A Jury of Our Peers

by Robert Arvay, Contributing Writer

From the beginning of recorded history, until the first heavier-than-air flight by the Wright brothers, there elapsed about five thousand years. In the same lifetime as that event, men landed on the moon.

It is not just that technology is advancing, it is advancing faster every year than the year before. It is very likely that children born today will never drive a car, because self-driving cars are already being developed.

Arthur C. Clarke famously said that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” A simple, battery-powered flashlight would have been considered magical only a bit more than a hundred years ago. Modern televisions would have been considered to have been the work of witchcraft not much more than 200 years ago.

Young children today have been born into a world of technological miracles, heedless that cell phones and so-called “mobile devices” have not always existed. Watching old movies from the 1930s, what stands out most in my view is that all items of living room (parlor) furniture were facing toward the center of the room, not (of course) toward a wall mounted flat screen TV. A large console radio in one corner of the parlor provided entertainment and news from the outside world.

An excellent short story that powerfully impresses its era upon the modern sense is, “A Jury of her Peers,” by Susan Glaspell. [1]

Published in 1917, its author apparently had no premonition of twenty-first century technology, so the reader is forced to accept that wood-burning stoves are the normal way to cook. Nothing beyond that existed in anyone’s home. Glaspell was, however, keenly aware that there was something wrong with the low social status so casually (and callously) imposed upon women during the 1910’s, and the short story is saturated with her understated, but powerfully implied, views on the matter.

The near future will leave behind anyone who is not continuously updating his knowledge of technology and social issues. I will surely be one of those left in the dust, as I struggle to perform anything beyond the most basic functions of my laptop and cell phone, both of which have features that, because I have never used them, remain mysterious to me. My views on the so-called sexual revolution are already considered Neanderthal, even unjust.

The danger in all this advancement, is that much that is valuable will have been abandoned, and society will suffer because of that. Our knowledge has outpaced our abilities to apply it responsibly.

Preserving and conserving moral and ethical values will be increasingly difficult in the coming years. A generation fed on self-esteem, personal entitlements, and the motto, “If it feels good, do it,” will soon find itself wandering in a desert, worshipping golden calves, and wondering why social decay and upheaval are ruining their lives.

This is why the present generation of young people needs you. It takes courage to tell them the truth. Many of them will laugh at you, sneer at your counsel, and deride your wisdom as foolishness.

Many of them will, but not all of them. Despite their being saturated in a culture of vulgarity, even of depravity, I am sometimes pleasantly surprised to discover (once again) that human beings of any age are at least dimly aware of the spiritual component of their lives, and hungry for the spiritual nourishment they need to develop that component.

However little you can do, do it. Plant a seed. You may never see the final result, but you can be confident that even the smallest seed can grow into the mightiest tree, or into a flower of splendid beauty.

As the Scotsman would say in a commercial, “Feed your lawn. Feed it.”

[1] “A Jury of her Peers,” by Susan Glaspell, is available free online, full text file, at
http://www.learner.org/interactives/literature/story/fulltext.html

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