The Changing Perception of Hardship
As Frank Buckles passing comes at a time of social discord, it is an opportunity to apply this perspective to contemporary USA and draw conclusions from its current situation. The first thing that becomes apparent is how the perception of hardship has evolved over the generations, which is obviously a clear consequence of progression and technological advancement. As living conditions improve in terms of health, technology and privilege, so too individuals become accustomed to particular standards and expect more from their existence.
Contrasting this with the core nature of war at the turn of the century, it is difficult to comprehend the full horror of what awaited US citizens during conflict. At this time, conscription existed for young adults who were then dispatched into squalid conditions and barbaric battle situations, in what were often bloody and violent wars with vast amounts of human loss and with little hope for a safe return. It was also a time of difficult domestic social conditions, especially with regards to poverty and racial relations.
In today’s USA, the problems that exist are seemingly insignificant in contrast, although they are relatively important when you understand the circumstances of contemporary society. Issues that concern collective bargaining rights and employer health contributions are entirely different to those that threaten personal liberty and safety, but as democracy has improved western society so too priorities and the general standards of living have changed with the times.
Have Governments Learned Their Lesson Through History?
A secondary and no less interesting observation is the role of government in these perceived hardships, and whether rulers have learned the lessons taught through history and combat. If you consider the first world war as an example, it was a conflict that both poorly conceived and managed by various military generals, who sold lies and propaganda to empower soldiers and then left their charges adrift in appalling physical conditions. It was a nothing less than an act of treachery from a government towards their citizens, all driven to suit their own specific needs.
Generations on, and while the methodology has changed the feeling of betrayal remains hauntingly similar. Today’s public sector workers, who toil hard support government and educational bodies, feel that they are being unfairly targeted by a regime who are seeking to make inroads into an ever increasing national deficit. Naturally, they feel that because of their status in the public sector and their close relationships with government rule, they are in an especially vulnerable position in the present economy, and that this has been used by federal office towards shaping a clear and unfair advantage.
Even if we cast our thoughts over a wider period of recent history, the Iraq war is largely considered to have fought along the faint outlines of false pretences. Regardless of the benefits of removing a strict dictator from power, or the validity of the governments genuine reasons for war, the fact remains that an earnest military were sent to combat a war on the foundation of lies and half truths. This is in itself a betrayal of trust with certain individuals who desire to protect their countries defence, and serves to suggest that governments are still prone to replicate the same historical errors in judgement.
Cultivating a Trust Between People and Government
What we can draw from this is that though social circumstances continually evolve both for better or for worse, the core levels of mistrust between a government and its subjects remain virtually the same. It is how this trust manifests itself that adapts to the individual social environment, and the specific actions of government rule that create controversy or are deemed to be undemocratic. While it is true that this issue is partially due to the nuances of human nature in constantly seeking improvement, different governments hardly have a history in being entirely truthful or always serving the best interests of the voters.
To this end, governments can help themselves in order to foster trust with their people, simply through a transparency of policy and a more documented support of their decisions. For any elected power to mislead the people that voted them into power is unacceptable, regardless of the reasons offered as genuine mitigation, and is a process that will further alienate society from its rulers. Subsequently, they must strive to not only act in the interest of their people but also be seen to do so, which will lead to enhanced trust and a more favorable perspective within society.