Opinions and Rants #39: 5 Things That Have Gotten Worse

Drink up, ladies.  Let the sweet escape of alcohol wash over you.  Happiness is only found at the bottom of a bottle.

“This place sucks.”

We all knew that kid in high school who griped endlessly about how awful the town you lived in was.   It was more or less a scapegoat for why life wasn’t exactly the way you wanted it.  The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t really matter where you live – the high school in Bakersfield, CA is not going to be that different than the high school in Jacksonville, FL.  Your happiness as a teen has a hell of a lot more to do with perspective and attitude than it does geography.

 “The 2000s suck.”

I have to be very careful writing posts at Retrospace that I don’t become that same whiney and annoying kid.  Indeed, the same can be said for time as it can for geography. If you’re a miserable wretch now, you’d probably be a miserable wretch in 1967 and 1975 as well, if you catch my drift.

So, let me state for the record that I am a very happy guy.  I’m gainfully employed, I have the leisure time to devote to blog posting nearly every day (I’m writing this on a plane to Massachusetts BTW). Most of all, I have a wonderful wife and wonderful children.  No complaints.

Things are good.  Things are real good.

Well, I take that back. I have lots of complaints, but, for the most part, they’re about things that don’t matter a whole lot. Who doesn’t enjoy harkening back to the “good ole days”? Sure, in the grand scheme of things, the fact that “Barney Miller” isn’t on Netflix streaming is a ridiculously small gripe.  But that’s what we do here at Retrospace – it’s part of the fun.  We don’t generally talk about wars, politics, or religion.  It’s not that I’m petty, it’s that there’s enough of that business thrust in your face without me having to add to the cacophony of misery.

Of course, now and again, Retrospace will touch on something that crosses the line into something that really does matter.  When I think about 2012 and I look back at the 1970s, certain things really are much worse than before (and in many cases, the reverse is true).  Certain things have crossed the line from being fun to being a real, genuine problem.  And that’s not the whiney kid you knew in high school talking – this isn’t a matter of perspective or attitude.  These things really and truly have gotten downright shitty.

Locally owned and family run - sadly, it's becoming an anachronism.

1. The Wal-Martization of America
The loss of mom and pop shops in every city and town is not just an aesthetic change for the worse – it has drastically altered our economy. When you take away family owned businesses, you take away the soul of America.  The character of each town has been lost and we are objectively worse for it.

A quiet evening at home celebrating the death of the middle class.

2. Gone Is the Living Wage
You used to be able to live on one modest income per household.  Now, most families have both parents working and still live paycheck to paycheck.  The once thriving middle class is now becoming extinct.

Sexual Assault - The Great American Pasttime

3. Rampant Crime
Kids used to roam free from sun up to sun down.  Now, they’re cloistered indoors playing video games and watching reality TV.  I’m thankful for the neighborhood I live in, but I know most areas are now devoid of the once ubiquitous sounds of children playing.

Whores and gambling - it's not the Old West, it's your politicians at work. 
4. Politicians Are Bought
God knows there were crooked politicians back in the day, but there’s never been a time where basically everyone in Washington is bought by somebody.  We were jaded by Watergate and Vietnam, but now it’s worse. Now we’ve thrown our hands up and accepted it.

That's right, sweetheart.  Turn your back on that TV.  You will be glad you did.
5. Americans Are Brainwashed
CNN is an embarrassing joke. Fox News is a Republican mouthpiece.  MSNBC is boring, redundant and leftist.  I could go on and on.  People have turned off their nightly news in favor of being voyeurs to a Kardasian – and the sad thing is, they’re probably not any less informed than regular news viewers.  Say what you will about Cronkite (Limbaugh would say he was a Commie homosexual), but the contrast is striking.  One day, one of these newscasters (maybe even a cute blonde on Fox) will have a moment of clarity, light their stupid puff piece on fire on-air, and proceed with things that matter.  (It won’t happen – but it’s therapeutic to imagine it happening.)

