What an age we live in.
That thought coursed through my brain as I was walking in Coal Harbour last week, digital camera in hand, snapping pictures. Then, as now, I’m glad I live in age when I have access to such a technological marvel, as well as other products of scientific and technological advancement, such as my computer, smartphone, mp3 player, printer, and digital alarm clock (though I’m thinking right now said alarm clock is a tad outdated). Other results of scientific advancement I’m glad I have access to fall under the medical category–I’m referring to MRIs, CAT scans, various vaccines, and the overall knowledge today’s medical professionals possess and can use to treat and help take care of people.
Also, in this day and age, there are a few social advancements: women and people of colour can vote and work for (somewhat) decent pay, and aren’t seen as the property of white men; people in many parts of the world are more supportive of LGBTQ folk and their human rights than they were even twenty years ago; the majority of people are demanding that those in power be held accountable for the decisions they make…I could probably go on here, but, for lack of anything else coming to mind right now, I’ll stop there. I know we have a long way to go in all of these areas, but we’ve advanced since the beginning of civil society.
Which begs the question of why so many people yearn for a return to, or of, the past–or, to use their phraseology, ‘the good old days.’
So many periods in history–the Renaissance, the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, the Victorian era, the 1950s–are often dubbed, or considered, ‘golden ages.’ Perhaps they were indeed golden ages in the times they occurred, and/or the people who lived in those times thought they were. But the world has changed since those eras, and societies with it. At this juncture in human history, I seriously doubt anyone wants to go back to a time when inventions such as washers and dryers for laundry, dishwashers (the machines), cars, airplanes, etc., didn’t exist, and weren’t even ideas, or when women and people of colour were subjected to various restrictions, and anyone who was not heterosexual had to hide it, for fear of harsh and brutal treatment. Yet I’ve heard and read about people who say the times we now live in are so bad, and whatever period of the past they favour and praise was better.
But was it really?
Any talk of any period of the past as ‘the golden age,’ or the ‘good old days,’ or as somehow better than the current time period, is, I postulate, an effect of what the Japanese call natsukashii, a term meaning a nostalgic yearning for a time that never really existed. I believe people who talk about any period of the past as being better than now ignore the worst parts of whichever periods they favour, and buy into whatever fairy tales they’ve bought into regarding those periods, based only on the parts they like. And I believe people who harbour this tendency do so because they are afraid of change.
The thing is, change is constant.
We’ve come a long way since the Stone Age, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, the Victorian era, the 1950s, and so on. I’m not denying some good can be found in those eras–but, in my humble opinion, there were more burdens, inconveniences, and downright horrors in those eras than anything good, and the people who lived in those eras did the best they could with the resources they had, and could get their hands on. We’ve improved on these eras in terms of resources, tools, and ideas. I, for one, am happy and grateful to live in this era, when I have access to so many resources, don’t have to worry about dying from any completely preventable ailments, and have many other advantages that were no doubt unimaginable in the past. As far as I’m concerned, I may not be living in a so-called ‘golden age,’ but the era I’m living in is, warts and all, pretty damn good.