My grandmother seldom speaks of times being easier back in the day. Times have always been tough in the developing world, and my grandmother is one of the toughest that ever got going. Instead she speaks of a time when people were nicer, driven less by greed and more by kindness: a time when neighbours were more than just people you shared a fence with. They were friends and helpers.
I’ve heard the same lament from others: what ever happened to the days when the neighbourhood would take care of someone who was ill – bring them soup, help out with chores? What happened to the stranger who would help you out in a bind and expect nothing in return?
Sometimes when Grandma talks, I can only sit and listen in wonder. I can’t suspend my disbelief long enough to appreciate that people in real life actually performed random acts of kindness. My aunt will be quick to retort that those things happened once upon a time, yes, but times and people have changed.
The world is no longer the same place where villages raise children. Unless you count the village of social media. And in worsening economic times, perhaps it is not so much greed that drives us but the need for financial security and a fear of being taken advantage of. This is Jamaica, after all, where financial schemes run rampant and “get rich quick” is the mantra on everyone’s mind.
Times have changed, as they inevitably do, and they have dragged us kicking and screaming into a new age of desperation and difficulties. But dark times do not destroy the light, they define it.
It may be harder to find happiness here, but maybe their glasses just need stronger prescriptions.
Part Two of a two-part post on the inertia of our humanity. Read part one here.
My grandmother loves to talk about the good old days. I can tell because she gets a twinkle in her eye when she starts complaining about the way the world is run today and her memory takes her back, beyond the current century, to a time when things were simpler, people were kinder and she was lord and master of her house and tavern.
Yes, my grandmother had a tavern.
It’s not something that’s unique to her, nor is it unique to others of her generation. The reminiscing that is, not the public house. I’m not sure many grandmothers ran bars.
Even my aunt falls prey to reminiscence from time to time, and though she is certainly no more amenable to change than Grandma, she understands the effect of time upon the world. But I wouldn’t have considered talking about the issue if I hadn’t also heard an elderly gentleman call into a popular talk show – Barbara Gloudon, if you’re wondering – to lament the same thing. Dr. Gloudon, of course being from the same generation of grandmothers everywhere, readily agreed.
Is it that older people feel swept away by the tides of time into a brave new world, bitterly nostalgic for a past when things were understandable and normal? What exactly is the emotion that underlies this fierce distrust of the new age? Is it a feeling of helplessness as the world around you morphs, gets younger, while your body only sees fit to slip into something a little more wrinkly and filled with joint pains?
Is it an acute feeling of the body’s betrayal that creates the stereotypical “cranky old geyser” or is it the feeling of being a stranger lost in a strange land? If we live long enough, we’ll get the answers.
Part One of a two-part post on the inertia of humanity. Read part two here.