I am always amazed when I hear people reminisce about the good old days. There is nothing new under the sun. The ills we face today existed in the good old days – teenage pregnancy, drugs, crime, war. The only difference is technology and people’s ability to take a secret to the grave. In the good old days, if you were a pregnant teen or poised a risk to family reputation, you were sent “down south,” “European travel,” or some other place code for trouble. STDs existed back then, but it was taboo to speak of such things you just died from syphilis. Drug use was prevalent. The roaring 20s were great because cocaine was free flowing. In the good old days, the wealthy went to Europe for their abortions, the poor went to back alleys or rural shacks. Child predators existed and violated family members, orphans, and the mentally ill. People justified bullying, beating and lynching of undesirables, trash, vagrants, those from the wrong side of the town or the wrong shade of white. Those were the good old days, right?
I think people choose to remember good moments and selectively repress bad memories. It is similar to how people respond once a loved one dies. There is a tendency to immortalize the person into sainthood forgetting any bad memories. In reality, the moments we try to turn into utopia are far from it. In the good old days, there were several wars, child labor was okay, a great depression, women did not have rights, slavery and “separate but equal” were considered okay, and mistreatment of the mentally and physically disabled was normal. How ‘bout them good old days?!
As a woman, I do not look fondly on what the older generation refer to as the good old days (except the fashion of the 1950s). Back then women were told PMS, post-partum depression and other things were a figment of their imagination. I had a chance to meet with someone that works in mental health. That person mentioned that in the 1940s it was common to see women in their 50s committed to institutions for being “irritable” – what we now know is menopause. The room where the women were housed was named “the room for irritable women.” A much simpler time indeed! Wife nagging you, institutionalize her and get a younger model that knows how to cook, clean, keep house and take care of her man.
We have a tendency to glamorize the past to avoid dealing with the realities of today. Teenagers are the same as they were since the beginning of time – young, dumb, know-it-all, horny toads that believe their parents are the bane of their existence. Rebellion has and is still the preferred method of asserting independence against parental guidance. Today’s youth are the same as teens in the good old days. Back then, teens that listened to Elvis or Rock-n-Roll tainted devil’s music. Nowadays, the older generation bashes the today’s youth for hip hop and heavy metal. The more things change the more they stay the same. We can live in a fictitious past or try to make today as good as them good ole’ days.
What currently insists on truth is disproved, because Lie or her younger sister, Deception, often hands over only the most acceptable part of a memory, the part that sounds plausible on paper. – Gunter Grass
The past may not repeat itself, but it sure does rhyme. – Mark Twain
What history teaches is that men have never learned anything from it. – Hegel