In a few hours it will be another new year, 2019. I can remember when 1984 seemed far in the future, both as a calendar date and George Orwell’s predicted dystopia, to which 9/11 and the digital revolution gave birth in the 21st century. Now I find myself 35 years past 1984 and a stranger in a strange land.
Over these holidays two occurrences brought the strangeness of the present time home to me.
One was the arrival of the memoir, From the Cast-Iron Shore (University of Notre Dame Press, 2019) by my friend and onetime colleague, Francis Oakley, an historian of the medieval era and past president of Williams College. The other was the report that a Japanese man had married a hologram. https://www.cnn.com/2018/12/28/health/rise-of-digisexuals-intl/index.html
Little doubt that feminism has made women troublesome, but preference for a hologram indicates a shifting preference for the virtual over the real. Many in the younger generations have friends they have never met face to face. They join together in teams to play Internet games, or they open themselves to the world of strangers on Facebook. It seems that digital interaction with people thousands of miles away is replacing the human interaction of a sports team or a date consisting of male-female face-to-face interaction.
I have read reports that young women pay for their university educations, if education it is, by engaging in digital sex work. They display themselves naked and provocatively in various sexual positions assessable on the Internet while engaging in sexual conversation, and the young men find this form of sexual engagement preferable to face to face contact with a woman. The saying is: “It is cheaper than a date and without commitments.”
On beaches I observe attractive women clothed in little but two shoe strings, a sight that would have driven the young men in my day crazy with lust, totally ignored by guys fixated on their cell phones. I sometimes think that people will stop going to beaches as they will prefer the virtual experience to the real one.
Francis’ memoir reminds me that the world he and I knew is over and done with, and that the kind of education that we got, him more than me, is no longer attainable.
The memoir reminds me that the rise of a poor Irish boy, via a Jesuit education and an Oxford scholarship to the presidency of America’s most prestigious college, and my own rise to Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury, normally a post conveyed to members of the financial elite, is something that no longer takes place. The ladders of upward mobility have been taken down. The middle class itself is declining into poverty.
Francis tells of the Irish farms of his relatives. The homes had no running water, and some not even an outhouse. My own grandparents farm did have an outhouse, but no running water. Water was obtained by going outside to the wellhouse and lowering the bucket into the well, and when filled drawing the bucket back up. The only hot water available was obtained by heating it on a wood stove where meals were cooked. The kitchen wood stove was usually the only heat for the house.
Francis, who attended Oxford in the decade following World War II, reports that there was no running water in his rooms. A scout, defined as “a domestic worker at a college at Oxford University,” brought a porcelain basin and a jug of hot water to the rooms in the mornings.
When I was at Oxford, as a rare post-graduate at Merton College, in the second decade after World War II, I could only stay in rooms during summers (as rooms were reserved for undergraduates during terms) when I returned for collaborations with my former professor. If memory serves, there was running cold water, but full bathroom facilities were located outside the rooms. It wasn’t that much different from my undergraduate days at Georgia Tech where bathroom facilities were located at the end of each hall of rooms in the dorms.
If time and events permit, I intend to return to Francis’ memoir, which is full of information about how the past, despite the hardships, produced more successful and more honorable people than we have around us today.
Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following. Roberts’ latest books are The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West, How America Was Lost, and The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.
Most seniors never get enough exercise. In His wisdom God decreed that seniors become forgetful so they would have to search for their glasses, keys and other things thus doing more walking. And God looked down and saw that it was good.
Then God saw there was another need. In His wisdom He made seniors lose coordination so they would drop things requiring them to bend, reach & stretch And God looked down and saw that it was good.
Then God considered the function of bladders and decided seniors would have additional calls of nature requiring more trips to the bathroom, thus providing more exercise. God looked down and saw that it was good.
So if you find as you age, you are, walking from room to room more, getting up and down more, getting excited more, deep breathing more, remember —–it’s God’s will. It is all in your best interest even though you continually mutter under your breath.
Nine Important Facts To Remember As We Grow Older
#9 Death is the number 1 killer in the world.
#8 Life is sexually transmitted .
#7 Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.
#6 Men have 2 motivations: hunger and hanky panky, and they can’t tell them apart. If you see a gleam in his eyes, make him a sandwich.
#5 Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to use the Internet and they won’t bother you for weeks, months, maybe years unless you give them your email address.
#4 Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in the hospital, dying of nothing.
#3 All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.
#2 In the 60’s, people took LSD to make the world weird. Now the world is weird, and people take Prozac to make it normal.