Is the world better or worse than when we were kids?

Credit: Business Insider UK

Hubby popped down to the local takeaway last night for good old kiwi fish and chips. He commented when he got back that there were a couple of kids there, they had ordered fish and chips and then went outside to mess about on their skateboards while their dinner was being cooked.

It was a snippet of the innocence of childhood and a flashback to times past.

The two boys are presumably oblivious to the political machinations that we rant about every day, and keep us awake half the night. Life for them is innocent, simple and fun. How lucky we are as Kiwis to have the freedom to do such things.

That leads me to compare my time with theirs.

I grew up in the eighties.  As a teenager, I was very conscious of the threat of nuclear war. We watched films like The Day After and Threads, and I genuinely did expect that my life would be ended at some point in the near future, by a blast of radiation.

Aids was all over the news and there was no knowing if or when a cure would be available. If you developed full blown aids, it was a death sentence, and it didn’t discriminate. All it took was one unprotected sexual encounter with someone who had the virus, and the clock was ticking towards an unpleasant end.

We became familiar with the word apartheid, as the Springboks toured New Zealand. Families argued bitterly about whether the tour was appropriate or not. We saw protests on the streets and during matches that I had not seen before nor have seen since.  I remember being shocked and frightened by the violence.

Financial hardship seemed to be everywhere. Simply Red wrote the song “Money’s too tight to mention” and it was a narrative of the time. “I been laid off from work, my rent is due. My kids all need brand new shoes.”

Children were starving in Ethiopia, and Live Aid was a ground-breaking initiative, bringing musicians together to raise money to save them all.

The world felt a bit hopeless.  There was much to fear and little to be celebrated.

And here we are thirty plus years on, not yet a pile of cinders.

From the eighties, the clock ticking towards nuclear annihilation seemed to hiccup. While a world-wide nuclear war is not impossible these days, it doesn’t seem to be a very real threat.

So are we in a better place now than we were thirty years ago, or is it just my perspective that has changed?

Technology has leapt and bounded.  When I left New Zealand on my OE in the early nineties, my prize possessions were a cassette Walkman and a film camera. When travelling, I received letters via Poste Restante.

Now we have mobile phones that work all over the world. We take photos and video that can be posted instantly on social media sites. We are better connected than ever, yet more prone to bullying because of the anonymity the connectivity affords.

Traveller’s cheques are gone. All you need is a square of plastic in your wallet and you can buy anything, anywhere in the world.

Airline tickets used to be layered, and the top copy was torn off as we embarked on each leg of the journey. Now we don’t have anything printed, just an app on our phone that doubles as a boarding pass.

Printed material is declining and most of our reading is done electronically.

Families have evolved from the traditional Mum Dad and the kids to all manner of combinations.

Children are still starving in Ethiopia.

Television seems to have gone full circle, and while there have been some stand-out shows, the current plethora of reality shows makes mainstream TV unwatchable. Thank goodness we can stream shows we actually want, on demand.

If you believe the climate change rhetoric, being drowned by a rising ocean seems to be our biggest threat and is unlikely to happen in our lifetime.

So yes, despite the current cluster of incompetents currently governing us, on balance I think the world is a better place to be now than it was in my teens.  And in any case, the show must go on.

Freddy Mercury Live Aid 1985


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