LOCAL VIEW –The Value of the Cantankerous–

I am becoming one of those old codgers who does not much want to adapt. It was hard enough to stop writing with a pen, and get a word processor, but even when I do try to be “modern”, I am on the low side of the learning-curve. By the time I have finally figured out how to use the latest gadget, it is already outdated. Then I have to put up with some juvenile looking at my computer, and saying, in an unnecessarily haughty manner, “Oh, you are still using one of those?”

It is for this reason I have stated that I would rather work on becoming what I call “a cantankerous anachronism”. Back when the automobile was invented there were apparently old men who sneered at the new invention, and said, “Get a horse.” I want to be the modern version. When young men, wet behind the ears, get haughty with me, I want to tell them, “Get a pen.”

Apparently, during World War Two, in certain places, there simply was no available fuel for cars, and for a time people had to go back to using horses. The young were utterly hapless, for they had no idea what to do. The old men were in their glory.

It might happen again, and I might be in my glory, showing the young how to use this thing called, “a fountain pen.”

But I don’t count on it. Life is a fresh breeze, fully of newness, and the dust gets blown away. I am of the Yankee, an outdated people, eradicated by progress. I should be a good sport about stepping aside.

The thing that makes me cantankerous is that the young, wise in their way, are such imbeciles about things that do not change, and that they perhaps should ask their elders about.

For example, take the subject of sex and drugs. My generation felt the preceding generation new nothing, but they did. Now I face a generation who thinks I don’t know, but I do.

I am fortunate because I did listen to cantankerous anachronisms. Not that I took their advice. Just because an elder has been a fool should not deprive me of my right to be a fool. (Especially when it comes to sex.) But later on I could say, “That old geezer knew what he was talking about.”

I am also lucky because the men in my family tree became fathers late in life. Some families can squeeze five generations into a century, but in my family we fit only two in the nineteenth century, and, in the case of my oldest brother, only two generations happened in the twentieth century as well. He has a son, born in the twenty-first century, who can say, “My Great-great-grandfather was born in 1850, and wanted to enlist in the Civil War as a drummer boy”.  Meanwhile my grandson was held in the arms of his great-great-grandfather(on my wife’s side), who was born in 1917.

My own Great-great-grandfather was born in 1797. Think of the expanse of time involved! My Grandfather could not only talk about how his Dad experienced the Civil War, but could talk about how his Dad remembered his Grandfather complaining about how the young just didn’t understand what mattered when the USA was only two decades old!

Then just imagine me meeting a twenty-five-year-old history teacher at my children’s school, who thinks I don’t know a thing about history, because I have never been to collage.

Any wonder I might choose to be cantankerous?

What bothers me most about young teachers is that they seem to never put themselves in the shoes of the people they talk about. Their talk often belittles and scorns. But they could never do what the people they describe did. “They who cannot do, teach.”

Personally I don’t think anyone under age fifty should be allowed to be a teacher of anything but simple grammar and arithmetic. History? To have a young person teach History is like having a ten-year-old girl teach of breast-feeding.

To teach history you must have an acquaintance with the people who made it. I have toiled the soil with the farmers, but even if you lack the luck of such toil you should have at least become acquainted with farmers. I have sailed the waters with the fishermen, but even if you lack that luck you should have at least become acquainted with such seafarers. I have brought livestock I cared for to be slaughtered, and have looked my hamburger in the eye before eating. If I become a vegetarian it will be because of that.  However many who claim they have a right to teach (and that I do not have the right) have not become acquainted with the food on their table. “They who cannot do, teach.” But you must have an acquaintance with those who do do, if you are to teach.

New England is no tropical paradise, and people have had to be tough to scratch a living from its landscape. I learned something of what I know the hard way, because I didn’t listen to my elders, however I also did listen to cantankerous anachronisms of the past.

I have learned what the Abernaki learned, before they were reduced to an echo. I have learned what the Yankee learned, before they too were reduced.

To learn what I know you don’t have to be Abernaki, or Yankee. But you must not be “Progressive.”

Why not? Because Progressives are too busy updating, to heed cantankerous anachronisms like myself.

5 thoughts on “LOCAL VIEW –The Value of the Cantankerous–

  1. Good one you cranky old geezer!
    college … that made me laugh since of all the typos to screw up on that one has the best snicker generation potential. Having read your stuff for years you I know you would have done great in university with the right environment and the right profs. Plus when you get with the right profs and classmates you realize just how brilliant some of the folks out there are … I used to joke that they are stupid smart but they drive you higher & on to greater things than you could have accomplished on your own. Oh well you ran ur own race, survived and did very well and write and manage a great blog.

    • Not sure the spilling wasn’t appropriate. What College was is today, more of a collage of the presentation of stupidity in action.

  2. In Washington, DC, we put our own spin on your old saying. “Those that can do, do. Those that can’t do get a Government job.”

    It is true, that in DC we have husbands and wives that can’t tie their shoes that have a combined income of $250,000. They live in beautiful homes and have summer homes to boot. Plus multiple high end cars. But they are basically helpless in the real world.

    • Ah yes, and they think they are super smart as well. But can they handle things when the bubble pops?

      There are people who commit suicide over what to others is just a bump in the road.

      As I recall, Thomas Edison made a fortune three times and lost it all three times. He hardly noticed the difference, because rich or poor he remained engrossed in discovery. (Not that some in-fighting didn’t occur in his life and in his lab.)

      I have been in several situations in my life where the status quo experienced a sort of earthquake. It was always a bit surprising who completely fell to pieces, and who remained strong. The “winners” tended to be the one leaping from windows, while it was the “loser” who stepped forward to man the tiller in the storm. The preacher or Pope groveled in panic, as the church janitor stepped up to the pulpit to inspire.

      In 1938 Churchill was a complete loser, and described as “finished” by the high and mighty. Only a year later he was called forward to lead a desperate nation through its darkest hour.

      In some ways the measure of a man is seen not through his successes, but how he behaves when he is a flop. Others may laugh at those who flop, but it is a school of hard knocks that improves souls.

      A cushy Government job is the opposite of the school of hard knocks. Perhaps that is why some of us avoid such seductive opportunities.

      • Very well stated! I once had a Government job that could have provided lifetime security, but I was dying from boredom. Sitting at a desk, pretending to be busy when there was nothing to do was not my thing.

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