Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

We Had It Easy!

Originally posted on February 4, 2013

First, there’s a funny skit by Monty Python’s Flying Circus where four guys try to out-brag how tough they had it as kids. As a child of parents who lived through the depression, a common complaint we heard our parents make was “You kids have it easy! We had it tough!” School was more demanding, and they probably did have a harder time cleaning the house, going to school, and doing other chores. My generation joked about this, and the way people would exaggerate how hard it was for them when they were “our” age. It was a guilt-producing maneuver.

In contrast, living as a middle-class kid in a middle-class neighborhood in a nice part of the world, what have I been able to say to my kids? “When I was your age I had to walk three miles in the snow barefoot just to get on the internet!”? It loses credibility.

Indeed, as kids today (huh!) are faced with increased pressures to enter the sexual marketplace, to prove themselves as ultra-masculine or -feminine, to deal with pressures of school, the temptations of drugs, peer pressure for appearance and fashion, more coarseness in language, and many other pressures, I am grateful for all that a more “over?protective” culture kept me from having to cope with.

Indeed, it’s occurred to me that much of my cushy life has been based on the post-colonial economic gradient that is disappearing, making everything today more expensive—but also implying a higher wage for more people. On one hand the filthy rich get richer, but the poor are for the most part not getting poorer! And I recognized that nurses and interns, and all manner of lower-status folks worked for “peanuts” in the olden days.  And even less in the years before that.

Add to this the lack of not only regulation, but the relatively “free” natural resources that oil drillers and people who stripped mountainsides of trees for lumber and paper offered a growing, thriving country. We must recognize that an unexpected source of mineral or natural wealth—e.g., beaver skins for furs—might ripple for a century or more through the culture that exploits these resources and the sub-cultures that live off these sources of wealth. (Alas, too often  this wealth is then dissipated in military activities.)

Well, I could get all guilty about this, or I could be foolishly grateful—but what is and has been is what it is and I choose to be grateful. Still, it’s a bit sobering.

The cost of my college and professional education is a small fraction of what it would cost today. Don’t talk to me about gasoline prices, but I’m glad to have felt I could afford to travel in the past. So did I have it tough? How can one say to one’s grandkids, “Wow, you have it tough, I had it easy!”?

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