Originally posted Dec. 3, 2010, for KVOE.com “What’s On My Plate.”

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Man. Have things changed in 40 years. And I’m not talking about the advent of the pie buffet.

I remember the day…not when we had to go up hills both ways to school, but when…

Time was when we just played and entertained ourselves as kids. Now our children have to be told to go outside by cartoon characters and world-famous athletes.

Time was when it was a big deal to see “live via satellite” on your TV screen during the Olympics. Now we live in an age of 24-hour news cycles that blurs the lines of “news” and “commentary” so badly that the two are virtually indistinguishable.

We were on our way to losing our cultural innocence in 1970, but at least we still had some. It’s hard to see any now.

Wayne Williams (1979-81, Atlanta) and John Joubert (1982-83, Portland, Me.; Omaha) were on the leading edge of a horrific trend of violence towards children and teenagers that still hits headlines on an almost daily basis. Son of Sam and Ted Bundy graduated into Columbine and Virginia Tech.

ImageJohn Joubert changed the lives of a lot of Omaha children in the early 1980s, and not for th better.

 

There are probably more dire entertainment examples, but we’ve gone from Madonna to Rihanna, who may as well have hung an “Open For Business” sign on the front of her underwear during her recent appearance on the American Music Awards. For good measure, she could have posted her business hours on the back side in case anybody didn’t get the hint.

In some circles, the American Dream remains as it has for over two centuries. In others, though, that dream is simply to get as much whatever as possible, regardless of whether it belongs to somebody else.

We’ve gone from Fun Bunch to extreme everything. From computers the size of a university hall to cell phones that do far more and cost way less. From landlines to social networks. From disco to techno to hip-hop. From Pong and Asteroid to Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.

ImageI wasn’t very good at it, but I loved playing Asteroid as a kid.

 

We’ve had the Cold War, Grenada, Panama, wars on terror and drugs, Just Say No and Just Do It.

We’ve also had a decided cultural change towards the selfish, and if you don’t believe me, well, you haven’t been paying attention behind the wheel. Seriously, and I’m not sure just how this happened, people now believe they can do more with fewer repercussions than at any point I can remember. We have become disconnected to each other, disconnected from personal responsibility. To be honest, we are disconnecting from reality as a result.

It’s amazing that there are more charitable efforts now than in the past, locally, nationally and worldwide, and people are more willing to give. You would think many of our problems would diminish with that generosity. Trouble is, though, that hasn’t happened.

We can stem the tide, but we have to reconnect with our families and our neighbors. From sitdown meals at home to a simple smile on the street, it’s not a difficult process. But it requires looking without and trying to make life more enjoyable for others rather than looking within and constantly satisfying only what we want.

If we want society to advance culturally as much as it has technologically the past 40 years, all we have to do is remember we aren’t the only people on the planet. Then all we have to do is act accordingly.

I know is sounds simple, even simplistic. So is that why we can’t do it anymore – or in many cases just refuse to do?

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