In recent years I have been saddened by the things that people can no longer do in our so-called "civilised" and modern society that would have been commonplace in my time.
Aged seven and eight years old I would walk down to the end of our road and catch a bus to school by myself, get off at the right stop, walk the rest of the way to school, and come home the same way. Now, it seems, if an innocent child wanders off they become at risk of being snatched. The rise of child pornography surely sickens any right minded person, but such appears to be the demand for its production that there is obviously a substantial enough depraved community.
And we now seem to need to be protected from ourselves by laws, rules and regulations because we have stopped being aware that we need to take responsibility for ourselves through common sense. We no longer understand what "principles" mean, therefore we try and legislate them. We eat too much of the wrong thing, but we can get pills to help us from dying of gluttony. Everything we eat and drink needs to be labelled, so we are at least well enough informed to know how we are killing ourselves!
The trouble, for me at least, is that this is irreversible. George Orwell, author of "1984" which, like some of his other books railed against totalitarianism, must be smirking quietly to himself (he was a man of wit) in the knowledge that actually it didn't in the end need communism to introduce the concept of a nanny state and "big brother is watching you" into our lives; we managed it all by ourselves!
So before I wander into a state of melancholy, I thought I would share with you something I received through my virtual mailbox a day or two ago that summed up my thoughts pretty well. Now don't get me wrong - some of the changes that we have made in modern times, like the banning of smoking are clearly beneficial to the community as a whole - but what follows really reflects the things we did, with a few amendments of my own.
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank gin while they carried us, and lived in places made of asbestos with no indoor toilets and just a zinc bath for ablutions.
They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, bread and dripping, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, sausages (with real meat in them), tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer. (And before you start wittering about life expectancy, my Mother will be 92 next week, and her sister 94 next May!)
Our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.
As children, we might ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
On a summers day we drank water straight from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.Take away food was limited to fish and chips. No Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Nandos. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.
Even though all the shops closed at 5:30 pm, as well as on Saturday afternoons and sometimes Thursday half-days, and didn't open at all on a Sunday, somehow we didn't starve to death!
We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter made from cow's milk. We drank soft drinks with sugar in them, but we weren't overweight because....WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back just before it got dark, or when we had been told to be home. No one was able to reach us all day - no mobile phones. And we were OK.
We would spend hours building go-carts out of old prams and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses, made camps and played on river banks -or in the river itself, in our underwear - unsupervised. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii , X-boxes, no video games, no 999 channels on SKY, no video/dvd films, or colour TV, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!
We fell out of trees, cut ourselves, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.
We ate worms (admittedly, usually by accident) and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
We were given catapults for our 10th birthdays and our parents taught us how they should be used safely.
We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!
Not everyone made the rugby/football/cricket/netball team. Those who didn't learnt how to deal with any disappointment. Getting into the team was based on MERIT. Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes and throw chalk or even the blackboard duster at us if they thought we weren't concentrating....
Our parents would tell us to ask a stranger to help us cross the road, and the idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!
Our parents took responsibility for us. For our upbringing, our behaviour, our social education if you like. They took an interest, and didn't abdicate their responsibility to the teachers. And if you got told off, it was usually because you deserved it, and it wasn't a matter for an enquiry.
We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal withit all. And if you are my age, or perhaps 15 years or so younger, you have survived. Congratulations!
Today our world is very different, and so are the pressures. I am neither that naive nor that stupid not to have noticed. I look at my own children - adults now themselves. I am hugely proud of my own kids, how they have turned out and their own attitudes to life, as I am sure many parents are of theirs - I understand them (I think!) and their values, to which I can relate. But I don't think they had as much natural fun as I had growing up. Even if I had my own disappointments.
But my question now is this: if we managed to successfully navigate a different way of life, and if our own children are the decent types of human being you wanted them to be, but we now bemoan and criticise what that world has become,where the hell did it all go wrong?
That's it!I've said my piece. I am typing this on my iPad on yet another flight, so that when I land I can "post" it on the Internet for people in a number of countries to read it immediately without waiting for the postman to arrive, and just scratch my head and smile at the memories - because let's face it, what else can you do?