We are in a Golden Age, by any measure, us, who reside in NSW in the first decade of the 21st century. Agree?
However, it seems that I hear nothing but negativity from a diverse range of people – the media, educationalists, parents, my Mum and Dad – anyone would think that comparative to past eras:
- educational standards are declining
- children are not safe in the community
- crime is rampant
- the internet is extremely dangerous rather than a panacea
- that opportunity has decreased
Of course, anyone reading the stats of child neglect and abuse will be shocked to see that our youngest are mostly at risk in their own homes from loved ones. We have unnaccceptable conditions for Aboriginal Australians and a host of other issues but this is, fortunately, quantifiably better than in the past. The community is now aware where once there was silence, now we know. Or, are most not cognisant of this and how it can change perception.
When Lucy, my 5 year old daughter, was born Mum was of course joyous – but a shadow appeared when she said, ‘it is a shame the world is what it is nowadays’. What did she mean?
I (p)rattled off a list to support my contention that we live in a Golden Age the crown heads of Europe could only have dreamt of in centuries past – and that my daughter was blessed. Health and medicine, technology and opportunity all have developed for us in NSW in stellar fashion; even the least advantaged are better off. I thought, what opportunities did Mum, as a female have graduating with a Leaving Certificate compared to those Lucy will have?
I pointed out that Mum was born on 30th August 1939 and by the time she was 10, the world lived with the spectre of MAD after the horrors of 1945. We didn’t even discuss what was happening to the Jews in her early years of life but on reflection this, and the purges in the Soviet Union or the genocide in Cambodia didn’t impact on her life for one reason, because she didn’t know about them.
Dad, was one of 7 boys on a farm, without electricity and the crippling effects of polio evident everywhere in the pastoral community. He would still see the 1950s as halcyon days. I guess it corresponds with his youth – and it is as simple as that.
So, what do we make of the naysayers? And they are legion. Why, when any objective measure says we are progressing and infinitely better off?
The most obvious answer is that the media and our high levels of hyper-connectivity publicise what is bad – all of it – and people soak this up without reflection.
A range of international attempts at measuring well-being rank Australia very highly. The Human Development Index ranks Australia 3rd in well-being behind Iceland and Norway. “The HDI provides a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: living a long and healthy life (measured by life expectancy), being educated (measured by adult literacy and enrolment at the primary, secondary and tertiary level) and having a decent standard of living.” Interestingly enough, the UK is 16th and New Zealand 19th.
Australia capital cities constantly rank in the top 10 in the world to live, in fact, half of this list is made of our metropolis.
Education is often one of the main arguments or examples of how it has all gone to Hell with this generation. It is not just the current affairs shows that demonise youth. This Heckler article is more accurate than funny in its response to the legion of commentators on Australia’s ‘declining’ literacy standards. Anyone who doubts this decline should delve into the post-war examiner’s reports and see the litany of concerns re: the spelling and essay skills of candidates and that’s when very few completed the final year(s) of high school.
We are in a Golden Age, by any measure, us, who reside in NSW in the first decade of the 21st century. Or, at least that’s what I’ll tell my children!