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Nov 18, 2005


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Will Spotts

You've presented an idiosyncratic array of statistics -- that have been very interesting, and together support your case.

I'm curious what time periods you'd say shared some of our characteristics. (The generation hypothesis has some merit, though it is usually overstated in books I've read.)

Personally I'm inclined to point to two or three factors to account for the gap between perception and the reality. (Most people I know, with some exceptions, would deny that your statistics were true and still have a sense that things are running down.) One you allude to is the various media -- not just news, but internet, movies, music -- all give us a warped reflection of ourselves. Another is feelings of purposelessness; this is complicated, but there seems to be a real sense of lack of direction and meaning. Part of that may be, as you indicate, disconnectedness . . . but it also seems to have other components. A third factor is one that I'm squeamish to say: but there is a perception that we as a society are in moral decline. Perhaps crime rates are lower, but personal morality, honesty, ethics, politeness all *seem* to be lower as well.

Michael Kruse

“Idiosyncratic” hmm… at least that weren’t idiotic. **grin**

The life expectancy and infant mortality variables are widely used as overall social indicators because so many aspects of culture have to be healthy for these numbers to rise. Suicide and crime are often used as evidence of breakdown in social order. Then we have the three basic social institutions apart from government: Family, education, and economy. I followed up with ethnicity and environment as the have emerged as important flash points in how we feel about our culture.

I also limited the variables to be ones I could find trend data for. For instance I saw a story earlier this year that said PG movies out sold R movies for the first time in twenty years but I did readily find year by year stats that would allow me to chart this. I would also consider it to be a more indirect measure as opposed to instances of crime. I

I new what the results would be on the life expectancy and mortality. I knew crime was down. And I knew some about the family variables but not all. With the other variables I wasn’t certain of their trends until I looked them up. I didn’t include any variables because I thought they would give a certain conclusion and I didn’t reject any because they didn’t. I have actually been a little surprised at the results.

You wrote

“…but personal morality, honesty, ethics, politeness all *seem* to be lower as well.”

Yes. And I think you see some of what I am after. The question is who applies the definition of what something like personal morality is? You, like I, have certain code about morality that is shared by a large minority of people and opposed by another large minority of people. That other large minority sees any advancement in your morality as a decline in theirs. You and I feel the same way when the other groups prevail. Stalemate. Whatever measure I use about half the people will disagree with my assessment as to whether it is positive or not. Neither group can make their values prevail as each pushes ever harder to have them prevail. Thus, angst and anxiety.

As to generational eras, I will write more about this next week. The four eras I have in mind that would be similar are (roughly) the 1930s, the 1850s, the 1760-70s and the 1670-80s.

will spotts

Sorry about the idiosyncratic comment . . . I suppose it did beg a justification of choices.

I was only commenting on the inclusion of temperature statistics in the mix. Also, education is very hard to measure as the standards change over time. (Different things are considered important -- and thus included, while others go by the wayside.)

Personal morality has changed in many regards . . . whether each change is good or bad is perhaps a matter of opinion.

Honesty and courtesy/thoughtfulness, however both seem to have lessened considerably. People have always, of course, lied -- but lying was much less accepted and expected than it is today. (At least the society paid hypocritical lip-service -- or maintained an ideal as a standard -- of honesty.)

Michael Kruse

No offense taken. Hanging around Emergent types I have learned that "idiosyncratic" should be worn as a badge of honor. **grin**

I debated about whether to include the global warming stuff. There are so many who believe that our behavior is destroying climate and thus quality of life. However, if you don't by the human factor in climate change it is not a quality of life issue in the sense I have being talking about. I included it to exclud it ... if that makes any sense.

You will get know quibble from me about manners changing. However, I think there have been other times when we have been as vile. I hope you check out the posts ahead.

will spotts

You know . . . it never occurred to me. I actually have many friends who lie awake at night worrying about climate change. For them this would be a quality of life issue. I never thought to view it that way.

While I'm inclined to agree that human activity has caused environmental damage, I don't agree with the CO2 / increasing greenhouse effect model. (Or, at least, I don't believe the figures that have been bandied about concerning this.)

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