The display of these videos has lead to the question (or to reminiscing if you remember it): would it be better to live in the sixties or today? The simplicity of the sixties verses the complicated climate of today. It's no secret that some of the "old fashioned values" are not quite as popular any more.
People often point out that women were more restricted and state that society was a little close-minded (or even "backward") back then. But is it really that much better with today's values and standard instead of the older ones? Never mind that the drop in standards today has led to a loss of childhood and innocence with our children (that's undisputed) but how about the rest of us - is everyone else better off?
Yes, it's obvious that the value of most people's life in this day and age isn't what it used to be. No matter what you do or who you are there is one driving force – to be "happy" (whatever that means). We all know it. Parents have been telling their children for generations that they just want them to be "happy" (but of course if their son or daughter was "happy" being an axe murderer they would probably have to rethink that position just a little bit).
Why not be happy though? Life is short, live it up. The problem is that this ideal of happiness (whatever that means) has replaced one of the classic ideals of the times of old, that of contentment. Aren't they basically the same thing? Not even close, and especially not if you're a Christian. Here's the difference. While the Bible tells us to "be joyful in all things" it reveals that the secret of that joy is contentment (1Titus 6:8). Without contentment happiness loses all its meaning and can arbitrarily be assigned to anything that gives us pleasure, whereas Scripture tells us not to live for selfish pleasures (1Titus 5:6, 2 Timothy 2:22).
Just Get On With It
So back in the day one used to have to be content to be happy and now it has switched where one has to be happy to be content, a subtle change but a deadly one (confused yet?). Rewind to the sixties in Australia – a simpler time – a time where people most often knew that contentment was the true road to happiness and instead of answering to all various whims and desires of the heart. I'm not saying that people knew this from the Bible, but however they knew it, it came forth in their way of living.
Complaint was at an all time low, hard work was often expected and griping about a lack of satisfaction in life was kept to privately hushed whispers. If you weren't (at least mostly) content with your lot in this life, quite frankly people would wonder what was wrong with you. There was very little whining about being in the wrong job or being made the wrong sex or not wanting to have children or not having enough self esteem – people got over themselves and got on with it.
It was about concerning yourself with your family and your job and being thankful for what little you had, not being a spoilt child expecting more. Grown-ups were grown-ups back in that day simple as that.
Now before you label me a Fuddy-Duddy let it be known that it is my own generation that I'm criticizing. Yes, I like getting some decent conversation at retirement homes and chatting about the good ol' days that I never got to experience myself, Fuddy-Duddy or not.
The Insights of China
Living in China I got to really respect the older generation who had lived through the Cultural Revolution with practically nothing. The respect comes because now that China is prospering they could have a lot more but continue to stick the bare minimum - concrete floors, one bedroom, almost no furniture and a little saucepan to make tea on with a gas burner.
You won't hear any of them complaining that they've been done badly by God, they get on with it being satisfied with what they want rather than what they need. And as a side note, the "retired" Chinese in China work harder than 99.9% of the people in this country and still find plenty to be happy about.
But even so, the new generation in China (a far cry from the Cultural Revolution gen. of thirty odd years back) is soaking up this new value system now of "happiness" over contentment. So what has changed things so dramatically in so few decades? Is it the consumer-oriented life which tells us we need to grasp that all so elusive experience of joy like grabbing fistfuls of the wind on a windy day? The lie that a certain relationship will make you happy, or spending money on clothes, or smelling beautiful, a makeover, weight loss, alcohol, a plethora of friends, success?
Sometimes the recipe is not so specific – "being who you want to be" is supposed to be the magic genie to grant "inner joy" and you're just supposed to just take that to mean whatever the whim and fancy of the day is. I suppose it would be funnier if it didn't show just how bankrupt our society is of values to pull us together. Paul would scoff. In fact I scoff, especially when I see those toothless smiles on the Chinese peasant or the beams of those on the commemorative films of Film Australia.
Step Back a Bit
So I urge you to take a step back. Have you been overly focused on your own happiness? On "being who you want to be" rather than being thankful for who you are? On wanting more instead of being satisfied with much less than what you have? I'm sorry Guy Sebastian, but in this life striving to "be happy" just ain't gonna cut it.
It's lost all its meaning and we're looking for the result instead of the cause, the state instead of the cure. Instead strive for something different. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. It's a decision. I'm going to be content. I urge you to join me, recognize that those in the sixties had something that we lack and start bringing contentment (rather than "sexy") back.
The Fuddy-Duddy signing off.
Bridget Brenton has spent seven years in China and currently lives on the Gold Coast with her husband Steven. Over the last decade she has been studying all things philosophy, apologetics and the supernatural and now is endeavoring to put that knowledge into ministry. She writes a blog on the paranormal and it's relation to practical Christianity.