The Thinking Woman's Diary

A Letter to my Mom & Dad...

Written: 6th Mar 2016  | Last Updated: 13th Mar 2016

 

Dearest Mom & Dad,

I’ve got so much I want to talk with you about, I hardly know where to begin. Some of it pertains to the wider world and how it has been re-shaped since you both departed for your (too early) heavenly rest...some of it is about how raising a family has changed...and all of it is a bit of a lament, really, because everything just seemed so much better, cooler, fairer, more intelligent and more worthy when you and your generation were on the planet. Bear with me, because I might ramble on a little bit...but you’ll get the 2016 picture soon enough.

Our magnificent language, used to such brilliant effect in your work, your newspaper and all your writings (including decades of marvellous correspondence), has morphed into an ugly, stunted, blunt and often obscene jargon-cum-code - it’s hard just to keep up, let alone comprehend. Nouns are transformed daily into absurd little verbs (“to trouser” = to earn money)...profanities pepper kids’ conversations, be it face-to-face or on Facebook (I’ll get to that later)...swearing isn’t even thrown out there to shock or make a statement, it’s just every-day-every-occasion-speak, suck it up, princess. We are witnessing a death more tragic than any Shakespearean character ever had to endure. 

Not only is language losing its eloquence and rhythmic beauty, it is also being over-populated by acronyms. Probably the most prolifically printed acronym right now is LGBTI. You could try to guess the words these letters represent, but I guarantee you will not get them. Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Intersex. Told you. You both grew up during the Depression, had World War II whittle your adult shapes...you were brave, honest, creative, hardworking people who loved one another in the way a passionate man and a passionate woman do so well. You probably didn’t know any girls or boys who underwent Gender Reassignment (self explanatory), or gay men that co-fathered twin girls, or lesbians who co-mothered sons. You won’t have seen ex-Olympian Bruce Jenner morph on TV (like a rather sad butterfly) into long haired, overly-made-up Caitlyn Jenner, garnering cheers and admiration from around the globe for bravery. 

 

 


 

Being obsessed with gender is very PC - Politically Correct. Political Correctness has invaded every single area of life, including formerly sober and measured governments that now seem hell-bent on denying credibility to everything and everyone that isn’t manically pushing a PC agenda. PC climate changers suck up grants like tornadoes, citing costly doomsday models of a world with perpetual natural disasters as their raison d'être. Then there are the politically aggressive groups demanding acknowledgement (and governmental backing) for dozens of different sexes (yes, we now have so many recognised, studied, promoted and packaged genders, it’s like one big orgy). We have crazy food obsessions with things like GI - Glycemic Index (not Government Issue), and GF - Gluten Free, because suddenly there are thousands of foods we’re not supposed to eat anymore, and that we now fear like death. Kids can’t even take a peanut butter sandwich to school, because one allergic child who might attend that institution might snack on it and die. We can be whatever gender we choose from kindergarten age, but we can’t expose another human (of any sex) to peanut butter. 

Social Media has also taken over the world - these consist of various platforms for internet-based interaction and conversation created by enterprising young entrepreneurs (who are now mostly billionaires) to give the youth of the world somewhere to live that isn’t ruled by their parents or teachers, but by themselves. This parallel universe, this imagined reality, is where good and bad behaviour mingle freely in a cyber experiment of great danger. Instead of actually having chats in close company, where body language helps define meaning and trust, kids “chat” online, creating a persona that may or may not be their own, opening themselves up to objectification and abuse. These sites are being blamed for all kinds of troubles, from cyber-bullying to opportunistic predation by adults scouring the web for easy sexual targets. It’s a non-policed world where anything can happen, and does.

The most prolifically followed social media site on the planet is Facebook. On face value, it’s a cool idea - you connect with friends in your class and around the world, sharing every detail of your every mood, move and issue. Sounds like innocent fun, right? But in reality, a Facebook page, and the connections it weaves ever outward, become obsessions, particularly (though not exclusively) with teenagers, and they soon find any way they can to be “On Facebook”, not just in leisure time, but ALL the time - at school during lessons, at home instead of doing homework, wherever, whenever they need it. It is changing the face of society.

