February 16, 2006

The Mythical Golden Past


A friend of mine recently tried to brighten my day by sending me a chain letter with a long list of things that were common a few decades ago but have now disappeared. A few of these golden moments were:

>> Remember when:
>> All the girls had ugly gym uniforms?
>> It took five minutes for the TV to warm up?
>> Nearly everyone's Mum was at home when the kids got home from school?
>> Nobody owned a purebred dog?
>> You could leave your wallet and shoes wrapped up in a towel on the beach and know that they would be there when you got back?
>> You'd reach into a muddy gutter for a penny?
>> Your Mum wore stockings that came in two pieces?
>> All your male teachers wore ties and female teachers had their hair done every day and wore high heels?
>> You got your windscreen cleaned, oil checked, and petrol pumped, without asking, all for free, every time?

Well, I replied with a few of my own:

I also remember three white boys ganging up on a black or latin boy just because he was different.
I also remember the mayor "adopting" a new mexican boy every year and nobody wondering why, or how.
I also remember policemen (no police women) telling women they could get off from a traffic ticket in exchange for a blow job and nobody complained.
I also remember male high school teachers keeping female students after class for detention only to wind up giving them "extra credit" for the quality of their work.
I also remember being able to slip $20 to the police chief (since everybody was on a first name basis anyway) in order to make a speeding ticket disappear.
I also remember the "urban improvement project" that used city funds to build a bordello where illegal immigrants were employed to entertain the city council and their friends.

Our world is a bloody mess. There is no doubt about that. A little time watching the daily news reveals a world filled with nations at war, nations sponsoring terrorism, nations that are corrupt from top to bottom, and nations with bureaucracies so incompetent they cannot deliver mobile homes across state lines to help a city filled with people made homeless by a hurricane.

The great illusion is the belief that somehow the world was better when we were children. It wasn't. In many ways, it was far worse. Instead of watching a soap opera this afternoon, or dropping down to the mall for a latte, try spending some time watching The History Channel.

Our world is a bloody mess for one reason and one reason only: we have not learned from the mistakes of our past! Greed, corruption, ambition, selfishness, power abuse, these problems have been with us from the dawn of time. Some Sumerian clay tablets record trials and punishments for crimes that are no different than what the evening news reports on every day of the week. Two of the first laws in the Code of Hammurabi were prohibitions against murder and rape, both still common crimes in the modern world.

Our world is a bloody mess because we are. Each and every one of us. Until we learn to accept the differences between us as natural, until the wealthy learn they are not the center of the universe, until we realize that the focus of our society must be on helping the underprivileged and those unable or even just unwilling to contribute, then we will do nothing more than perpetuate the myth of a golden past that never, ever existed.

I'm sorry, but until every individual from the most powerful among us to the most disenfranchised starts taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions our world is destined to endlessly repeat the mistakes of our ancestors. Not only is there no golden past, I strongly suspect there will be no golden future!