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What About This . . .? 12.26.2013

By Wayne William Cipriano

Did you see that picture in the Douglas County Herald where there were six generations together?  Talk about a huge collection of experience and information!  We don’t seem to value life experience as much as our ancestry. Many cultures revere the elderly based partially no doubt on the simple fact that they must know a lot because they have survived so long.

As information and techniques have been transmitted more widely in mass media than was ever possible by word-of-mouth, the stuff we learn is more available but those who figured out that stuff or saw the worth in remembering it are no longer as important.  Youngsters don’t ask because they have been led to believe everything they need to know will be provided through media.  Oldsters don’t tell because they have been led to believe everyone knows what they know and their experiences are boring.  And, thus potentially valuable life experiences are not shared generationally.

An example of this point is the present brouhaha over Obamacare (The Affordable Healthcare Act) we are witnessing and its similarity to the past.

Elizabeth Donavan, the greatest history teacher of all times, never tired answering the question: We study all those dead guys and past events to avoid the mistakes and increase the level of civilization in which we live.  How much history are we missing by not asking questions of those who lived through other widespread social dynamics? Two that come to mind are social Security and Medicare.

Ask the people who lived when FDR proposed then established Social Security, and when LBJ spearheaded Medicare.  They will tell you they remember the same promises, the same warnings, the same arguments, the same phrases and words.  And reading letters and diaries, newspapers and books from the past often shows the same in relation to many of the other big social changes like ending slavery and child labor, and beginning income taxes and wars.

It’s interesting, I think, the way mass media has homogenized experience so that anecdotal reports become suspect.  And, that silences much we should hear.

Who, except the most affluent, would trade Social Security or Medicare for the taxes they paid to support those programs?  Who can guess if Obamacare will belong in the company of Social Security and Medicare or become another failed social program –– a good idea destroyed by inept execution?

I think it is up to those of us who have lived through other monumental social dynamics to speak up and share with those who are facing such issues for the first time.

Perhaps when people, not politicians nor pundits, but people we respect and trust tell us one-on-one what happened to them – what might have happened, not what they were promised, not what warnings they heard, but what actually happened to them, we might have a more accurate sense of the utility of any program that promises so much on its face.

Personally, I believe Obamacare is the first faltering step to Nationalized Health Care, the Single Payer System, or whatever it will eventually morph into that will provide medical care for everyone paid by all of us, The United States of America Health Insurance Company.

What I want to underscore, however, is how in our living memories these battles, fought over so many differing ideas, seem to use the same words, the same phrases over and over, and we who have heard them before keep silent.

It is propaganda when those on either side of an issue, regardless of the facts, trot out those same words and phrases, promises and warnings to garner our support or frame out opposition based on nothing more than that which will benefit the propagandist the most.  When people who lived before a large social dynamic existed, during the time it was argued and instituted, and then afterward when it was in effect tell us what happened to them personally, individually, that is history. Limited history, yes.  Anecdotal history, yes.  But, history we trust.  So, we pay attention and we think about that history, we study it.

And, as Mrs. Donavan so often told us, ‘that is a great way to avoid past errors and maximize our future: telling others what happened to us.