Friday, August 6, 2010

Things aren´t what they used to be...

After recently reading about how much of a sex god JFK was, someone might be led to think "why did Jacqueline put up with it all?".

This is a good question, and when I read about stories in, for example, the "Daily Mail" that criticise our modern culture and lack of family values compared to the "Golden Years" of the 1950s, that´s when I start to wonder about some people´s memory of the past.

Question: do people have more social freedom that fifty years ago? Obviously, yes.
Question: Is that a good or bad thing? Yes and no.

It´s easy to think of the years in the past when the divorce rate was much lower, families stayed together, and so on, but all that "domestic bliss" was a double-edged sword.
Much of that "bliss" was a cover behind rampant adultery on the part of men, not to mention domestic violence that went unspoken of publicly. All that occurred in the privacy of the home fifty years ago is now very much considered part of the public domain.

The reason why Jacqueline never considered divorcing the rampantly adulterous JFK was probably because she simply was able to tolerate it. Fifty years ago, there were also far more loveless marriages of convenience (JFK and Jacqueline one of them, as I understand), but both parties tolerated making such a sacrifice for a "greater good". Related to that is the fact that social intolerance was also tolerated far more: racism was a part of life for many blacks; the gay community tolerated and adapted to their hidden status. Everywhere, people were making sacrifices with their personal freedoms and rights, making do with a half a life.

Am I saying this was better in some ways? No; just different.

With the rise of civil rights in the sixties and seventies there also came a subsequent increase in individualism and self-interest. I think the two points are related. Greater personal freedoms naturally gives people a greater sense of entitlement, and are less willing to make sacrifices in their personal happiness for the sake of others.
Nowadays we´re living in a much more tolerant society; and also intolerant. Fifty years ago, people tolerated intolerance in society. Nowadays, people are intolerant to intolerance. Fifty years ago, people made sacrifices everyday; nowadays, people find it more difficult.

The rise of individualism can be linked to the collapse of the "family" unit. That´s what social conservatives say, anyway. But the "family unit" had been living as a sham for decades before the social evolution that occurred in the 1960s. You only have to look at the private lives of the "iconic" rich and famous (who some in the media still gold up as moral paragons of virtue - Churchill, an alcoholic; FDR had a sham marriage for decades; Sinatra was a womaniser; and so on) to see that.

No, things aren´t what they used to be. But, then again, they never were in the first place.

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