And there you have it.    Sure, some of these are inter-related, and there’s obviously a whole lot more going on in America that are worthy of complaint. But I’ll stop here before I get myself depressed.  Time to write a Miniskirt Monday post to cleanse.


  1. How about this one- believing in something. I don't mean Scientology or deities, I mean the idea that the West actually stood for something. I cringe today when, very occasionally, I still hear an American declare his country "leader of the free world" whilst allied to Middle Eastern dictatorships an asking for handouts from the Chinese. Maybe this is a good thing; all that cant eventually becomes meaningless. But when I was growing up, there was a clear distinction and understanding of why we should be grateful. I think anti-Americanism abroad has increased whilst memories decrease.

  2. And my BIGGEST gripe about the world today- lack of any concept of privacy. I’m a teacher and feel especially threatened by the Chinese-style monitoring being implemented in the West. It’s all the more a threat given how it goes out of its way to invade and pervert people’s privacy. Just look at the risks in simply using Facebook to comment: Websites are permitted, without any real reason, to access your basic information including your name, “profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends and any other information I’ve shared with everyone”. It allows the site to send you unsolicited email. It can actually send any post it wants to your Wall- status messages, notes, photos, videos, etc… You have absolutely no control over the content. Worryingly is can “access my data any time” without saying exactly what data it will be accessing and for what purpose, and even “access my data when I’m not using the application.” All very useful as Western companies kowtow to regimes that allow access to its market in exchange for such valuable information and technology; we're now facilitating the raison d'etre of the STASI, Gestapo, KGB et. cet.

    1. I agree that one of the biggest problems is that the concept of privacy has become nonexistant. At this point, an entire generation has now grown up without it. Didn't the annoying Mark Zuckerberg even say something along the lines of "privacy is an outdated concept"? What a hellish, dystopian idea. But, it is nobody's fault but our own. In the old Orwellian "1984" model, the dreaded Big Brother was watching. But Big Brother was doing all the work, finding out about us. Big Brother no longer has to do that. We are handing every bit of information about ourselves to him on a silver platter via Facebook, Twitter and the like. Who would have thought? And who would have thought, back in the beloved 60s/70s, when being "underground" was a virtue, it would simply be the "normal way of being" in 2012?

      You say you are worried that "websites are permitted, without any real reason, to access your basic information including your name, 'profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends and any other information I’ve shared with everyone'”, yet you don't question the fact that this information has been posted by the individual for everyone to see in the first place. Like I said, it's the new normal. That is the scary part.

    2. "[T]his information has been posted by the individual for everyone to see in the first place"
      I don't see why something I post to my father (not "for everyone") is open for any outside group to use without even stating how or in what form it will be used for. I should,'t have to spend 5 minutes going through every minutia everytime there's a new privacy policy or update for itunes, google, yahoo... Maybe I'm just touchy as, having lived in China, I railed against my students being unable to do proper research because US company Google is helping the regime censor information, or how US company Hotmail releases personal information to the regime about its users, causing them to be interned without charge, etc.

  3. I myself am prone to a little nostalgia now and then (otherwise, why follow this blog?) but I refuse to believe things were better in the old days.

    It may seem better because in hindsight, it's easy to say what was good and what was bad. Things have clearly fallen into place: miniskirts=good, slacks=bad.

    Events from the past can all be neatly filed into categories whereas YOU have to make up your own mind about events in the present. You have to decide for yourself and that scares people into saying that things were better in the good ol'days.

    I think one of the best things of the present over the past is that we, the people, have the power to decide whether things are good or bad right now. If you don't like CNN, don't watch it. If enough people agree and join you, they will lose viewers and sponsorship and disappear.

    1. I generally agree, Kbart. Many things are much better. If we could knock off a few of the baddies... lying politicians, fat kids, and the economic pressure on the middle class (two incomes usually needed), think how even greater things could be. And of course, if the miniskirt came back.

