As a teacher of at-risk youth at a non-profit organization, it is important for your computers to be working. For the past couple of days my computer had been freezing up, showing blue streaks in the monitor (a precursor to the blue screen of death), and I was constantly turning it on and off in order for it to boot. It didn’t work. So I requested help from our IT department and when the gentleman came to my room, we had the most fascinating conversation. We started discussing his family, and how his father passed down to him his love for computers. He told me how his father taught him how to maintenance cars and the fact that everyone in his immediate family—father, mother, siblings, including himself—was in school. It was beautiful to listen to. But it was his knowledge and love of the original Transformers figurines that really swept me away.
He knew everything. He recalled the names of the Primes, all the characters in the 1980’s cartoon movie (most of you have never seen it); he had the Auto-bot matrix of leadership, and even the Primus Coven, which details the Tranformers’ history in Greek-mythology style. At this I started turning nostalgic, because in our conversation I decried how in the latest Transformers movie trilogy they were missing so many characters from the 80’s movie (how do you not include Hot Rod!?). But that’s how our society is isn’t it? With each successive generation we seem to lose some rich morsel of value. Families don’t pass down a love for hard work anymore. The lessons of discipline and delayed gratification have been forgotten and replaced by an instant culture. People living in residential communities barely know each other, let alone work together. The clean cartoons that were actually funny—ex. Tom and Jerry—have been replaced with cartoons that are filled with sexual innuendos that indoctrinate children without their parent’s permission. Our secular music for the most the part is garbage; and our movies are hardly of the caliber of say, Casablanca.
When I ask men and women of the 50’s and 60’s generations about their feelings for what has become of America, their response is usually the same: disappointment. And I can understand why. All their hard work in making landmark achievements in civil rights, international relations, business, and technology has led to this? I’m sure this was not what they were expecting. This was brought into sharper focus for me in light of my recent return from a trip to West Africa in November, where I was among people who were not uniform in owning technology as we are. Being there, I could see that they had everything our society is desperately seeking, that our devices cannot deliver: community, loving relationships, and memory. But we call them “underdeveloped”, “primitive”, and “third-world”, dismissing any lessons we can learn from them. It causes me to wonder: who is the real underdeveloped country in this conversation?