The Good Old Days vs. the Better Now

Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.

— Franklin Pierce Adams

In the next week, many of you will have interesting discussions with family members and friends. One or two might even throw at you the famous “things were so much better in the good old days”. In fact, this idea that things were so much better in the past seems to be a major thread for the past two years on the political side of things.

My first reaction to this kind of speech is always: yeah sure, the good old days meant dying at age 30-40 (yes that was the average lifespan not so long ago) from pneumonia or any kind of infections (no antibiotics), deadly viruses (no vaccines), surgeons were actually the local butchers, and the premier approach in the medical art was leeches…and this is only to start.

If fact, since the renaissance, and the rise of classical liberalism, the overall state of humanity is on an interesting path in terms of worldwide decrease of violence, large-scale wars and many other things. I am not saying that everything is perfect in the world. We clearly have a lot more to achieve as a species and the current, recent geopolitical might not be reassuring. In fact, many politicians are trying to convince us that things are bad, really bad and have been worst for many years now. So much so that we need to go back to the recipes of the “good old days”, those employed in the 1930s. But then there are the facts.

As a summer reading, I went for something uplifting, a book entitled the Better Angels of our Nature: why violence has declined by Steven Pinker. This is a well-research book with documented numbers that demonstrate that what we were told South of the border (for a Canadian that is!) by a then candidate, now president that violence is on the rise and worst that ever be and so on and so forth, not only this is not true but violence has continued to decrease even during that period.

Unfortunately, those who should read that book will probably never do it either out of bias (after all the author is a Harvard professor, which is as close to the devil as you can get – but this is another debate) or because the book is massive endeavor in itself…

The good news, Steven Pinker did a wonderful TED talk in April 2018. Just 18 minutes long that will deliver to you the main message of his book. This should be enough either to motivate you to get the book or at least to educate those dreaming of “the good old days”.


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