So, it’s been a couple of weeks now, and there’s nothing to report. No major snow storms heading this way, no flood, fire, or pestilence, to speak of. Things are back to normal. This, for me, means a day-to-day life that includes taking every chance I get to listen in on the conversations that take place around me. Does that make me an eavesdropper? Absolutely.
One of my favorite pastimes as a child was listening in on adult conversations. I quickly learned they were much juicier if my presence went undetected. There was a closet in my grandmother’s house that shared a wall with her kitchen. I could curl up in that closet and hear most of what was being said during the pre-meal preparations or the post-meal clean-up. Sitting on that pile of clothes behind the curtain, I kept my finger on the pulse of the family.
Things haven’t changed in that regard. I find if I tune in to the discussions going on around me, I have my finger on the pulse of my world. For example: recently two friends were discussing jazz artist Nina Simone. One mentioned that Nina had supposedly referred to the US as the United Serpents of America. Overhearing, a twenty-something friend cracked, “she ought to go live in Iraq.”
Looks were exchanged. One of the older friends pointed out that the United States wasn’t very friendly to African Americans in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s, when Simone was touring and encountering the stark realities of racial prejudice. This twenty-something kid didn’t live through the Civil Rights movement, when the nightly national newscasts were focused on the bloody path to equality; the riots, the bombings, the murders.
Later, the same older friends were talking about marital infidelity. One told the story of how, when she was fifteen, she found out about her father’s indiscretions the day he took her on a little outing to meet his (unbeknownst to her) mistress. He threw his arms around them both and quipped, “my two favorite girls.”
At one point, one of the friends reminisced about her childhood visits with her aunt and uncle, in the late fifties. Her uncle owned a certain European country’s news agency–the equivalent of our Associated Press. She remembered her uncle and the country’s future President walking and talking together on her uncle’s estate, and watching theater from the Prime Minister’s box. Her uncle brokered his news agency for influence in that country’s politics.
I was thinking about these conversations as I was driving home. What’s changed in fifty years? On the face of it, not much. Racism is alive and well. Infidelity—well, you can’t pin that down because that would require people to tell the truth about an act that is, by definition, dishonest. We know media powerhouses still influence the political climate.
Perhaps the difference is the shift in our consciousness; we have an awareness of these issues that was missing fifty years ago. As the result, the balance of power has shifted. In those olden days, if the truth was acknowledged, it often flew in on the wings of resignation. That’s just how it was, “you can’t fight city hall.” Well, thanks, in part, to those radical/hippie/freaks of the sixties, we discovered that you can, indeed, fight city hall, and win. And somewhere in there some really smart guys gave us the gift that keeps on giving—a world wide information web, accessible to anyone who wants to use it. The shift on the infidelity front is that both women and men are aware that they have options that run the gamut from staying single all the way to engaging in polyamorous relationships.
From the expanded consciousness perspective, things have improved enough in fifty years that racial prejudice isn’t at the forefront of the twenty-something’s mind. The field of psychology has yielded a vast numbert of tools for self-improvement and improving personal relationships. The potential for finding unbiased information on the internet is unlimited, except by your imagination.
Maybe there’s something to report after all.