 

 


 

Another interesting thing to tell you is that lying is OK now. Remember when we were little, if we so much as tried to lie to you, we’d break out in a sweat, break down in sobs and apologise for even attempting to pull the wool over your eyes? Well, it’s not like that anymore. There is so little discipline from parents (too busy), schools (too little time, too few staff) that kids just don’t learn how to behave. Hardly anyone attends church, so extracting that God factor (burning in Hell if you’re bad) means kids can lie, steal, bully and cheat without remorse, and very often without consequence. They look you straight in the eye while they do it. It’s scary. They’re not always big lies, but once you start, where do you draw the line?

Pornography is rife, because the anything-goes internet allows it to be so. And since kids are so good at accessing the internet, they are also very good at accessing porn. Even little kids. And it’s not like the airbrushed “Playboy” magazines hidden under Dad’s side of the bed...or playfully, like your erotic nude swims at the lake. This porn is violent, base, exploitive and cruel. Hardly the playground you want your children to be experimenting in. There were reports in the press last week about boys as young as four preying on kindergarten classmates, stimulated and tutored by rape scenes online. Teenage girls are presenting at clinics with more infections because of rough sex with their early partners - brutality against women and girls is an eternal theme in the world of porn. What kind of lovers/parents/people will these children grow up to be with minds immune to suffering and hearts made of bloody stone?

Back to food. Remember the Drinking Man’s Diet, Dad? Well, the celebrity-endorsed Paleo Diet is all the rage now, also known as the cave man diet. Consuming and digesting food in the manner of Paleolithic humans seems an odd and retrograde step when you consider all the developmental changes that have occurred both in our human bodies and in the increasingly ethical production of livestock, vegetables, fruits and oils for consumption. Paleo says NO to dairy foods (sorry those of you who need calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones), grains, legumes, salt and sugar and YES to copious amounts of protein in the forms of fish (but note: fish is likely toxic if eaten more than 2-3 times per week) and lean meats (including organ meats), plus vegies, fruits and nuts. However, whichever way you cut it, Paleo doesn’t hold a candle to the natural and much-praised wisdom of the Mediterranean diet, which embraces sensible and nutritious eating habits of Greece, Italy, Spain, etc., and which is based on lots of vegetables (including wild greens like horta, herbs and of course, tomatoes), lashings of olive oil, plus a moderate amount of protein. Dairy is consumed in the forms of yoghurt and cheese, and a glass or two of wine per day is considered good for one’s vitality. Here, here! (News Flash: Paleo has lately been criticised for leading to malnutrition - its fundamental lack of carbohydrates diminishes the body’s ability to perform at its best.)

 

 


 

And Superfoods? Yes, a whole stable of edibles is now referred to by that name (great for product marketing purposes), with blueberries, goji berries, chia, spelt, kale, acai berries, maca powder, spirulina, virgin coconut oil, flaxseed, raw cacao powder and various “activated” nuts being top of the pops. I don’t know whether you’d go for a chia and kale muffin spiked with goji berries, but maybe? At least you could relate to and enjoy avocados and salmon, kiwi fruit and low-fat yoghurt, they’re on the list.

Let’s see, what else? Oh, the mail! Australia Post has just put stamps up to $1 per letter, however that only guarantees delivery within 2-3 days (remember when we first moved to Sydney, we had deliveries twice a day, thrice at Christmas?). If you actually want something to get to the receiver the next day, you have to fork out $1.50. Apparently, we are sending a billion fewer letters per year, due to the power of the internet and email, so the postal service needs to change its modus operandi to get into and stay in the black. One area where AP is doing nicely is parcel post, because millions of people shop via internet, and therefore require deliveries from stores located home and abroad. Internet shopping? Mom, you would LOVE it, especially if you were still living on your island. You simply visit your favourite store online, select items from their web pages, pay by CC (credit card) or Paypal (connected to your CC), and away you go. No driving to the mall, fighting crowds, being tempted by things you don’t need or want...and as long as you know your size, you’re set. You and Dad loved shopping via L. L. Bean catalogues...well, this is even simpler and more efficient. What fun we could have poring over websites together! Though, not quite as much fun as that shopping expedition the three of us took to “The Purple Parrot”! Remember those magnificent ball dresses you bought for me before I went away to university? Nothing like that anymore. 

One of the big problems of using the internet, in particular for shopping and banking, is that bad guys with cyber skills can hack into your computer - or your store’s or your government’s computers - and steal confidential information, often including your CC details and bank account information. They can send you malicious emails, very well-disguised as legitimate letters from your bank or Paypal or eBay (a giant online shopping site), and then take control of your computer, often asking for a ransom (!) in return for giving control back to you. It’s blackmail and plunder of high order, and it’s costing companies and countries umpteen billions of dollars to counter. While I may have implied internet shopping is fun, I didn’t say it was without risk.

