I’m not sure why, but we seem to have a tendency to romanticize the past and fantasize the future. We look around at the world and think, “this must be the low point.”
Just think of American history. We idealize the founding fathers, placing them up on a pedestal of perfection, thinking that they knew exactly what they were doing and they did so perfectly, righteously and with complete disregard for self interest.
We look at our lying, cheating, philandering politicians and wish we had the kind of politicians that existed decades ago. You know — the lying, cheating, philandering kind.
The truth is, humanity is humanity. And the type of person who wants to be a politician in 2012 was exactly the same type of person that wanted the be a politician in 1812. They cut back-room deals, had affairs, and lined their own pockets. It’s just that now there’s television cameras around 24 hours a day so they get caught a lot more.
Think of your family history. Grandma and grandpa will tell you that the world was a much better place when they were younger. Smarter. Safer. Nicer. Cleaner. And great grandma and great granpa would say it was even smarter, safer, nicer and cleaner before grandma and grandpa were born.
You don’t even have to go back that far. Just go to your own youth. How many times growing up did you say “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.” Probably a lot. And yet, looking back, you don’t remember boredom. You remember pickup hockey games, catching crayfish and long walks through the field behind your house — or whatever your equivalent may be.
The world is the world. And people are people. Truth is, things haven’t changed that much since great grandma and great grandpa were doing their thing. Maybe it was cleaner, though.
Of course, we imagine that our lives will get easier. Next year will be better. You’ll eat better, excercise, have more money, get the girl, whatever.
Oh, and society is going to figure out what ails it next year, too. We’ll get rid of the jerks in office, have sweeping changes to make sure we never get taken advantage of again, invent flying cars, cure cancer and end world hunger.
My daughter and I were discussing the other day how much English has devolved from Shakespearean time to the American Revolution to now — and how much further it’s devolved because of text messaging. It made us wonder how much worse it will be in 200 years and what society is going to think 200 years from now looking back on today. I joked that in 200 years, Jersey Shore may be high brow. I certainly hope not.
The beautiful thing is, of course, we don’t live in Shakespearean times. Or during the revolution. Or 200 years from now. We live now. And when we look back on now, we’re going to remember that it was the best time ever.