      And some of what we perceive as bad stuff about today, was also bad stuff yesterday. If you look objectively, someone who's willing to take charge of their own life, their own health, their own economic state, rather than following the crowd, has the opportunity to live healthier, safer, happier today than at any time in the past. How lucky I am to have been born in this time, and in this great nation.

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    1. Number three should be "the illusion of rampant crime". The streets are safer today than at most, perhaps any time in the past; the cops in my town bag damn near every bad guy who pulls a gun or steals a car. People THINK their kids aren't safe on the street, so there's no kids on the street. America is afraid of everything. Kids don't do pick-up ball games, everything is scheduled and formalized, so Mom and Dad "have to" be at every game, which means the family schedule gets crazy, which means the family eats fast food five nights a week, and the kids get fat (parents have pretty much always gotten fat, but fat old people is slightly less tragic than fat young people). Yeah, that's what I said, school sports are making kids fat. And the two-incomes-to-get-by thing? Wow. America really got sold a bill of goods on that one. Of course, some of that is because America has chosen to live in bigger houses than they could possibly need, drive bigger and more expensive cars, spend $300/month on cable TV/internet/cellphone services, and eat out most nights, all of which cost a lot of damned money.

    2. @Tallwheel, you have to take into consideration how the Internet has been used as a tool for criminals--particularly scam artists and child molesters/child traffickers. My mother remembers growing up during a time when you never heard of anyone being murdered to the point we are today (and yes, she had radio and TV back then.) I just posted about "Stranger Danger" on my own site and how us kids from my generation generally roamed free back in the day and it wasn't until the murder of Adam Walsh that we had to be self aware. There has always been crime, but in my opinion, not to the extent we know today. The world has gone nuts.

    3. Nope. "Stranger danger" is literally a one-in-a-million thing. And it's always been that way.

      The real problem with molestation is within the home from boyfriends, stepfathers, uncles, etc. And it's always been that way. I can't find good statistics, but judging by experiences of friends and family, I'd say it's a one-in-20 thing.

      By worrying about the 1/1,000,000 chance of "stranger danger" you're keeping a kid from a normal outdoor life (thus increasing the risk of diabetes and obesity) and you're losing focus on the 1/20 chance of in-home abuse.

    4. @Polistra, that is true, and I mention that in my post--that Stranger Danger comes under criticism because many children are abducted/molested by an adult that they know. However, my point is that the Internet has given rise to cyber crime and I don't care what anyone says, I don't remember hearing about so many heinous crimes growing up as I do today. There is less concern today for moral values and the care of others.

    5. "There is less concern today for moral values and the care of others." - what are you basing on? I'm sure our great grandparents said the exact same thing back in their day. You can see examples everyday of people raising thousands of dollars overnight for people in need. I don't buy that at all.

      Here's a good tool for crime statistics:

      As you can see, violent crimes sort of peaked back in the late 80's and early 90's (oddly enough during my coming of age, sheer coincidence I assure you). So, it is NOT worse today than ever before.

    6. Do you WATCH the news? Does Aurora and Wisconsin ring any bells?

      Here's an article I just read this morning. This author's point about the kind of world we live in is well spoken:


      How can you NOT think there's been a decline in moral values in this world? We have corrupt government and financial institutions, bullying is rampant (that story about the kids on the school bus calling the bus monitor all sorts of nasty names made me sick to my stomach), we have a food industry that abuses animals and pumps them full of antibiotics...not to mention the catastrophes in Colorado and Wisconsin...I could go on and on.

    7. Is there widespread paranoia in America? Yes. Is it well founded? To a large extent there's a genuine cause for alarm. The media does its best to hype and fabricate panic, but that doesn't mean there isn't a real problem. Some areas a doing great - if you live in rural New Hampshire, you probably don't have a lot to worry about. But try telling law enforcement officers in Detroit, Camden, Birmingham, Atlanta and Houston that things are oh so much better.... I doubt you'll encounter much agreement.

      The US is known among European nations as a crime ridden country - that opinion isn't just a delusional perspective that things are always worse now than in 'the good ole days'. Sometimes it actually happens to be true.

