The Good Old Days

This is another one of those irreverent posts and one that arose as a result of some old and somewhat worn out things lying around the house that kept niggling at the back of my mind to bring together as a story. I’ve said before that I often like to make irreverent posts (or is it heckling?) about life and all of its foibles and, sometimes, those irreverent posts may make some sense. It’s a pretty shaky world that we seem to be living in lately and it makes one ponder (well, it makes me and a few others ponder) about things that were, things that are and things that might be, or perhaps it’s just nostalgic romanticism. Was there ever such a thing as the ‘Good Old Days’?

Statler & Waldorf - (source: Muppet Wiki)

Statler & Waldorf – (source: Muppet Wiki)

To iron a few things out, today’s world is, in so many ways, better than that of my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather and so on. For example, we live in an age where diseases and other medical conditions that would have meant certain death at an early age are often treatable, or can be controlled to considerably extend one’s life in a meaningful way. I know that my father’s life wouldn’t have been extended several decades had he been born say a decade earlier. However, he was nevertheless born to a world of hard labour where workplace health and safety was an emerging thing, not something that’s taken for granted today, which contributed to his demise. But it was certainly an ‘easier’ world than that of his father (a farmer) and we often forget how even the seemingly simplest tasks were anything but simple and easy in years gone by.

1850s Flat Iron, one of many required in days gone by

1850s Flat Iron, one of many required in days gone by

We live in an age where, certainly in the western world, most people lack for nothing. Even those considered poor are looked after and often have modern conveniences and sometimes the latest fashions and the like. Not all most certainly, but what I’ve observed is quite telling. Today’s world almost demands that people have the latest of everything and to be seen with anything less would be an embarrassment. For me, the shoe is somewhat on the other foot, I tend to hang on to things until they really do need replacement, or they offer real benefits over what I have (such as LED down-lights instead of halogen), rather than follow fashions. My motto tends to be: ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’

Worn out shoes, so difficult to replace

Worn out shoes, so difficult to replace

Money also seems to be of lesser concern to many, with welfare and often easy credit etc available to almost anyone, which further makes the desire to keep up with the latest trends difficult to resist. The old phrase, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned’, doesn’t really seem to apply much nowadays, as the mantra is to spend. And, as physical money is slowly disappearing from use, being substituted entirely by credit and debit cards, and increasingly mobile phone payment systems, it’s difficult for many to even comprehend the fact that they are often spending beyond their means. It was quite a different story in the days when all transactions were with cash. I like the new systems and use cash infrequently, but working in an age where Bankcard was just coming on the scene and your pay was coming in an envelope, the habit of ‘counting your cash’ (even metaphorically), has never disappeared.

One Pound Coin and Roman Coin

One Pound Coin and Roman Coin

Our view of technology often makes us believe dramatic changes are underway, and in some ways they are and have been for the several decades, but many predictions have also had a habit of being very wrong. A recent article, titled ‘Typing will soon become a thing of the past’, made me chuckle. It reminded me of that oft repeated promise of the ‘paperless office’, which has been stated since the 1970s, in fact, the opposite has happened. Even technology long thought dead and buried is seeing a revival from an old friend. While modern technology has produced so many benefits in health, industry, communication and in many aspects of every day life, it’s not a panacea for everything. In some way, it can exacerbate problems or create new ones.

Kodak Brownie 8mm Movie Camera

Kodak Brownie 8mm Movie Camera from the early 60s

People are so locked into their technology, such that many can’t be without it for even an instant, notably mobile phones, which is nothing new. Certainly for some, especially during business hours, a mobile phone is a major means of communication in their business activities, but some cannot ignore their phones even after hours and when on holidays. Much has been written recently about technology burnout or its effect on happiness and how people can cope with the vicissitudes they introduce into one’s life. Some simply can’t escape until it’s too late.

