Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like this world’s gone crazy
Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn't seem so hazy.
Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout The Good
Last week I heard the song Grandpa, Tell Me 'Bout
The Good Old Days, and I thought, “What
good old days are they singing about?”
Were they singing about the 60’s when our inspirational
leaders were assassinated: JFK in 1963, Martin Luther
King in April 1968, and Robert Kennedy the following
June after winning the California presidential primary?
The 60’s, when our classmates were dying in the
rice paddies of Vietnam or being beaten in streets
and campuses for protesting the war? Our world was
in upheaval from Paris to Mexico City, urban U.S.A.
to rural China. A worldwide cultural revolution took
many forms but was violent, divisive and heart-rending.
It was all about the discontent of youth with the status
quo, and discontent with injustices, inhumanity and
materialism. It dramatized the grief of shattered idealism.
Perhaps they were singing about
the 50’s, which
began with fighting communists in Korea. Then cold
war demagogues smeared reputations for domestic political
gain, nurturing fear of the “red menace”.
It was a time of facing the legacy of slavery, and
non-violent Civil Rights demonstrations that turned
bloody. The specter of atomic war turned many suburban
lawns into underground bomb shelters.
The “good old days” couldn’t
have been about the 40’s when the world was at
war and Nazism revealed the darkest side of inhumanity.
It couldn’t have been about the 30’s when
economic depression ravaged the world. Were the “good
old days” the 20’s when women didn’t
have the right to vote and people could die from childhood
diseases? Were they the years of the first World War,
or the years before, when children worked in factories,
sweatshops and slaughterhouses — long hours in
unhealthy conditions for pennies a day?
With due respect for the romantic nostalgia of the
country ballad, I think that we need a new song. The
new song should be titled, Granddaughter, Tell
Me ‘Bout the Good New Days! It is true,
that every generation has a mission and problems to
confront that end up defining them. There is a certain
euphoria that comes from the united effort guided by
an ideal that brings people together in every age.
The challenges and even sacrifices build character
and evoke their potentials, shaping their unique contribution
to history and making them feel that their time was
the best of times even as they faced adversity.
Today we are in the midst of an evolutionary shift
that will create a qualitatively different world for
humanity. The monumental problems of environment, economics
and ethnic, religious and ideological conflicts are
the testing ground that will temper the new generation.
With the election of Barack Obama in the United States,
we have a dramatic catalyst for the next generation
of leaders. He has set a standard for leadership chosen
because of merit and an inspiring vision. He is a transcendent
individual who has and will help many transcend their
own limitations and outworn habits. In addition, the
technological tools for the younger generation will
enable them to create a global network of activism,
which is already evident in the many organizations
and communities dedicated to creatively solving problems,
exposing harmful actions, and making life more equitable,
safe, and just. This network for good is vibrant and
will replace mordant institutions.
It would be easy to be pessimistic,
but the “good
new days” would not be possible without the upheaval
that is plowing the fields for new seeds and new growth.
As noted above, every decade of the twentieth century
posed a critical test for each new generation. People
charged with the challenges rose to their task, and
were successful in laying the groundwork for the next
evolutionary step. Today, the magnitude of the problems
and the necessity for cooperation to resolve them,
demand that new approaches be undertaken on a global
scale. The new generation is naturally equipped
to do this. They are psychologically and spiritually
more evolved, and they intuitively understand the techniques
of communities of shared interests.
Bombarded with all the negative press about global
problems, the new generation is coming of age in a
new cycle of service. Their service will be unique,
for they have the benefit of all past efforts and achievements.
They will creatively bring together diverse approaches
and create new recipes for creating new solutions.
The technologies that they use will instantly enable
them to tell their stories and impact the direction
that humanity is moving. People, with no limits on
geography or condition, will be able to inspire one
another and encourage and support one another.
The “good new days” is
an attitude of optimism that is bred of a mind free of
limitations. It seizes problems as opportunities, and
willingly works for the benefit of others. Those who
are trapped by the past cannot see our present wealth
of opportunity. They are a drag on the forward progress
of humanity. The force of progress, however, is irresistible,
and people who are unable to adapt will disappear in
the wake it leaves behind.
Richard V. Sidy