Have we come too far, too fast?
By Stephan Drew
I truly believe we are living in a “Golden Age.” Just a few days ago, we celebrated Independence Day. Our country and we, the people, have traveled a long way and, even though it is far from over, the journey has already been outstanding, historically. From an assortment of 13 colonies, we have become the most powerful nation in the world in only 245 years. But, as much as we have progressed since 1776, the leaps and bounds the human race has made in the last 100 years are absolutely astounding! A century ago, the most commonly used fuel (for everything) was firewood. Today, petroleum fuels our cars and comprises everything we use in our daily lives, from contact lenses and clothing to every electronic device we have. The way we live has altered dramatically as well. In 1920, if you had wealthy neighbors, you might be able to make a telephone call. It had better be an emergency, too! Back then, you didn’t call anyone just to “chat.” If none of your neighbors had a phone, then your call required a trip to town, usually on horseback. Yes, the automobile had been invented but, 100 years ago, most people still traveled by horse and wagon. Letters were nice but they often took weeks to get to their destination. Then you had to wait weeks to get a reply. Today, that is considered intolerably slow. Most people under 30 may find it hard to believe but I actually remember a time when we had to take a special trip to the public library to look up anything or write a school paper. Nowadays, we have access to all the knowledge that has been collected since history began right at our fingertips. Your smartphone allows you to pay your bills, move money around in your bank, order any type of meal you want, whatever groceries you need, your choice in clothing, and any other product or service your heart may desire. You can peruse real estate listings, sell your house, compare and purchase insurance or even buy a car, all without ever leaving the comfort of your home. Everything is delivered now and, if you have a “preferred” membership in any of those shopping clubs, your shipping is completely free. Just look how far we have come! All this way in just 100 years. Our ancestors, if they were to drop in on us one day, wouldn’t even recognize who we are or how we live. They would probably call us “lazy,” “shiftless” or “no-account” because none of us – no, not ONE – works even half as hard as they did a century ago. We have advanced so far in such a short period of time that our grandparents might feel they were stepping into a dream. They also wouldn’t believe how fast we travel. One hundred years ago, your wagon may break down or (more rare) your horse may just give out but, there was little necessity for what we call a “minimum speed limit.” Now, almost every city in America has a fatal car crash daily. Knife stabbings and gunfights are still around but the caliber and power of the weapons has greatly increased. People used to get injured in a fight long ago. A hundred years later, there is always a fatality whether a gun or knife is used. From the Wright Brothers’ “earth-shattering” events at Kitty Hawk, N.C., we now have U.S. businessmen offering anyone with enough money a seat on a spacecraft destined for faraway planets. We can turn on our televisions and choose any of several thousand channels. If, after scanning them, we still can’t find anything we like, just switch over to the firestick, which offers several other channels (each with TENS of thousands of programs). Want to read a book? Millions are online, just touch the screen and choose one. Look how far we have come. It really does seem we are living in a Golden Age. So, I wonder why so many people are frustrated and angry? I see many of my fellow citizens walking around with furrowed brows and clenched jaws, refusing to even interact with each other. Why? We have more advantages, more opportunities, more freedom and more options now than any other country, at any other time, in the history of the world. But some people cannot seem to get through the day without criticizing or spewing hatred. Some feel so strongly in their beliefs that they are compelled to burn down their own cities and neighborhoods and assault their own neighbors. At times, our government seems to be deaf to our voices, even though we now have more effective and much quicker means to communicate with them. Big-Tech companies now have the power to silence and shut down any thoughts they find disagreeable. Yes, we have come a long, long way. Not always up, and not always down but very impressive feats have been accomplished in a very short time, as history goes. Unfortunately, the “Greatest Generation,” which was around before the 1950s spawned the Technological Revolution, will soon be gone. They supplied us with all their wisdom and passed on to us the basic values our country has cherished for centuries – love your God and family, be honest and work hard. They taught us strength, courage and endurance during times of struggle. They explained to us everything that makes this country great. And, they did it all after struggling through a Great Depression, fighting two major world wars and numerous smaller ones along the way. Have we passed on the same lessons to the next generation? Did we remember to make them not only responsible citizens but also decent human beings? When I see some of the recent events, I have to wonder if there’s something we missed. Our ancestors invested in us the only assets they had – their knowledge and wisdom. They didn’t have money to buy toys, gadgets and other things to “keep us busy.” They kept us at their side and we learned a lot while we were there. Have we been wise in what we gave to our children? Did we give them knowledge or nonsense? Wisdom or witlessness? Very soon, we will have to make some profound choices. We are at a turning point in our history. We have advanced so far so fast that our old system is actually breaking down because it can’t keep up. We have learned a lot from the past but, we must move forward. As much as we revere our ancestors and what they did, we cannot live in the past. We must always strive to climb higher, do better, create more and be stronger. There is always room for improvement and, yes, some of the “old” ways desperately need to be reformed and updated. But, at such a crossroads as we face today, can we afford to cast off EVERYTHING we have learned just to travel a new and unfamiliar road? We may be living in a Golden Age but many have trod that path before us. The highest peaks in all of the greatest civilizations didn’t last forever. Ancient Egypt’s Golden Age was from 1570 B.C. to 1070 B.C. Then, internal strife, laziness, corruption and greed slowly ate away at their greatness until they were slowly destroyed and ruled by other nations. Babylon ‘s height of power was approximately 200 years (700 B.C. to 500 B.C.), Persia’s was the same (550 B.C. to 350 B.C.). Greece, the founder of democracy, had a golden age that lasted from 500 B.C. to 300 B.C. Inner turmoil, strife, corruption and greed destroyed them as well. Rome was the unquestioned superpower of the world from 30 B.C. to 400 A.D. In ancient Rome, they had aqueducts which transported clean, fresh water for hundreds of miles to the capital city. Even the ordinary citizens had indoor plumbing. Yes, the ancient middle class Romans actually had water flowing into their private homes. The poor were fed daily by the government. Then, the Roman Senate started controlling prices and even set the cost of renting a jackass to carry you one mile. Taxes soared and the rich, refusing to pay them anymore, left the city and Rome began its decline. No one was left to pay the taxes or maintain the “free” services and Rome fell, plunging the world backward for over 1,000 years into what we call the “Dark Ages.” Only in the 1600s, during the Renaissance, did Italy begin to recover some of its past glory. Every great empire has fallen. Most due to internal vice and corruption. The most recent was the Kingdom of Great Britain. Lasting about 130 years, the empire “on which the sun never set” finally fell in the 1940s. As with all the old empires, Britain has never returned to its previous glory. All of these great civilizations fell. Most of them were destroyed from within, as ours will be if that decline ever happens here. For the time being though, it is our turn to be on the pedestal. We are experiencing a Golden Age the likes of which has never seen before. We have everything we could imagine, right at our fingertips. No longer needing to travel, we can stay at home and, just by pressing a button, the world comes right to our door. But we should be extremely cautious. We may be on top of the world now but, as we know, every great civilization on Earth has failed. We cannot afford to forget what our ancestors taught us. We may desperately need that wisdom when our Golden Age ends. It has happened before and it will happen again. It’s not a matter of “IF” but “WHEN.” So, we should be careful what we cast aside for the sake of “progress.” We might need it back, some day soon, just for “survival.”