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Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Good Old Days... Not!

It's another New Year, and though late, I have to greet everyone reading my blog (if there are any) a Happy New Year! A New Year also brings thoughts of entering a new time. Yet there are certainly some people who would continue to embrace the past.

There are those who look to the old days, such as their younger days, and wish they were back in these times, such as the prosperous '50s. There are also those who pine for even older times, saying that people were purer in the 1800s, or even ancient times. Someone even told me that no one's ever heard of rebellious children or wedlock births during the Spanish times, and so implies that these times are better.

I just can't help but say "tsk, tsk" at these beliefs. The reason time moves forward and not backward is because we're supposed to make the future better; what's in the past is past. In addition, I would have to point out to people why I consider today's modern times better than before. There are a lot of things to consider better today.

Firstly, why is it that people look for the past? Perhaps we should look at these particular pasts that they refer to, because it would depend on the particular past under discussion. Many older people today especially refer to the 1950s as the "good old days" since this was the time of American prosperity. Here in the Philippines, people would feel this prosperity somewhat since we were once an American colony. Thus, American feelings and sentiments would be carried over.

The 50's were the "good old days" mainly because this was where American consumerism spread out. American goods and other stuff flowed like honey, and everyone felt good. Convenience goods made people soft, and economic crisis seemed far behind along with the recent world war. Consumerism flowed from America to the rest of the world. People were soon taught to desire having designer brands, of having lots of furniture, a beautiful house... things that focused on the material. Basically, material achievement became the measure of a person - a trend that was always around since ancient times, but was magnified by 50's consumerism. It even contributed to the dubious prosperity morality, wherein some even believed that if you were not rich, then it was because you had a moral fault; people with good morals were supposed to be rich.

Back to stuff like teen marriages, wedlock, and other social problems. People believe these were very few in older times, like in the 50s they remember as golden, or even older. The idea is, the further back in time, the more moral people were supposed to be. It makes them thing, "the children of today are different." It was a fallacy.

Rebellious children, wedlock births, homosexuality and other "abnormalities" thought to be scattering only today, were already around in history; they may actually be even more prevalent and plentiful in ancient times. Some societies may not even have the institution of marriage, or even practice polygamy, thus leading to no establishment of a nuclear family like we know today, and lots of children who may either die or get neglected. Some societies have prostitute priestesses, and sexual intercourse was the worship method. That meant a lot of babies growing up without a nuclear family. Even infanticide (killing of babies and children) was established in the ancient world as a normal practice (probably used on unwanted babies from the above). No kidding, do your research. The ancient times were probably among the worst times in the world; what's why you call them "ancient." They're old and outdated times.

The 1950s? Only whites will remember them as good old days. The blacks will remember discrimination and segregation. The 1950s was when they started to fight, with Rosa Parks' refusal to give up her bus seat and the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education lawsuit. Today they have a black president in the United States. Times are better now.

Look at medicine. Before, in the "good old days," it was easy to see people die of something like mere flu and infection. Even in cities during the 1900s, or medieval era, it was easy to lose a child. People had no idea of health practices or sanitation in those days. They had to learn by trial and error. Today, we know what health practices and sanitation are, and more is being learned every day (although this helped increase the world population by reducing deaths).

The same with mental illness. In the old days, we would not understand why a certain person behaved strangely, or why they would not conform to certain rules and standards. The old people, such as in the Medieval Ages, would see them as demon-possessed, or just possessed by a strange malady, or just enemies we would outright kill. We can read in literature how these were mistreated; retarded people were most likely abused. Some may have even been killed! To see them as "possessed" is old, outdated, and does not lead to the right solutions. Imagine how many people suffered because of this ignorance.

Before, if people failed or were not successful, even if it was not their fault, they were blamed for being irresponsible or stupid. People were very strict in the "good old days." They were unforgiving of faults, and often made comments that would be described today as uncaring and insensitive. Today's perspectives are much better; understanding and consideration of others is more practiced and disseminated.

In the old days, groupthink was the norm (groupthink is bad, believe me). Today, individual responsibility and initiative are emphasized. People are more aware today of looking for the plank in one's own eye before looking for the speck in the other's (although many still don't practice it). Before, kings and bosses could claim all the glory while their poor underlings are hushed along the sidelines. Today, CEOs, bosses and other leaders keep on repeating that they didn't do it all alone; they have to. Attitudes are generally better today.

On a personal note, my mom tells me about weird habits of the grandparents. For example, one of my grandmothers dictated everything her husband ate. When he'd get a plate of food at a party, she would "edit" it, even if the food was not bad for him, and it would come out differently. What happened to the right to choosing your own food? Another grandmother would even call my uncles and give them tasks to do even if they were late for school! Being late was no excuse for her; they should do her orders or else. But the schooling of my uncles was affected. They are poor now. Looking at it this way, the older people are really weird. This gave me the impression that culture was really worse before and people don't really give much thought to their own behavior. They don't really seek what's good; they were only looking for what was convenient.

I believe people love the good old days mainly because these were more tolerant times for their vices or convenience-seeking behaviors. They got too comfortable, and expected it to "last forever." Today, with the smoke and mirrors gone, or reduced at least, people are seeing life for what it is and are finding it hard. They complain and pine for the old days and will say "life is hard," when it is more appropriate to say that their lifestyles locked them into static living, and made them unable to adapt to change.

We should be thankful that we were born in today's times. It's not just because we have the Internet and I could write this article so many people could see for free (well, almost free). We have recognition of human rights, human dignity, equality, modern technology, advanced medical systems, the right to question corrupt authorities, and other advantages not present in the "good old days." By now, one can see that we may need to remove the "good" from "old days."

Out with the old, and in with the new.

Happy New Year!

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