I remember conversations beginning in 5th or 6th grade, though it might have been in Junior High school. We were just starting to realize that we were sentient beings, with opinions that mattered to others as well as to ourselves. We began to debate the issues affecting the world around us.
First came Mets vs Yankees. Would we stick with the old, established, winning team or would we shift our allegiances to the newly created Metropolitans? Our teacher was absent, the principal stood in for her, and everyone was afraid. Could we voice an opinion in front of the most important (and only) man on the faculty?
There was the euthanasia debate held in French class (please don't ask me why... I do remember Miss Hanson wondering why we wanted to talk about Youth in Asia until we explained it to her) where our lack of facility with the language made emphasis more important than content. After all, we could all say "Mon Dieu!"
The automation debate resonates with me to this day. I remember the conflict clearly; friends' parents were being replaced by machines. Our town was a comfortable mix of blue and white collar, homeowners who had fled to the suburbs after the end of WWII. It was racially homogenous; being Jewish was different enough. The pain in the voices of the children of the newly unemployed was palpable. For the first time I had an inkling that these conversations had real world consequences.
I remember the argument about robots. Would they be competent? Would they be reliable? Would they take over the world? The Terminator movies were decades from creation; we had only War of the Worlds to frighten us. Still, I remember a classmate standing in front of the room, arguing that we couldn't trust them the way we could trust a human worker.
And, I remember the response from the other side - you may not like it, but it's coming anyway. Change is hard. Progress makes people uncomfortable. That's too bad..... deal with it.
All this came back to me this afternoon as TBG drove Uncle Beemer and me up to Marana for lunch. The road was poorly paved, one lane in each direction, with neither sidewalks nor crosswalks. The foliage came right to the edge of the gravelly shoulder; that shoulder was five or six feet wide in most places. There were saguaros and cholla and prickly pear cacti lining the way. The houses were single story, secured by fence posts and No Trespassing signs but without small metal warnings about security systems and off-site surveillance.
It's Tucson as it was when we moved here, just before the modernization began.
Now, our simple intersection from the neighborhood to the main road involves crossing 6 lanes of traffic. The median strip is planted with yucca and cacti and public art. The pavement is black and glossy and smooth as glass. The curbstones are high and smooth and the sidewalk is inviting to the streams of walkers who have discovered it. It's fun to drive up and down the hills without bouncing around on cracks and crevices... but it's as generic as any main thoroughfare in any town in the USA.
I miss my two lanes, my gravel shoulder, the random wildflower bushes which popped up without consideration of sight lines or horticultural planning. The chaos reminded me that I was on the edge of the desert, a feral place which allowed humans only if they were willing to make sacrifices.
There are no sacrifices necessary any longer. There are warning signs for approaching stop lights. There are left turn lanes. There is a designated right turn only lane for our neighborhood, which TBG has dubbed his own personal piece of the landscape. My car doesn't get caught in the cracks in the pavement, nor does it fall into potholes. It just glides along effortlessly, ignorant of the fact that two years ago, this was a different scene.
It's faster. It's modern. It's crisp and clean and well-maintained. I know that there are parts of town which would love to have all this modernization.... and I wish them well.
I wish I had my old, dusty, unkempt, Western atmosphere once again.
(sorry this is late... I inadvertently scheduled it for 6pm...)