For my grandchildren, millennials, “Generation Z,” and all those mindless adult fools who think things are improving in the world. . .
If I as man born in the 1930s have learned anything, it is that youth most commonly think they know it all, but in fact know a hell of a lot less than their parents. Wisdom, as Socrates said, comes with age. Perhaps even better is Winston Churchill’s observation: “If you’re young and a conservative you have no heart, and if you’re old and a liberal you have no brains.”
Let me tell you a little tale, about 8 years ago I became very vexed with the Union of Concerned Scientists. Every few days they produced another environmental fable. I concluded that I would teach them a lesson by enrolling my dog Max as a member. With no academic qualifications Dr. Max Dog was accepted for full membership in the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2010.
Max’s application was proffered with the required $20 application fee and the request that future payment be made in dog biscuits and was signed with a paw print and a bow-wow. His membership card arrived not long after his application was submitted without further comment. This obviously is way above fake news!
The changes I have seen from the 1930s through nearly the first two decades of the twenty-first century are amazing, even more so if you are under the age of 50. I was born in Switzerland, St. Gallen to be precise, but we lived in St. Margreten from 1937 to 1940 because my father had been drafted into the Swiss Army in 1937 in the run-up to WWII. In 1940 he was transferred to the Swiss-German border near Schaffhausen, so Mom and I moved to Zürich, where we remained until 1952 when we immigrated to America.
Dad did not have a good time; his military service was interrupted by angina and pneumonia that sadly when combined with chain smoking, resulted in a short life. He was a genius, who wrote and spoke 14 languages fluently, and as a graduate textile engineer was at the cusp of automation because weaving machinery was the first to be automated and computer steered, and Switzerland produced most spinning and weaving machinery. Today there are 45 remaining textile machinery makers in Switzerland.
Poverty, the oft-touted condition of the alleged poor of this century, is a sad joke. Most of these people have TVs and smart phones, three meals a day, heat and air conditioning, telephones, radios, cars, you name it! No, that’s not poverty; poverty was my mom and I on two eggs, one quart of milk, and one loaf of bread a week. All cars were taken by the army, for national defense.
Dragon teeth (and no it’s not a novel by Crichton it’s armor barriers) were everywhere to prevent German armored attacks. Every bridge and every tunnel and every factory was mined with explosives to be destroyed in the event of invasion. Poverty is no TV, no radio, no air conditioning and limited heat. Poverty is to have every food product rationed and no meat or fish, to the bare minimum for sustaining life.
Poverty was a fourth-floor walk-up whose rent is paid by the government because the father is in the army and his family only gets two francs a week. Poverty was to have 20% of my grade-school student body consist of mostly Jewish refugees from the rest of Europe. Poverty for a child is never to see a toy and to go to bed hungry every night. Poverty is a 5-year old going fishing in the lake of Zurich hoping to catch a fish for mom and him to have for supper. I just want millennials to get that into their befuddled minds.
Surrender was not an option. We knew what happened in Holland, Belgium, Norway and Denmark. But the Germans knew it also. When Hitler in ‘42 proposed Operation Tannenbaum (the attack on Switzerland), his staff told him he would lose two full army groups and they would not take the Alps. The Germans decided to make an accommodation with the Swiss. Surrender by any Swiss soldier would have been considered treason. We learned that even in our Boy Scout troop. Seven Swiss solders were executed for treason, just to make the Nazis cognizant that there would be no third channel as in France, Holland or Belgium. Later 26 more were executed for treason during WWII. The Swiss Army was over 500,000 men.
One of the biggest changes has been in education. Boys took drafting and drawing, woodshop, metalworking, girls took cooking and sewing. As a consequence we were not a throwaway society, we fixed things. During the war we were forced to save all metal; we wasted nothing and everything that broke was repaired.
All this ended in the late ‘50s, especially in America when environmentalists began promoting their ludicrous concepts. In the early ‘60s I lived in California, and in the ‘70s I built a second plant in San Leandro, CA. There were also wildfires back then just like there are now, but they were contained because there were fire breaks every few miles. The environmentalists changed that, because of the “endangered species” kangaroo rats, who according to these nut cases were upset by firebreaks. The present day results are self-incriminating evidence of a society gone haywire.
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