We all know a person, or several people, who go around spouting off about the past as if it were sacred knowledge handed down from Druids on thin vellum sheets blessed by the makers themselves. You picture white-robed seers passing down information to hooded monks who carefully scribed every word of how it was ‘in the olden days’. What a bunch of crap.
And these same people say stuff like ‘back in the day’ or ‘when I was a kid’ or my all-time favorite ‘it was good enough for me growing up’. That last one has me reaching for the bottle of vodka. Isn’t that the most inane saying? Don’t you just want to slap the living shit out of people who say that?
These people have a skewed perception of the good old days, don’t they? The good old days… when people were poor and dirty and mostly likely burden with a terminal disease. Have you ever seen a picture of the good old days? No one smiled. Their eyes were dull, their shoulders slumped. They were basically waiting for death. No, there were no good old days.
Back in the day, people accepted the alcoholic or the homeless person as just part of the scenery. They looked the other way at racial biases and the subjugation of women. It was acceptable to work a man (or boy) 12 hours or so and then pay him in company store money so he could be bilked out of that money with inflated prices for the bare necessities.
When they were kids, a lot of them were neglected, abused or subjected to harsh living conditions. Many were not educated past elementary school. They suffered diseases that crippled them for life. They never dared dreamed of a life better than what their parents had. If they could get in at the mill or the mine or the local plant, they figured they were doing good.
Now of course, things did get better but even in my childhood days, there were still a lot of social morays that I’m so glad we don’t have now. I remember racial slurs were just words people used and Aids was to be made fun of. We all knew which kids were being abused at home, but we never spoke of it. It wasn’t our business and people got very prickly when their private lives were aired out for public consumption.
So no, I don’t think things were better back in the day and I certainly don’t think that just because something was good enough for me, it’s good enough for my kids. Sure, some of the more charming parts of my growing up (see my Shit Crick post) I’m thrilled to have my kids enjoy. And I’d like to think that I’ve passed along the tight family bonds that I grew up wrapped in. But the other stuff, no freaking way. I’m glad my kids and my neighbors’ kids are marginally more free to be who they are than I was. And I’m damn sure glad that now communities and experts and (gasp) government has taken an interest in those who are suffering in society. I think we should move forward in all things and make our future bright. Learn from the past, remember it, but don’t force our children to relive it.