  5. I really think the world has gone to hell in a handbasket over the years. Back then, you really enevr heard about presidents getting into trouble for having affairs, back then, crime was almost nonexistent and you could leave your doors and windows open. Nowadays, you have to worry about your kids getting kidnapped, crime is everywhere around us. Heck, it as common as everyday when I turn the news on and see something about someone getting robbed, someone getting killed in a car crash because the driver had 8 or 9 suspension notices on their license, what were they doing driving on a suspended license? And mothers selling drugs out of their houses with thier kids nearby? I'd love to slap some real sense into the heads of these mothers who do that.

    1. "Back then, you really never heard about presidents getting into trouble for having affairs"

      "HEARD ABOUT" is the operative phrase there. Presidents, for example, have been having affairs since time immemorial. Think of JFK for example. He was apparently fooling around with every woman under the sun, but no one heard about it. It only came out years later. The Washington press corps most certainly knew about it, but they didn't dare print it. There was less of an inclination in those days to hang out the dirty laundry of every public figure like there is now. As long as a president was doing his job, what did it really matter what was going on in the bedroom?

    2. I personally believe the Willie Nelson story is true - that he and JFK smoked a doobie on the White House roof. But President Kennedy had character - he was human, yes - but he had character. Nowadays polls show Americans have basically thrown in the towel with their elected officials. Their crimes against the people are of a much more disturbing sort - which is still hardly printed.

    3. Actually it was Jimmy Carter that Willie shared a doob with...

  6. You didn't even mention Country Western music.

    1. Waylon, Willie, Bocephus, George Jones, David Allen Coe, Merle... we need you guys! I'll even take a little Milsap at this point and be satisfied.

  7. Statistically, things have never been safer in the USA. What's changed, as touched on above, is the 24-hour news cycle, where the latest tragedy (at the time of this writing, the Colorado shooting) is blared, repeated, and dwelled on (for the sake of ratings) endlessly! In the 70s, we HAD rape, abductions, killings, disturbed folks, etc..That was the era of the "razor blade in the Halloween apple," (and an urban myth at that) remember?

    I recently took a trip to my old childhood stomping grounds in NJ, where I lived from age 5 to 10. It was besotted now with the same Wal-Marts, Cracker Barrels, and Walgreens that are on every corner now. The SAME ones, down to the interior, worker dress, etc...I sat there at one point, recalling all the oddball establishments and dealers that one existed in that town, where I bought comic books, WACKY PACKAGES, etc...

    Al Bigley

  8. One recent trend that's getting worse and worse is the commercialization of everything. Not so much Wal-Martization, but Nascarization. Buildings that used to be named in honor of someone are now named after products. New ones are named after products right off the bat. Even the NBA is going to start having corporate logos on their jerseys now. Really? Are they that broke? (NO!) It's product placement to the extreme and it's just making the world a little uglier. :p

  9. Here's my semi-unsolicited two pence, the downfall of American society began with the development and availability of drive-thru service at fast-food restaurants.

    It was the first emergence of the polarization of social behavior from congenial community based co-existence to self serving-satisfying the individual above all other conventions of behavior, implied or contractual.

    The day we as a people stopped assembling in a polite queue to order hamburgers and fries through a walk-up window at McDonalds was the birth of the collective herd of self-absorbed and self-important persons that brought this nation to the sad state of social degrade it is experiencing.

    Simply said, common courtesy isn't and equally absent are rudimentary manners and the most basic of civility in the general population at large.

    Anyone reared in the 1960s will have the perspective to relate to the above sentiments and observations but I am certain citizens of ancient Rome made like commentaries about their culture and it's decline.

    I'll not expression my opinions about the contribution cellular telephones have made for fear of sounding like a Luddite.

  10. Most of all, I miss hope. In the 70s there was a feeling that trying to do good had value. Even if it didn't work, you still tried to make the world better.

    Seems we could brink that one back. Might have to stop bickering for awhile, but I think it would be time well spent. Even if it doesn't work.