Our parents were great people. Most of us have loving memories of the time when our moms and dads seemed perfect. But we also grew up to do things differently.
Many of those almost-perfect parents spanked their kids, smoked while pregnant, and drank while driving. Some of them opposed the Equal Rights Amendment, fought back against feminism and voted for Nixon.
As I’m parenting my kids, I wonder all the time what they’ll condemn me for. What social justice issue am I on the wrong side of? What chemical am I ignorantly dumping into the oceans, or swallowing in a pill? What parenting practice will seem barbaric when it’s their turn to raise kids?
Now, the Washington Post has some answers for me.
Turns out there’s a good system for predicting what social and political movements will bring lasting change. In other words: for guessing what the next generation will take for granted, and what will seem antiquated and unjust. Here are the top three ways to tell if you’re on the wrong side of history:
- The arguments are older than your parents. Ideas that change cultures take shape slowly, over generations. Something that’s been brewing for a long time, like the gay rights movement, probably has staying power.
- The defense is based on tradition rather than morals. Not to belabor the point, but consider the example of gay marriage. The opposition bases it’s argument on what a “traditional” marriage looks like. This is a sign that they’re wrong.
- We’re sticking our heads in the sand. Let’s leave the gay rights issue for a moment and look at the environment. Most of us don’t know, or want to know, what our bottled water and minivans and plastic toys are doing to the earth. That kind of selective ignorance is generally frowned on by future generations.
Given these signs, the Washington Post suggests 4 things in our current culture that our kids and grandkids will see as Wrong. Can you guess what they are?
- Our prison system: we have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, but only 4 percent of its population. This is, to put it mildly, not a sign that justice is being well-served.
- Industrial meat production: it’s cruel, it’s bad for the planet and for our health. The arguments against it have been around for over a hundred years. Someday, they’ll sway the masses. Maybe.
- Nursing homes: keeping the elderly isolated and institutionalized will seem barbaric in a generation or two, the WaPo thinks. I bet they’re right. This one wasn’t even on my radar, but as the Baby Boom grows old, I bet we’ll see a revolution in how the elderly in our country are cared for.
- The environment. Duh.
What do you think history will indict us for?
Photo: Axel Buhrmann
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