Those Were the Good Old Days

June 24, 2009

I’m sure you’ve got some lovable old folks in your life. Perhaps they have imparted some kind of wisdom to you. They have stories from times and places you don’t remember.

And chances are, they’ll tell you that ‘the good old days’ were a lot better than today. If you catch them on the right day, they’ll tell you about how ‘this country is going to hell’ or ‘that dang teenager needs a hair cut – in boot camp!’ Back in their day, when they didn’t have all these ‘Twits’ and ‘Blogs’ and ‘Internet hoopla,’ and ‘air conditioning’ things were a lot simpler, I tell you. And they were better too! And if you don’t believe that, I’ll box your ears, young person!

I was suspicious of this theory about the ‘good old days.’ If you catch an old person on the right day, they won’t tell you how good the old days were, they’ll tell you how bad they were! Six miles to school, uphill both ways, barefoot, while pulling an apple cart! It was the Depression; everyone was selling apples, dang it! But then everyone grows up, kicks Hitler’s butt and they name themselves ‘The Great Generation.’ Then their kids (us) screw everything up.

I decided to look into that – the good old days. I started thinking about what time period I’d like to live in if I could choose. Turns out the ‘good old days’ is rather dubious.

early 20th century: The Great Depression crashes the Mafia sponsored nationwide party, then Europe totally falls apart, and when that’s done, everyone has a bunch of kids who ‘screw everything up,’ which we call the sixties.

19th century: I know all I need to about this century from playing ‘Oregon Trail.’ Apparently, everyone died of dysentery. No thank you.

18th century: Americans are done sipping tea like a bunch of dandies. Good heavens! I could go for that, but there was, like, nothing to do in America back then. And any century that would inspire Jane Austen to write Pride and Prejudice must be a really uninspiring century.

17th century: A bunch of crap happens in Europe that is so boring, they don’t even make students learn it in school. America doesn’t even exist, so you’re stuck with Europe and Asia.

16th century: Luther doesn’t like going to church, so he blogs about it, which in those days consisted of nailing wastepaper to doors. And Shakespeare lives to ruin the lives of American schoolchildren 500 years later.

5th to 15th centuries: Blarf. This was the worst chapter in history class. Why would you actually want to live in this time?

And to go even further back isn’t even worth it, because if you didn’t die at age six, you died as a thirty year old peasant. And unless your name was Jesus of Nazareth, you probably didn’t matter that much.

Conclusion: The ‘good old days’ never really existed. And they never will. We like to look at the past, our childhoods through rose colored glasses. We gloss over the bad parts of our youth while looking at the bad stuff today under a microscope. We are often convinced that humanity is at its darkest this very day. Every day has been worse than the last.

But that’s not true. And it’s not bad that the good old days never were. It just means that these days hold as much promise (amid all the conflict) as any other time. And look, the 17th century has nothing on the 21st century! Those people are always going to be stuck in the 17th century with their horses and their tin can phones and their non-U2 music. I’d like to see a 17th century person blog about how lousy it would be to live in the 21st century! They’ve got nothing on us!

Would you really like to live in a different time? What would you choose? Do you believe today, we’re at our worst, our best, or somewhere in between?