By Tom Winnifrith
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Many Americans would be hard-pressed to tell you the maiden names of their grandmothers, and few indeed could give you the maiden names of all four great grandmothers. Americans do certainly seem to show an interest in the past, or at least in a kind of continuity at a personal level, through some of the customs they use in naming children. Americans habitually give one son, usually the first, the same name as his father. Indeed, the abbreviation 'J r' at the end of a name identifies it as American almost as certainly as the ensign fluttering at the stern of a yacht tells you what country she is from.
It is doubtful whether this increased liberalism has led to an increase in human happiness. Unwanted pregnancies continue to occur both among the married and the unmarried. Many of them are terminated by abortion, once a crime, now regarded by many merely as an inconvenience. Even with contraception supposedly foolproof, abortion more or less on demand and vasectomies encouraged for men, the institution of marriage which has survived for thousands of years without these aids now seems under greater threat than ever before.
Each of us, if he has lived long enough, can think of many examples of social behaviour, once learned, that is now totally irrelevant. Indeed, the whole concept that social behaviour is something that one learns from one's society is felt to be pretty much a thing of the past. It is hard to believe that 40 years ago boys and girls went to dancing school where they were taught the behaviour that their parents found acceptable. Perhaps the most striking change in the way we live now as compared with life 50 years ago is the disappearance of the servant.
1984 and All’s Well? by Tom Winnifrith