 

 


 

Ah, now, I’ll introduce another newbie: The Cloud. Dad, I know you know lots about clouds, seeing as you were, amongst many other things, a meteorologist in the army-air force during WW II (I still love thinking of your barograph sitting in the living room, and how I loved the responsibility of reading the barograms and replacing the graph-paper as needed - was it every 8 days?). The cloud I’m referring to isn’t cumulus or nimbus or even cumulonimbus - it’s a “storage facility” in cyberspace where people, corporations and governments put their data - public records, military files, photos, music, books, papers, research and theses, medical and bank records, departmental histories and privileged  and/or secret information - in fact, absolutely everything digital you can imagine. Of course, you pay for the privilege of storing this stuff in The Cloud, and while I always imagine it as some invisible, planet-sized box between me and the Moon, it’s just a vast family of earthly supercomputers gorging on the 21st Century craving for information and fact. Many corporations offer versions of The Cloud, and these days must adhere to stringent, military-style security control in order to prevent hackers gaining access to valuable details. It’s not only the individual that is at risk of being “outed” one way or another, but whole countries can be compromised and threatened. The Cloud is a serious business.

I wonder if you guys are ready for this next “modern” revelation? Remember your old Xerox machine? I still have that photocopy of your hand, Dad (I touch it with my hand sometimes just to feel close to you...but am glad never to have found one of your backside!). Well, these days you can make a working bicycle, gun, human bionic ear and ear protheses, heart valves, living tissue and probably soon enough a beating human heart for transplantation with what’s called a 3-D Printer. While it’s been around for some years in industrial incarnations, it remains cutting edge technology, and seriously fascinating to both imagine and see. If you were both here, we could go online and watch a video of data going into a 3-D printer, and an exact copy of whatever it is that data represents coming out the other side. No kidding, it’s really amazing. Some suggest 3-D printing, especially bioprinting, is the beginning of the third Industrial Revolution. It very well may be so.

I hope you don’t mind me rambling on like this, but there’s just so much to share - good and bad, as you’ve already read.

 

 


 

Socially, I believe we are sailing into uncharted territory (“beyond here there be dragons”), with the magnetic force of social media pulling people ever closer in mind but pushing them ever further away in nature. Smart Phones (the modern digital mobile) connect us all to everything and everyone we wish for - which in times of joy or need is wonderfully useful - but ALL the time? It’s considered really brave for a teenager to turn off his phone for an hour (imagine what he’ll miss!), let alone for a day or a week. Being un-connected like this causes him physical and mental distress, being unable to know what’s going on in the lives of his digital community (his “tribe”) is actually painful. How did it get to this obsessive state, so quickly? Because that alluring little powered-up screen in his hand holds the world in it - his world - and it’s all he needs to feel as though he belongs, as though he is someone of value, as though he has control and a sense of inclusion in the universe.

We capture every moment with pictures, post them to our online site/s of choice (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat) and wait (never very long) for approval, criticism, bullying or a perfect-match date. Our phones are an extension of our brains, blood vessels, neurons, egos, our innermost selves. We put far too much out there - way more than can have relevance or significance - but we can’t help it. Because it’s there.

I haven’t even touched on the politics of the moment - the awful violence in the Middle East (still), the terror of Militant Islam (thanks, Dad, for the book of that name which you so presciently gave me in 1969), China’s emergence as a world superpower, Donald Trump shouting, stomping and shoving his way towards the Republican nomination for President (the convention will be held in Cleveland), the UK wanting to get out of the EU, Russia‘s Vladimir Putin engineering wicked courses of events in various theaters of conflict (Ukraine, Syria and beyond), the impact of the refugee (migrant) crisis engulfing all of Europe, and, of course, all the goings-on in Canberra (like the Federal Government finally taking control of Norfolk Island this coming July).

Dearest parents, I will write again soon. I just wanted to get a few things off my chest. Hope you’ve found this epistle informative - the world in the year 2016 is complex and fascinating, but somehow nowhere near as warm, generous and artistically creative as when you were around. Can’t turn back the clock! So will have to make the most of it.

I love you both so much, always.

Moi xx