what is to come.
This blog is from Dorien's ebook of blogs, Short Circuits, available from UntreedReads.com and Amazon.com; it's also available as an audio book from Amazon/Audible.com. You can find information about Dorien's books at his web site: www.doriengrey.com: