My, how the world has changed.
After World War II, Southern Ontario became a hub of social change and economic prosperity well into the ’60s. Baby Boomers were born to parents who had more disposable income, and access to capital accumulation, than parents today. On one blue collar salary for example, my parents managed to build a new home, buy a cottage, buy a boat, buy a country acreage, buy a new car every five years, and raise two boys – all within two decades. Times were good. School spirit was high and everywhere. Students wore school beanies, and streamers, and jackets, and packed the stands at football games. School dances (Sock Hops, Sadie Hawkins) were every month, with a final Graduation Ball in May. It seamed like Mom and Dad were out three nights a week or so, doing volunteer work or partying. Many boys in grades 11, 12 and 13, drove their own cars to school, and impressed the girls with how well they could modify them with ‘Continental’ kits, overdrive, dual mufflers, and juiced up carbs. Straight out of American Graffiti.
So you get the picture. Add on the Cowboy and Indian movies, and TV shows like “Father Knows Best”, Bugs Bunny, Jack Benny, The Bob Cummings show, The Life of Riley, The Three stooges, and I Love Lucy, etc., and that was Port Credit from 1944 to 1964. Plus, as kids we could stay out and play on our street well after dark, girls too. And build forts in the bush, skate on the river doing ‘crack the whip’, and spend hours at the Port Credit Dairy talking and having a milkshake with one egg in it.
Our town then was 90% White-Anglo-Saxon Protestant and Catholic. English, Irish, Scottish, and some Italians, Polish and Ukrainians made up most of the mix. There were no Blacks, no Muslims, no French, no Hindus, and no Atheists. Girls were expected to become housewives and raise kids. Boys were expected to get a job after grade 12, or better yet, go on to university (there were no ‘colleges’ then) after grade 13. No mothers on my street, nor in the surroundings streets, worked outside the home. Most men had served in WWII in some capacity, and brought home a military style of family and corporate management.
But it was a peaceful time across the province. There were no demonstrations, few strikes, high employment, construction everywhere, and no ethnic conflicts. Sports heros captured much of the press. Police officers were respected. Crime was low, and there were no child abductions, sexual assaults, homicides, suicides, and break & enters, as far back as I could remember. Being drunk or street-fighting in public were the biggest sins.
Times have changed. Today, in 2015, the image of small town and city life in Southern Ontario contains none of the above characteristics, quite the opposite. That, tied in with constant media images of beheadings, suicide bombings, terrorist threats, rocket attacks, and even ‘honour killings’ – has made optimism a scarce emotion. Strife it seems, is everywhere, including within Canadian families, if rates of separation and divorce are accurate indications. Poverty levels are the same as they were 30 years ago. The middle class is shrinking rapidly. Full-time jobs are very scarce. Mental health professionals have never been more engaged. TV is full of violent shows. Violent video games are selling at an all-time high. School bullying is rampant. College and university graduates can’t find meaningful jobs. Hospitals are overflowing, often in ‘gridlock’, and finding long-term care for seniors is a major issue in Canada currently. Most younger people have lost touch with nature. Farm and small business bankruptcies are increasing monthly. Politicians apparently can’t be trusted, and home security looms large on all fronts.
So what is there to be happy or optimistic about? Will Humankind survive the next hundred years? What are the new and hopeful ‘frontiers’? Is democracy in danger? How will young people find self-validation and a positive self-concept? How is heroism defined and written about today? And what about the increasing sector in society of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of homeless people?
Where, and how, can we find happiness?
Write and give me your views and solutions.
February 23, 2015