The past seems to have a strange relationship with us, and in return we call it by multiple nicknames. In moments of nostalgia, we look back and call it “the good ol’ times”, where your weren’t afraid of your children being abducted and raped and suave gentlemen existed who opened doors for ladies. Other times, we look back at past societal notions and call them “backwards”, adding little captions that further dub it “racist, sexist, bigoted, conformist” and many other smear campaign derivatives. Child abuse was rampant, wives were sub-human, “the white man” openly snubbed the lesser colored folk and walked around in the same grey suits and ties, living in the same cookie cutter homes, raising the same 2.3 kids and dog, driving the same massive, classic American cars. Drinking and smoking was more common back then than texting is today. Woe was the individual who stood out amongst the masses, the business driven wife, the aging and lonely bachelor, the disobedient child. Psychological and physical abuse and trauma ran amok!
The decrease in smoking and surge in suit color varieties has brought good to our lives, no doubt. But sometimes I really do wonder how “enlightened” we’ve all become compared to the past. Parenting manuals tell us not to treat our children like “back then”, that occasional spankings will scar them for life, and “cramping their individual style” will make depressed alcoholics out of the lot of them. If these things truly were as scarring and psychologically dangerous as we make them sound, shouldn’t our grandparents and the parents before them all have been raving mad and emotionally disturbed? Sure, we call our grandparents loony now, but that’s because they’re old and senile and can’t keep track of their teeth or remember how to use a remote.
In our age of psychological enlightenment can we really look back on the “good ol’ times” and honestly call ourselves that much better? When we’re self medicating left and right for every mental and physical disease we can create and becoming increasingly depressed, angrier, fatter, and not to mention the surging emo population. We’re trying to pass laws on bullying, for crying out loud. Do our playgrounds and conversations really need legal enforcement? For being so proactively individual and self supporting, we sure do try to get the government to help us out a shit ton with our parenting. But that’s a whole ‘nother post for a whole ‘nother day.
Even physically there are some strange side effects of modernization that even the past can’t compete with. Sure they used to have chopped up human and roadkill parts in our food while adding lead to our paint. Got rid of that? Great. But we have a higher chance of getting cancer now than ever before.
Maybe we’re only understanding that we’re more depressed and angry. Maybe this whole thing about individualism and opening ourselves up to the possibility of mental illnesses is only exposing what has always existed? Maybe our grandparents and family before them were always depressed and sexually frustrated, they just couldn’t show it. Maybe the stiff upper lip of the past has always been a cry for help and understanding.