What’s New Under the Sun?

We ran into some interesting quotes, let me share a couple of excerpts, we’ll keep them short:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, […]”

And here’s another one, a wee bit longer, but worth the read:

“But as this swarm of humanity moved itself, and its goods, from place to place, a problem emerged. The main mode of transportation produced a slew of the byproducts that economists call negative externalities, including gridlock, high insurance costs, and far too many traffic fatalities. Crops that would have landed on a family's dinner table were sometimes converted into fuel, driving up food prices and causing shortages. Then there were the air pollutants and toxic emissions, endangering the environment as well as individuals' health.”

A third one, we’ll summarize, because it was a page long… It talked about the new economy that emerged as a result of the new technology. The new infrastructure that had to be built, the new habits that people formed, the transformational impact it had on us as a society.

What do you think it spoke of? When I first read it I had no doubt it meant the internet economy: what else had that transformational impact on our society? It turned out I was wrong. It was a quote from a century ago, and it was referring to the transformation that electricity brought to our society.

"There is nothing new under the sun but there are lots of old things we don't know." -- Ambrose Bierce

And the second quote? For sure it’s lamenting the negative impact cars have had on our environment, on or society. Wrong again. It’s a quote from SuperFreakonomics talking about the issues horses have had on large cities. In fact, in 1894, The Times newspaper predicted that “In 50 years, every street in London will be buried under nine feet of manure.” Funnily enough, the car was hailed at the time of its introduction as a savior to the environment from the “pollution” produced by excessive use of horses for transportation.

Interesting trivia: did you know that brownstones in New York City have stairs leading up to the entrance because they needed to be above street level so as to be above the rivers of manure that regularly flooded the streets?

But wait, the first quote, no doubt refers to Gen Z (or K 😀 )? Or maybe it’s a little older, referring to millennials? Nope. It’s a quote from Socrates. From over 2,000 years ago, mourning the decline of that new generation.

And so we ask: what’s new under the sun? We are aware and properly in awe of discoveries like that of time, and inventions such as the clock, the printing press, and many more that were life- and society-changing at the time.

And yet, are most of the basic problems we face─once you strip away the veneer of technology that sometimes blinds us─now new problems? Or are they really problems we’ve faced before and are meeting once again in a different guise?

30 thoughts on “What’s New Under the Sun?

  1. It would appear that people of each generation believe that the problems were caused by the generation that came before them, which would be an incorrect presumption. I believe we create our own problems, but we don’t want to admit it.

    Like you said, they are all the same kind of problems. wrapped up in the kind of technology that was around at the time. We just haven’t learned our lessons about living on Earth yet. Silly humans…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a terrific observation! We often do point the finger backwards, forgetting that we are standing on the shoulders of giants (and some not-so-giant shoulders, too…). Perhaps that’s the root of many of our problems, that we refuse to take ownership of the responsibility?

      There’s this wonderful cartoon where the speaker asks a large audience “who wants change???” And EVERYONE raises their hands. And then he asks “who wants to change?” And ALL hands go down…

      What was it that some wise person said was the definition of insanity? Trying the same thing over and over again, hoping for different results. Perhaps we don’t see that that’s what we’re doing because the veneer (the “generation” or “technology”) is different?

      You bring up the most intriguing points!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Rebecca, I feel the same way: I love it when I read something, expecting one thing, and getting a gift of another. There’s surprising depths and hidden meanings in some of what we read, in what we see, in what we hear, and I love the way you help uncover it in your posts!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. What clued you in to the first one, complaining about the next generation? I actually cut it short where I did because the rest felt that it was referring to older times 🙃

      I was thrown off by the quotes that referred to “new technologies” of ancient times, that’s what made me think if there are new problems or if we’re still working on (or rediscovering?) ones of yore that have yet to be addressed…

      That’s one of the reasons that I also love Freakonomics. The different way the authors look at questions, at data, at how teachers cheat like sumo wrestlers. 😁 SuperFreakonomics was good, but not as good as the first one, giving the third one a try now. Any other reads like that you’d recommend?


  2. Very interesting quotes. I’ll go with your last premise. We humans can invent a lot of new things, but it seems so far we haven’t invented anything that has changed our basic human nature.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Same horse, different problems. The world changes so rapidly, we could never have the same problems as though as our Grandparents. The only commonality is that there are problems. The working out of problems always seems to be behind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Are you saying that “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”? It’s been one of my favorite quotes at work, I wonder if that’s why so many problems persist?


  4. Love this post, EW! What a brilliant way to bring perspective to the problems of today. Doesn’t mean we get a pass on trying to solve them, but at least we can rest assured that we didn’t create them all! Love your brilliance – as always!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Wynne! I love that positive view of things, we need to solve the problems, even if we didn’t create them all, that’s very insightful! Thank you so much for being a positive ray under this sun of ours!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Luisa, so much! And what an insightful thought: Problems belonged to our ancestors, and now we’ve inherited them and are likely going to pass them on to the next generation. When will we break the cycle? And how?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess it’s not only location! Location! Location! It’s also timing! Timing! Timing!

      It’s also funny how electrical cars were better at the start, and due to some different choices, gas cars ended up dominating. Strange how many coincidences determine history, no?

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s