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Ramblings of an Old Man
Loss of Innocence
By Bob Robinson

“How old are you, Mr. Robinson?” 72. “Aww… nobody’s that old!” “Yeah, they are,” says another… “My grandma’s older than that!”

I assure the students that, yes, I am that old and, when necessary, remind them…

“I’m an old man, right?” Right! “Have you ever heard the term, Grumpy Old Man?” A few say no, a few say yes… but quite a few have heard it before… from me! I could see the looks on their faces.

“Would you like to see one in action?” NO!! “Good. Now, pay attention…”

It works for about five minutes, maybe 10 if I’m lucky.

When I was their age, I thought 30 was ancient. The new decade of the 50s had just turned. Ten years later brought the 60s; I was all about cars – preferably the 55 Chevy or the 57 T-Bird, but I would have settled for a 50 or 51 Studebaker. The turn of the century was 40 years down the road. Don’t ask me why, but I didn’t think I’d live to see it.

Today I – and those of my generation – are living in a world only Robert Heinlein, Aldus Huxley or Arthur C. Clark could have envisioned. And I have to accept the fact that most if not all of today’s youth would have no clue who the aforementioned writers are. Or were. A few might know about George Orwell (1984), but probably only through their parents or grandparents.

Their world – this world – is not one of science fantasy. It is their reality. I try to make comparisons to our respective generations. I can’t. Our realities – whether imagined, remembered or real – are totally different.

I was six before I saw my first television. We had two channels; I remember more about listening to the radio than I do watching TV. I remember when I was 12 or 13 seeing my first color television. I knew it wouldn’t last… it was too fake. I remember the introduction of movies on Pay TV. They spelled the death of movie theaters. I remember using “beepers” in the 70s and 80s… beeper goes off; find a phone booth.

How many kids today know what a phone booth is? Or have ever been in one?

And I remember a Texas A&M researcher in 1972 – Stan Wilson – who came to me about a story he thought readers might be interested in. He told me that in 15 or 20 years typewriters would be attached to television screens and whatever we typed could be sent around the world with the click of a button. I thought he was nuts, and so did the television and newspaper reporters who interviewed him as a result of the story I sent out.

That was only 45 years ago. Today, kids carry miniaturized versions of his vision around in their hip pockets. They have inherited a world of tremendous change… but also tremendous challenges.

Aldus Huxley’s “Brave New World” was about test-tube babies that could be genetically modified, and a drug culture that controlled society. It was blood-chilling. Today we have GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and a drug culture that is seemingly unstoppable.

I often think back to my youth when I work with today’s children. Old people do that, I guess. I think of my innocence 65 years ago. And I think of the innocence lost to today’s youth.

They deserve better.

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