(Originally posted on 9/29/2012, this was a compilation of two previously written musings; sadly, the sentiments herein are even more appropriate these days than in 2012…)
To Those Who Celebrate “The Good Old Days,” And Other Conservatives And Traditionalists: Invent A Time Capsule, And Feel Free To Use It.
For those who think the world’s just fine as it is, and hearken back to “the good old days,” you’re advocating the world that brought us to this point. Which represents:
Corporal punishment of children; institutionalized segregation; institutional corruption; women and ‘blacks’ forbidden to vote; schoolyard bullying as rite of passage; the “color line”; drunken driving as the only recourse for getting home; police corruption; “spare the rod, spoil the child”; the “one-drop rule”; intra-family violence of innumerable kinds as an accepted part of life; religious clergy passing down sexual torture to generations of men who not only are forbidden to discuss it, but quite often likely to transmit it; women not allowed to play sports or pursue the sciences; men not allowed to show or cultivate sensitivity; women being traded as property, which is more like ‘traditional marriage’ than a lot of what the ‘religious right’ will ever tell you; ALL KINDS of people being traded as property under numerous other guises; clothesline tackles and playing with multiple concussions in football; fighting as an integral part of hockey culture; nepotism; caste societies in all their forms; torture as an instrument of foreign policy; “golden parachutes” in finance; germ warfare; “man up;” “MK ULTRA” (no, seriously, google it); the Millgram Experiments and the Stanford Prison Experiment; cigarette companies deliberately spreading addiction to slow and painful deaths; police riots; draft riots; “race” riots; entrenched poverty; enormous gaps between rich and poor; “omerta” (google that one, too); “the thin blue line;” glass ceilings; the glorification of suffering in silence; did I mention bullying, segregation, institutional violence + corruption and the glorification of meanness?
So then, to those who brought us, and hearken back to, the good old days, I say: thanks for nothing, and if a time machine’s finally invented, feel free to jump on in and see how you like a world where your odds of full citizenship are practically nil–and even if you’re lucky enough to be a citizen in full standing, you get to be born into a world where violence, cruelty and unfairness are collectively unspoken about–and the wish for greater kindness and gentleness is mocked. You hearken back to a past that has poisoned us all, and whose influence we’re all crawling out from under. A past which it takes force of will, or good luck, or a combination thereof, not to continue to unconsciously replicate in all the little things we do. Most of today’s problems can be traced to problems handed down to us from the past–or are just reallocations of pre-existing problems, only someone else has to suffer from them now (to which I say, payback’s a bit-h–yes, another lovely expression handed down to us from our glorious past. See, I’m a product of it, too.)
Yeah, thanks for all that. Nice world you gave us. Once they invent time travel, you can line up for the old world.
“The Good Old Days,” Part 2: The World IS Getting Better
Every time you are shocked or dismayed by something you see people undertake to do to other people, remember that not long ago, you just wouldn’t have heard, seen or read about it. The fact that so many think the world is getting worse is a sign that it’s getting better; we’re trying harder, pulling away from the old norms, including more people in the fabric of society.
For the first time in human history, the concept of inalienable rights actually is somewhat broadly considered to apply to all categories of human being. Its application still lags well behind its conception, but at least all draft-eligible Americans can vote now–it cannot be forgotten that that has not yet even been true for fifty years!!! We are shocked and dismayed, as more of our old assumptions are brought to the ground; this dismay represents progress, as more people are brought into the fold of basic human opportunity. The best we can do, any of us older than preschool age, is thank ourselves for every way in which we’re free from the poisonous crap that’s been drummed into us from birth. We are products of a poisoned world, a world where people are defined by ridiculous parameters and not taught to see each other as individuals; where violence as instruction is taken for granted, and wars last for astounding lengths of time: where people collude to exclude others from citizenship for reasons as preposterous as skin color, genitalia or inherited religion. Where bullying, humiliation and authoritarian punishment are rites of passage.
Fortunately, the grand scale of human-on-human atrocity is actually getting smaller, as the world shrinks and we increasingly realize that, as it was once said, ‘an explorer from another galaxy would find us all very much alike’. We have to remember that, and remember that the only hope for our wretched but brilliant species lies in its future.