I am often asked* if life really is better now than it was when I was a teenager, fifty years ago.
*(I was actually asked once.)
Of course, it’s a different world. Better?
Well, here are twelve reasons it is.
- The internet. You have the world at your fingertips. Got a question? Ask Google or Alexa or Wikipedia. No question is too hard. Sure Dr Google will even answer your health questions! Haven’t seen your brother or sister friend in Australia for ages? Skype or Zoom or Facetime. Nowhere is far away.
- Reality television. We get to see real people as opposed to actors, living real lives. Romance, building homes, watching tv for God’s sake. There’s no whim uncatered for. Magic.
- Netflix. Think of all the movies and series they’ve made? It’s non stop. And now we have Disney too. It’s endless entertainment. And you don’t even have to leave home – even if you do have to pay an annual fee.
- The music. Well, first of all it’s so easy to get. Spotify and other ways of streaming music have made that trip to the record store such a thing of the past. And what’s more, it’s mostly free. What more could you want?
- The ease of travel. When this virus has passed, all you’ll have to do it log on, book the flight and hotel and that’s it. God, it used to be so tedious.
- Mobile ‘phones. Where would we be without them? It’s just fantastic. You can contact anyone any time, check on the kids, look up the weather forecast, back a horse – watch a movie for heaven’s sake.
- Look at the massive airports, the motorways. Hard to remember the Ireland of narrow country roads.
- The pubs. They used to be full of oul’ lads suckin’ pints. Now? Decent shots, gangs of lads and lasses having craic. Music. Fun.
- Freedom of and from religion. You don’t have to believe anything you don’t want to believe or follow rules you don’t want to follow. .
- You can have anything you want. That’s the truth. Things people me dreamed of as a child are available at the touch of a button these days.
- Inspirational leaders. Think Barak Obama and Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand. Gives you great hope.
- Ordinary people like me can do things like this – write a blog. Imagine trying to do something like this and circulate it with pen and paper or typewriter?
And here are 12 reasons the world is a far worse place now than it was fifty years ago.
- The internet. People couldn’t be bothered actually researching stuff. Just Google it. And of course, just as books and film and were in the past, the Internet has proved to be a boon to drug dealers, pornographers, abusers, gun-runners, liars, lunatics and trouble makers. Maybe we were better off without it. And as for friends and family abroad? Remember letter writing?
- Reality television. Back in the sixties, our reality television was Seven Days, Radharc, Broadsheet and other news and documentary programmes telling us about the lives of real people, not showbiz wannabes who are about as real as chocolate teapot.
- Netflix. Great stuff all right. But sitting at home watching a movie will never replace the joy of a real cinema full of real people all reacting and reacting differently to what’s on screen.
- Nobody will convince me that rap is music. Nobody will convince me that what passes for music today is in anyway comparable to the magic of the Sixties and the Beatles, Stones, Kinks and others. And we gladly paid for it. Musicians shouldn’t have to work for nothing.
- Sure, you can book your flight from here to Australia in ten seconds. can organise two weeks in the Canaries in minutes. But the excitement is gone. Airports are hideous not magic like they used to be.
- Mobile ‘phones. Damned curse. People stare at them all day long. They walk across the street staring at them. They even ride bikes and drive cars staring at them. And if you’re employed you’re expected to be available all the time.
- We’ve got some great roads now. And everywhere you drive on them looks exactly the same. Yes I know we had to “advance” but I used to love the scenery, the thriving little villages we passed through and when the Irish countryside wasn’t concreted over.
- The pubs – with some notable exceptions – have gone downhill. Knocking back shots isn’t drinking. Sitting over a pint or five is. I preferred pubs without music and even without televisions. Just people.
- Yes, we have freedom from religion. But some of the rules various religions brought us did us no harm. I don’t think any religion encourages greed. But, if there is a new religion these days, that’s it. Greed.
- It’s true that you can probably have anything you want these days. Personally, I preferred dreaming about the things I couldn’t have and hoping that someday – not by Amazon delivery tomorrow – I’d have them.
- And as for inspirational leaders, sadly, the leaders inspiring people these days are Trump, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Maduro in Venezuela, Duterte in the Philippines – and I’m not including BoJo because he is, in comparison, relatively sane.
- I liked typewriters…
So when was it better?
If I could start up a time machine, I’d be in 1966 in a jiffy.