Saturday, October 22, 2011

Was 1957 America better than today?

Here's an "outright rant" by scientist and SF author David Brin about one of those crazy emails that our relatives keep sending us. It's kind of funny, especially since I know exactly how he feels. I've seen similar emails many times. Heck, I might have received this exact one.

An excerpt:
All right… this one put me into fill-tilt rant mode!  It’s a reaction to one of those email circulars that our crazy uncles keep sending us – you know the kind, offering vast, sweeping, counter-factual assertions in lieu of evidence, logic or even common sense, all in order to justify hating half of their fellow citizens. I generally ignore them, but this one is wildly popular among millions of “values” Americans who have been talked into full-scale nostalgia. It needs an answer.

So read on only if you’re in a mood for pyrotechnics!

Nostalgia is for cretins. America was built by men and women who dreamed and built. Who believed – and believe – in progress. Who forgo the sick drug of hate and negotiate solutions. By people who respect skill and knowledge and the folks who have them.

America was not built by fellows like the author of this maudlin paean to yesteryear: HIGH SCHOOL — 1957 vs. 2010 who claims to have witnessed “how far our nation has declined socially, morally and spiritually…” proceeding to list scenarios such as: “Billy breaks a window in his neighbor’s car and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

Brin proceeds to give some examples of how 1957 is worse than 2011, but then, to be fair, he gives some examples of how it was worse, too. Here's one:
1957: Thalidomide babies are born armless. The bald eagle almost vanishes. Unregulated, toxins leak into places like Love Canal. Lakes are dying everywhere. People die unnecessarily, neglecting to use seatbelts or helmets. School kids cry because the air hurts to breathe. Polio so terrifies parents that they keep children locked inside during summer, forbidding them from going to the public pool. (I remember it all.)

But in 1957 wise and good people dream of an era when scientists can help us all figure out what substances work and which ones do harm. Following 1957′s Sputnik scare, Americans think scientists are wonderful! Soon, Jonas Salk is the most popular man in America.

2011: Ungrateful imbeciles rage against science, following radio  ignoramuses into snits against vaccination, economics, meteorology, evolution, medicine and biology. Science has made terrific progress and we know tons more! Blue America keeps getting healthier and living longer. It’s an age of real wonders and American science literacy is second only to Japan’s.

But meanwhile, there’s another America – that keeps smoking and shovels down pork rinds, while self-righteously screeching that liberals are ordering them what to eat – (a damned lie).  And they die young.

And the War Against Science  (and every other profession that knows stuff — like journalists, teachers, doctors, professors, civil servants, attorneys and skilled labor) rages on. Yep, some things are much worse.

It's pretty good. It's the kind of post I've been meaning to write. Of course, I don't get many of those loony emails these days (because I answer them, in detail). But I still get some.

In particular, I get emails filled with complete lies, that anyone could tell were complete lies if they just spent 60 seconds or so at But no, that's too much to ask, huh? So these crazy things get forwarded on to everyone they know.

But I'll let David Brin do the ranting, at least for today. He does it pretty well.

1 comment:

Jim Harris said...

The average person seems to have no way of putting things in perspective. I have a nostalgia for the 1950s too, but I wouldn't want to live there. Let those people read The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and tell me that the 1950s are worth emulating. Only a person lacking in ethics or has no conscience could endorse the 1950s as a proper way of life.