I’m having a hard time deciding if humanity is getting dumber. There are too many moments in the day where it looks like we know more but actually seem capable of less.
I can remember standing in front of the mirror. The old dual sided metal razor in my shaking hand. My father stood behind me and reached over my shoulder to help guide the blade around my chin.
“Remember to us long, smooth strokes…” he said. His voice cut through the silence and I flinched, sending the blade deeper into my skin. I watched as a brilliant red drop of blood trickled its way down. It fell into the sink, which was half filled with hot water, and the red splash dissipated into a cloud of brown wisps.
|Image taken from my Andrew’s Alphabet collection
I also remember sitting in the backseat of a Dodge Omni. My mother was in the front passenger seat and my 16 year old sister was sitting behind the wheel. My big sister, five years my senior, was learning to drive. Given the typical relationship struggles that occur between teenage girls and their parents, with the added bonus of a car crash on top of that, I was along for what I thought was going to be the best ride of my life.
“Ease up on the accelerator. Good. Indicate your turn. Good. Start to brake… slowly… there you go. Good.” My mother was a primary school teacher and had been doing yoga for about as long as I could remember. She had this patience and calmness in her voice that was made for situations like this. Everything my sister did amazed me and I vowed that I would learn to drive as well as she did. At least that was the plan until some years later a car accident tore the dependable little Omni in half. It wasn’t her fault, but sibling awe is fickle.
|Image courtesy Bamman at en.wikipedia
We humans used to know how to do so many things. These little life nuggets would be passed down from generation to generation and there was a real sense of knowledge; of accomplishment; of pride in learning how to do something the way Mom or Dad taught us.
It seems that as our technology advances the information sharing across generations decreases. Just look up from your desk for a few minutes, or better yet conduct a job interview with a Millennial or a kid from Generation Y. It won’t take long to notice the sense of entitlement. It won’t take long before you receive a scornful glance that says, I’ve got more technology in the palm of my hand than there was in the entire hospital you were born in.
Fight the urge to verbalize your internal Churchillesque monologue that will be screaming In which I was born!, before thinking to yourself, And I was learning how to write code before you were even a glint in your parents eye. Before they got high and had three to many drinks while watching X-Files one Friday night, forgot the condom, and had an arrogant little shithead of a child pop out with a smart phone in his hand nine months later.
|The copyright of this image belongs to 20th Century Fox.
It’s a Me Me Me, now now now world. Are Google and a collection of “how to” YouTube videos suitable replacements for passing down actual knowledge? What will become of us when there are no more “So-and-So & Sons” scattered down Main Street?
Even still, for every case where I see knowledge unnecessarily bleeding away I find a case where the world we live in is getting better. Racism, bigotry, hate… these are all things that are heading the right direction. The Me Me Me, now now now culture allows virtually instantaneous activism – globally. You tell two friends and they tell two friends, topics start trending, people start talking, and before you know it behaviours are changing.
I’ve seen bills proposed by the government of my country quashed before they were even tabled due to public outcry. Outcry that would not have been heard had it not been for the Me Me Me, now now now crowd and all their fancy new technologies, Twitters, and Facebooks. I don’t think I need to tell the people of Egypt what kind of impact this can have.
My parents never passed down any hatred while they were passing down tips on how to drive, shave, level a patio stone, cut the grass, hit a curve ball, block a shot, carry the 1, avoid splitting an infinitive, or turn the pot handle in – but – many other parents and leaders did, and continue to do so today. It reminds me of the “cut the ends off the roast” legend:
A young woman is making a roast for dinner and before putting the meat in the pan she dutifully cuts the ends off. Her husband, having seen her do this time and time again, finally asks, “Why do you cut the ends off like that?”
She replies, “That’s the way Mom taught me. Must have something to do with the way it cooks.”
The next time the couple was at the woman’s parent’s house for supper the husband asks of his mother-in-law, “Why do you cut the ends off the roast before you put it in the pan?” She replies, “That the way my mother taught me. It must have something to do with how it cooks.”
A short time later, Grandma arrives for supper and the man asks, “Why do you cut the ends off the roast before putting it in the pan? Does it have to do with how the roast cooks?”
“Heaven’s no,” she replied. “We often had to feed so many people the darn thing would never fit in the pan.”
Not everything that is known is worth sharing.