Tuesday, January 05, 2021


There is a certain cast of mind that always thinks the Good Olde Dayes were better, because we view the past through a nostalgic prism.  It's not only conservatives, as liberals can get worked up over the days that "a man could support a family on a good union wage," neglecting, just for openers, the high poverty rate, smaller houses, and terrible food

These days the wonderful freedoms our forefathers enjoyed are much in the growsing around the internet. While it's not untrue, it does sometimes make me crazy to listen to it. Garrison Keillor nailed it when he said "We thought those were simpler times, because we were children and our needs were looked after by others." The girls were prettier then, tomatoes were tastier, and kids knew the value of a dollar, dammit.

There was first of all, conscription.  We might think it a good thing to require military service (or at least training) for all our young people, as the Israelis, Swiss, and Norwegians do, but there's no getting around that it's serious limit on freedom to take 2-4 years of your young life. One may also think, as I do, that marijuana legalisation is a worse idea than most people credit, but it is worth remembering that you could get a long prison sentence for a couple of doobies. Or for having sex with someone of a different race, or the same sex. Or sometimes even not having the right kind of sex with your own wife, though that was admittedly rare. You could sell cigarettes to 12-year-olds, which I suppose is a kind of freedom, but in many towns you couldn't sell a magazine that had undressed women in it, even in poses we would now find laughably artificial in covering up the good bits. Movies? Radio? The government told you what was good for you, Jasper.

Next, even blacks who are not especially radical or women who largely reject current feminism might give you a pretty stern lecture about how much "freedom" there was back in the day. Jews would be more mixed, but few would let you get away with a claim that they were more free in 1960.  They might have been very, very happy and grateful that they didn't live some other place, but that's not the same thing. Blind people, deaf people, folks in wheelchairs...try and sell them on the idea of going back. Say the prayer out loud Stephanie, word for word, just like we told you. Not much you can do about abusive parents, abusive teachers, abusive coaches, abusive bosses. Not that any of that ever happened, though.

Maybe you could get a building permit or a loan. In some places that was easier then - but in other places harder, just because you didn't look right.  And I don't just mean black.  You might look too Italian. And you might not get to build a church, either.  They have a nice Catholic church two towns over.  Why don't you go there? If you got beat up you should take care of that yourself, and anyway, you should know better than to go there at night.  Even if you had a job downtown on the night shift. Oh, the police beat you up?  Oh, you clearly deserved that. If your daughter got raped you might be told she probably asked for it. That's freedom for someone, I guess, but not for her.

There are freedoms that come from simple prosperity.  It irks me when the wrong people try and take credit for this, most notably the government, but there was a lot of inconvenience we would notice if we were transported back to 1970. Need cash anytime outside of 9-5 business hours?  Maybe the grocery would cash your check. If not, maybe some other business would take your check, for gas, or a couple of drinks.  Worse painkillers and medical care. Reparative dentistry not so common, and painless dentistry nonexistent.  There are freedoms which flow from simply being able to enjoy them.  

Want to buy a controversial book?  You might not even hear about it, might not be able to find out if it's any good, might not be able to find out where to buy it. Growing a beard?  No job for you, not in this town. 

We forget.  We pretend.


GraniteDad said...

Great post. It is something that is very easy to fall into. Garrison Keillor definitely nailed it.

I am someone very drawn to nostalgia, but there is a very specific nostalgia that works personally but not when writ large for a society.

Sam L. said...

You left out Polio. As for Keillor, I burned out on him 15-20 years ago.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yeah, me too. There was sharp break related to his going to Denmark for a while. This was from his earlier stuff, which I still find entertaining - and valuable.

And yeah, polio. Wiped out by government mandated vaccination, I recall.

james said...

I just finished scanning a row of slides from '54. House size, clothing, cars, _railings!_--all less good.

Donna B. said...

I don't think the polio vaccine was government mandated. In my house, it was Mom mandated, so I could be remembering wrong. Another way I don't think this is comparable is that polio was killing children, Covid is killing old people. AARP really can't replace the March of Dimes here. Also, trust in government has been eroding since Nixon and a government mandate would now, I think, result in far fewer people getting the vaccine AND result in fewer people getting other vaccines.

Grim said...

So, for me nostalgia looks like Smokey and the Bandit. If you ever see that movie playing and are curious, you can watch it and see exactly what the world of my childhood looked like. It's captured so nicely that I can go see it whenever I want.

And, you know, the cars really were better then. Oh, the computers make them smoother now, and more fuel efficient by far, but man those old muscle cars were really something. And the Panhead/Shovelhead motorcycles are really great bikes, even today if you put the work in to fix them up and keep them running. I guess they required more maintenance, but that was part of the lifestyle.

On the other hand, as the premise of the movie holds, it really was a Federal offense to bring Coors beer east of the Mississippi river. Why? Who knows? It just was for some reason.

And crooked sheriffs were the bane of the South, just as advertised.

Donna B. said...

Grim - don't get me started on the cars! I even miss a few cars of the 90s.

james said...

One of my sons is driving a '96 Accord.

Texan99 said...

Just spitballing: over a long period there's going to be lots of change, some good, some bad. For every change I regret there's a change I celebrate, and vice versa. It's exasperating to see things become intractable problems that used to be simple to solve--like gosh, how come it's hard to teach multiplication now? On the other hand, I like modern dentistry, laparoscopic surgery, the internet, and vaccines that come to market in 9 months instead of four or twenty years. I'm sorry to see people advocate
medical gender reassignment for 4-year-olds, but I have a lot less to put up with in the area of being excluded from things because of my XX chromosome. The fact is, people are, were, and will be idiots.