Abloy Lock from late 60s - early 70s

Abloy Lock from late 60s – early 70s

And one of my biggest annoyances, for some reason, is the death of a thousand cuts when it comes to the English language. Mobile phone texting has a lot to answer for, but it’s not the sole culprit. I constantly see endless spelling and grammatical errors in just about every major newspaper, errors that should be picked up easily. And news text scroll/subtitles nowadays seem to be left to less than smart software. I think the reason for the increasing occurrence of such errors, especially with the written word, is that the importance of English expression is slowly fading from our education curriculum. People just don’t seem to care anymore and we seem to be regressing in so many ways, such that the idea that spelling and grammar is unimportant is even being touted by academics. When language and communication fails, then so do many other things in life.

Richards Pocket Knife

Richards Pocket Knife

People often talk about the good old days, suggesting that today’s world is so much worse, but in most cases there really wasn’t such a time as the good old days, it’s just that you grew up in those days and you forget the not so good times. Notwithstanding, there is something to be said about some aspects of past decades where life was perhaps somewhat simpler and we weren’t so technology and/or self-obsessed. Coming across a very old photograph of my father, mother and myself waiting for a train (in Italy I think), made me ponder how things have changed over the years. For better or worse? I don’t really know, but clearly my interest in photography dates back a long time, so some things never change.

Possibly in Italy 1964

Possibly in Italy 1964

I think over the years I’ve become more contemplative about change, especially societal, which does make me somewhat critical of some changes. I can’t say that these are either good or bad changes, but sometimes I do feel that maybe we need to take a step back and assess where it is we are going and whether we want to go that way, not as individuals, but as a society. It’s especially disconcerting that societal change seems to be increasingly dictated by minority or special interest groups, who all too often view the past in a negative way.

4 thoughts on “The Good Old Days

  1. Di Brown

    Another great post which resonated with me and oh that pic at the train station is simply priceless.

    1. Ray Post author

      Thanks Di. There’s certainly a lot going on in that photo.

  2. David Ruether

    As usual, a wonderful, thoughtful, well-written post – and you “had” me,
    until that last paragraph… I think what was expressed there is at the
    root of what we in the US are now suffering from, i.e., a mindless and
    thoughtless impression among many that “we have lost our way”, that
    “things aren’t as good as they used to be”, that “there is too much
    accommodation of societal minorities with all that political-correctness
    nonsense”, etc. Included also is a strange belief that “economics were
    better back then, when business was still unfettered by government
    regulation”. Forgotten are the 10-hour work days and 6-day work weeks;
    the uncomfortable and often dangerous working conditions; the polluted
    air, water, soil, and food; the low regard for, and accommodation of, the
    needs of almost all minorities in society; and the lack of any consistent
    “safety-net” in case of extended ill health, poverty, etc. If you were
    healthy, well-employed, male, and white, things were often just fine
    “back then” – but if otherwise, things were not quite so “rosy”. Nostalgia
    for an imagined past and an impatience with the requirements and
    effects of social progress have brought us the rise of Donald Trump in
    the current presidential election in the US, whose only qualifications for
    the presidency appear to be (as repeatedly expressed by those who
    say they will vote, or have voted, for him), “he says what he thinks”,
    and, “he says what I think”. Currently, with nothing more substantial
    than his expressed wild opinions, and with NOTHING of practical
    substance offered, Donald Trump (who is clearly a con man, with fascist
    inclinations) has risen to become the likely Republican Party presidential
    candidate in the US (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). YIKES! Nostalgia and strong beliefs
    in mythologies CAN lead to bad ends! Or, as one giant banner in opposition
    to Trump recommended in a single huge word, “THINK!”. As a member
    of a surprisingly large number of societal minorities, I DO KNOW what
    “progress” is, and it is NOT what Trump appears to offer! Nostalgia for
    an imagined past is fine as a “recreational” experience – but it is NOT
    fine if it is used as a guide for current governance! Attempting to do
    the latter can be quite dangerous!

    –DR

    1. Ray Post author

      Thanks David

      What I meant with my last paragraph is what I see in Australia predominantly and things that I read about from around the world. As I said, I can’t say whether this is good or bad, but the rate of change is what perhaps perturbs me the most. Societal change needs to be taken with due thought and reasoned debate, not violence, which is all too often the case. And with respect to the past, some even wish to rewrite it to suit a new narrative. Remember that old quote ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ – George Santayana.

      This is sort of an example of what I mean.

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