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Sheila Stoll: Let's help next generation learn from our mistakes

Language grows and changes in ways that are unpredictable. • Take the word "issue." It used to refer to magazines, stock certificates or children. Now it means a problem or the object of one's anger. No one has a bone to pick with me anymore. They have "issues."

And I used to think "sharing" involved stuff like toys or food. Wrong-o! Now, people who used to "tell" me things are now "sharing" with me. Is that supposed to make me have a more accepting attitude toward whatever advice is forthcoming?

So, I have three "issues" I'd like to "share" with you. (Isn't that nicer of me than to say, "I'm going to tell you what really honks me off"?)

I suggest that we, my fellow Codgers, have quite a lot to answer for in terms of the legacy we leave to our "issue" (in this case, our progeny). In December there was a global summit in Denmark about the environment. I realize that there are those who think the billions of people on the planet have nothing to do with melting glaciers and ice caps. But most of us have been on this beautiful blue marble for at least a half-century. We bear some responsibility for fouling the earth, sea and air, the wastefulness and overconsumption that have been an essential part of our lifestyles. That's issue No. 1.

Can we really delude ourselves into thinking we are blameless for the financial meltdown? When our financial statements included terms we had never heard before and didn't understand, did we complain? Weren't we pleased to see the 401(k) or the pension fund fatten up along with the real estate bubble? Don't we love gambling? (And yes, bingo is gambling, the lottery, too.) That's issue No. 2.

Our children, and especially our grandchildren, are fat. Many are not just fat, they're obese. Whose fault is that? Or better put, who isn't to blame? In our great country we enjoy an abundance of nearly everything — except restraint. We can and do indulge ourselves, and worse, we indulge our offspring. Food is plentiful, and more likely than not it's full of fat and salt. Our drinks are sugar with a splash of water. We love the easy, fast, cheap stuff. The other half of the fat formula is our sedentary lifestyle. The tree in the vacant lot on the corner is no longer an opportunity to create a treehouse or pirate ship. Today that tree, if it still stands, is an eyesore and a danger. Responsible parents would never allow their kids to be the free-range variety of my childhood reminiscences. Sure, we had Oreos back then, and potato chips and Coca-Cola, but the house wasn't stocked with them all the time. We were mean to fat kids. (Well, I don't recommend that sort of behavior but my point is — fat kids were the exception.) Now TV commercials and sitcoms feature fat kids. I guess it's a concession to the self-images of a nation of chubby children. That's issue No. 3.

We can argue with some credibility that we really didn't know that industrialization would have such far-reaching, destructive effects. We really believed the chairman of the Fed that our unregulated financial excesses were exactly what we needed to prosper. We know that obesity is a health hazard, but our busy lives, the convenience of fast food, all those good excuses don't absolve us from our obligation to "share" our hard-won wisdom with those who must suffer the consequences of our follies. Why? Because we do indeed have an obligation to future generations.

Let's help the next generation to be more environmentally conscious, more frugal and more physically fit than we have been.

Sheila Stoll is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. You may write her at PMB No. 309, 7904 E Chaparral 110, Scottsdale, AZ 85250.

Sheila Stoll: Let's help next generation learn from our mistakes 01/26/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 26, 2010 11:23am]
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