And this is a worse world? - Keith Roulston editorial
If you want to feel old (if you’re 45 or older) simply read some of the things being written by younger adults these days.
I’m thinking about a column written in the Globe and Mail recently by Patricia Untinen, a 25-year-old marketing professional who said she and her friends questioned whether it was ethical to bring children into the world. Take this paragraph Untinen used near the beginning of her piece: “When I ask my friends about having children, this is a typical response: ‘I think I might want to have children. But I don’t know if I want to bring a new life into a miserable world with a bleak future’.”
Untinen continues that as a young adult, she has only seen the world’s problems get worse, not better. While she admits that previous generations had to face difficult hardships, such as poverty, postwar hopelessness and economic depression, she writes that current problems – a climate crisis and inequality chief among them – are systemic and chronic, and many of them will likely worsen over time.
“Giving your children a better life than you’ve had may no longer be attainable,” she writes.
If ever there was a reason for the teaching of history to every student this has got to be it! Has Untinen looked into history at all to give her a little perspective? I was born to parents who survived the Great Depression and World War II. Yes they were part of a generation that didn’t have universal birth control, but they still created my brother and me as part of the great post-war baby boom.
Things weren’t easy. They started with nothing and struggled throughout my childhood. Yet despite their struggles, I doubt they would ever have regretted having children, or questioned whether my sister (born pre-war in the depression) or my brother or I should have children.
My generation could not even have imagined the quality of life we would enjoy. Mine was the first generation that generally went to university or college, taking a huge leap ahead of my parents’ generation. While my father survived a war and then farmed and worked in factories, I got to work with my brain, not muscles, writing about a whole range of topics. My wife Jill worked right along-side me in the newspaper and magazine business.
Our four children, with one exception, got more education than we did and some of them have far more possessions and travel more than we have. The eldest of our grandchildren has even more education – and who knows what they think their lives should include.
They are the sixth generation of my mother’s family since my great-grandfather came to western Ontario with his parents in 1850. He was only a teenager when the family took up two farms just inside Huron County on the northern edge of the county. One of those farms was to be for the teenaged Robert Purves, but an uncle came along (family lore says) and said he and his wife would stay if they could have the farm that was to have gone to my great-grandfather.
Robert Purves simply moved across the border to the south end of Kinloss Township and took up a farm that included a small lake, now called Paradise Lake but still called Purves’ Lake on Google maps.
With nothing but strong backs and axes, my great-grandfather and his relatives cleared their land and built prosperous (for those days) lives. He went on to assemble 700 acres and become the first Reeve of Kinloss Twp. He served three terms as Warden of Bruce County. He left the home farm to my grandfather, who hired my father to help out around the farm as his health declined and he eventually died when my mother was still a teenager.
How, I wonder, can anyone who looks at the lives three generations of my family lived, think the life faced by a baby born today is too risky to live? Life today is more comfortable than at any time in history! Recently I’ve been reading Belgravia by Julian Fellowes, creator of the Downton Abbey television series. As his habit, Fellowes lets us see what life was like for both the masters and the servants in a manor house in the 1840s. For servants, it was the life that send my great-grandfather off to Canada, but I’m not sure I’d want to trade my comfortable life today for the aristocrats’ of those days.
Yes, climate change is a concerning problem, but I grew up in fear of nuclear war destroying our civilization. Inequality? We in North America don’t know the word compared to the world of Belgravia.
Besides, if we privileged Westerners have no children, impoverished people in Africa and Asia will still be procreating. Here’s hoping they find a way of making these children prosperous, but it’s still hard to imagine how their lives could be better than those well-off Canadian professionals don’t think are worth living.