Sunday, May 31, 2009

Of Living in the Past is Not Necessarily Better

Olden DaysRecently there was an interesting casual discussion in ReCom where people talked about why they prefer living in the past or the present. It was intriguing that a lot of people prefer the past with the general sentiment being that it was more serene, peaceful and fresh. I beg to differ with this generalisation.

To begin with, I think we should make a good distinction between rural rustic life and the past. Many people equate the past with what it is like in rural area today; but this is a gross misrepresentation of the past. Yes the modern men may look at insulated villages for a glimpse of olden days; but that doesn't mean that life in the past is rustic, peaceful and wonderful. Not everyone in the past lived in small villages - towns and metropolitans have existed way before our grandparents were born, and people who lived in big towns definitely did not enjoy the serene life some of us conjured to be the typical life of the past. Our past was riddled with endless warfare in most corners of the world, and though we continue to face military conflict in many places today,  an unprecedented majority of the world population is currently enjoying the most peace at any point in history.

The proponents of living in the past also propose that relationships in the past was more lovey-dovey and close-knit in general. While there is some truth in it, it does not mean that inter-personal relationship today is inferior to the past in all regards.

Yes on average most people today don't spend the same amount of time at home or close to home compared to before. But guess what, last time if people were to leave their hometown they might not see their family for months, years or decades. But now we have the phone, Facebook, MSN, Skype and what not. And we have airplanes. We tend to forget that the very things that bring us apart easier, bring us together easier too.

Yes it might appear to us that most people today spend a lot of time on the phone, in the office, in the car, attend endless conferences and meetings and ignore their kids. But it would be simplistic to think that there were fewer busy people in the past - there were lots of people spending time farming, mining, brokering at Wall Street, travelling on steam train, and arguing with their bosses. Therefore, whilst working life were drastically different from today, and despite the irrefutable fact that urbanisation has made more people busier today; it doesn't mean that most people were free people who had all the time to spend with their kids and form great bonds with their neighbour's grandchildren.

There are certain things that are undeniable. It's undeniable that an urban dweller today is less likely to know their neighbours as well as a villager in the last century knew their neighbours. It's undeniable that there were less people who led a hectic city life in 19th century compared to today.

However, it's also undeniable that we form bonds in ways people would never have thought possible. People DO find their life partners online. I make friends in ReCom as electrons travel through servers, cobble wires and personal computeres. I get to see my parents regularly from 6000km away and Skype's voice quality is so clear it sounds like they are just talking in front of me. I know that there's no place on Earth which is too far to get to.

As with most things, there are gives and takes when we progress as a society. Some things we lose; some we gain. It's how we make use of the things we gain and salvage the things we lose that makes all the difference. In this post I haven't even mentioned the World Wars, the Great Depression, colonisation, Spanish flu, the Black death, typhoid fevers and many others. All considered, I propose it's not easy to make the case of the life in the past being better than the life today, as frivolous as all this talk may sound.

Note: This is a collage of a few posts of mine in the ReCom thread, so pardon me for the incoherence and lack of comprehensiveness.

Image Credit: L'Arte - Where Everyone's an Artist!

1 comments:

Joshing Joshua said...

Not to mention, civil rights. Past is better? Not if you are black, a Jew, a woman or a homosexual.

That oughta shut them idiots up.