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January 5, 2013

DODD: The shifting fear

“It is an illusion that youth is happy, an illusion of those who have lost it.” — W. Somerset Maugham

It’s real easy to be a pessimist these days. The world seems to be so out of order.

Many young people I know have a fatalistic view of their future. I bet they envy the good old days when I was a young person and all we had to worry about was being wiped off the face of the earth by the Russians with an atomic bomb drop.

The simple truth is that there have always been fears both paranoid and realistic throughout history. Was it any easier being an American during the Revolutionary War? How about the Civil War? How about one of the two World Wars?

As a student in the 1960s we had monthly bomb drills where we faced the walls in a hallway and covered our heads with our hands until we were told to return to the classroom. I don’t remember ever being totally scared as it was such a routine that we simply accepted it along with the regular fire drills. It was the height of the Cold War.

What I do remember always is simply that I never had a fatalistic view of my life. I have usually been a very optimistic sort. Through good and bad times, my life has generally been a good one. Part of that I believe to be of my own doing and obviously fate, luck, predestination or any other possible rational and irrational reasoning are as likely to be the truth as it is not.

Who knows how and why a life unfolds.

I am not really sure if current young Americans are realistic in their fatalistic philosophy or not. Perhaps it is simply that there is such an information overload. Facebook and other social media have created a world environment where there are no secrets. Too much information and by so many noncredible sources flows as freely as tap water. A rumor has always had a life of its own. Nowadays, that movement of a rumor is simply at warp speed. In a literal instant it can be worldwide.

I truly suspect that now more than ever, my generation was protected by the whole notion of what you don’t know can’t hurt you.

I find myself with concern for today’s youth and wonder if they are really a lost generation. I am reminded of a quote attributed to the ancient philosopher Plato, “What is happening to our young people today? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the street inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”

Another passage that might have come from Plato’s writing that is attributed to Socrates, “The children now have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

Socrates died in 339 B.C. and Plato in 338 B.C.

I am not a religious person in the sense of organized church religion. I am a very moral and spiritual person. I also strongly believe that we learn from the history of the world and all of the civilizations that preceded us.

If we have any hope in the world it rests in somehow teaching to our young people without preaching. It involves being able to relate the lessons of life without judging their lives with our biases. Each generation must make their own way and thus define their own history.

I will continue to try and live my daily life by trying to be a good example. I cannot expect those with little life experience to understand what they are lacking.

Really, as a 57-year-old man, should I be all that proud of my generation’s shortcomings and screw-ups? Still most people I know are really good, moral and decent. Most of us are still simply trying to find our way in the current face of middle-aged neurosis.

The fear of the future when being young and trying to make it pales in comparison to the fear of growing old and dying. It’s all relative.

— Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at lindon.dodd@hotmail.com

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