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Time is the best teacher, but unfortunately, it kills all of its students.

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Time is the best teacher, but unfortunately, it kills all of its students. 

Life, so they say, is a terminal disease… I know it’s going to kill me one of these days!

Why does everything seem to be so stress-related. Why do we spend an inordinate amount of time running around trying to complete pointless tasks in order to somehow complete our consumer-driven existentialist lifestyle.

I am an atheist, but there is a passage in the Bible (Saint Peter’s letter to the Corinthians 13:11) that says;

” When I was a child, I spake as a child, I felt as a child, I thought as a child: now that I am become a man, I have put away childish things”

Now, lets consider this for a moment. When I was a child (and by child I mean prior to teenage angst and peer pressures) I had no problems, no (real) fears, no worries and happily traversed each waking day with the relative ease of the innocent and naive. When I look back on my lifestyle with adult eyes, it is clear that we lived in a ‘sink estate’ (high-rise flats), with little or no money, poor diet, no parental control, and the threat of eviction due to unpaid bills constantly looming – a recipe for disaster you might think… but pretty much normal working-class then.

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.
Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001), “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”

The time-frame to which I refer is the 1970′s, so let us consider the social-economic model of that period as it applied to me (as best as I can remember it anyway);

  • TV consisted of 2½ channels (BBC2 was only on for about 6 hours a day), with frequent “Test Cards” and “Interludes”, and in any case, we were only allowed to watch children’s TV on a Saturday morning, or briefly after school.
  • Pocket Money didn’t happen. I might have had 5p change from being sent to the shops for milk and bread (this is at the age of 6… would you send your 6-year-old to the shops?).
  • Holidays occurred once a year, but were always a caravan in Caister (Norfolk) or a bungalow overlooking a sea wall in Jaywick (I don’t even think it had running water…)
  • We played in the streets till it was dark or 5pm (whichever came first) every day…
  • We made up our own games.
  • We lived off sausage and chips, crisps and Corona fizzy-pop
  • We NEVER had a ‘new’ car (or one even close to being reliable…)
  • We only got our hair cut when we couldn’t see where we were walking

Now during this same period, the nation saw frequent electricity cuts caused by the general strikes, and violence in Northern Ireland and the rest of the world escalating on a weekly basis.

But…. and this is the significant point… We were generally quite happy kids. No-one had Asthma, no-one had eating disorders (basically because no-one was fat to start with…), no-one had even heard of anyone they knew seeing a “Counselor” or “Shrink”, blokes could always “get it up” (not that we knew about such things then…). We all had friends, we all played together and we were all blissfully unaware of problems, be they within the family unit, or on a more global scale.

What does that tell us?

Well, before any conclusion is reached, we need to look at society in an even bigger way, and lets pick a memorable year – 1977

OK, some key events and memories from my childhood from 1977;

  • The Queens Silver Jubilee – This was England’s patriotism at its best; Street parties, banners across roads – the entire country basically stopped on the 7th June.
  • Concorde started flying between London and New York (actually, it began in 1976, but became ‘regular’ in 1977)
  • Jimmy Carter becomes the 39th President of the USA
  • Punk and Ska music were filling the charts with bands like The Sex Pistols whose “God Save the Queen” was timed to coincide with the Jubilee
  • We saw the Space Shuttle sitting on top of a Boeing 747 being tested before its first flight in 1981
  • Star Wars appears in the cinema (followed at Christmas by every toy you can imagine!) – of course… it was episode 1 then!
  • You needed to buy a 49pence license from the Post Office if you wanted to have a dog!

1970′s… Mortgage rates were 8% (which jumped to 17% by 1980) and inflation was at a staggering 15.8%, but very few people had mortgages anyway. Oil was high, but still only 78 pence per gallon, but most people owned a car out of necessity, not for pleasure or convenience. The average wage was around £10,000

The cold-war was still raging and there was a general sense of poverty about the entire nation, but no-one seemed too bothered about it, and seemed to just get on with their lives.

Police Officers were actually visible on the street (or on a bicycle!) and were armed with only a trunction and a whistle. However…. if you got up to mischief, they would clip you round the ear, drag you by the scruff of your neck back home, and stand there whilst your Mum and Dad bollocked you.

Working-mans clubs and pubs were always full. Sunday dinner always appeared by magic. There was always bread in the cupboard and milk in the fridge, but the kids were all a bit scruffy, wearing jeans with holes in them (before that become fashionable) and T-shirts that looked a bit too small in criminally bright colours…

So where exactly am I getting to with all this nostalgia?

It’s simple really… Why is life so stressful now that we have more money, more devices to make our lives easier? Everything is disposable and cheap, and the ‘quality’ of life has increased significantly (for most people I might add, but not all…)

I’m not entirely sure, but I think that the entire planet is stressed out due to the following reasons;

  1. Media
  2. Work

Let’s take some of my previous comments and expand on them;

  • Eating Disorders:
    • Caused by Size-zero poster / magazine / tv perceptions of the ‘perfect’ woman.
    • Poor Diet – Convenience foods
    • No exercise - Kids are all driven to school, we drive to the shops (only 1 car in the 1970′s!, and ‘Supermarkets’ didn’t exist yet in suburbia)
  • Erectile Issues:
    • Men feeling inadequate compared to muscle-clad tv celeb’s
    • Poor diet – Convenience foods
    • No exercise – Long hours at work, 180 channels to choose from when you get home
  • Asthma in Children:
    • Poor diet
    • Overuse of antibiotics
    • Man-made chemicals in everyday objects
    • Artificial additives in everything
  • Stress:

Where do we begin!!

    • Fast, fast, fast society; Everything is needed ‘yesterday’
    • Money; Banks all want to lend us more money that we can affordably pay back. Mortgages are up to 10 x Earnings. We used to call that practice “Loan Sharking” in the 1970′s….
    • Nuclear Family; 10% of all people currently married in the UK will end up getting divorced. This causes a huge amount of stress for the children, parents and new partners. The reality is that 3 of every 4 new marriages will fail.
    • Class Wars; We all feel to need to have a new car, a conservatory, a time-share in the Algarve. Why?
    • Work; We all work too many hours for unforgiving bosses and have to deal with the infernal politic systems within the workplace. Place on top of that all the ‘elf n safety nonsense that everyone has to adhere to… Work was never ‘fun’, but now it’s downright depressing! Every day is spent dealing with 500 emails, of which 400 are spam, 50 are stupid ‘funnies’, 30 are nonense politics, 10 are arse-covering exercises, which leaves 10 actual emails of any use, but it takes an hour to go through all the other dross.
    • Marriage; Well… What can you say… Men’s ideals are still set in 1970, and Women’s have moved into the 21st century. Obviously this causes friction. This is typified by the Woman demanding that the man goes to Ikea on Saturday morning because “It’s fun to go shopping” – Need I say more?

So what does this tell us… Life is Sh*t, then you die. Well… maybe… or you could take the view (as I have) that you need to work hard, pile up your money, and run out of this country as fast as your legs will carry you, and move to somewhere sunny with a prohibitive (i.e. you’ve got to be rich and self-sufficient) immigration policy…

I’ll let you know if it works out!

PMcG – August 2007

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