Do You Yearn for “the Good Old Days”? Have you heard this remarks “ They just don’t make cars the way they used to.” “Mom’s refrigerator lasted twenty years, but this is the third time ours has quit in two years.” “The old days seemed so much nicer, more peaceful.”
Do those remarks sound familiar? You likely have heard others speak that way, and may have said such things yourself.
Many persons yearn for what are called “the good old days.” They remember fondly how things used to be, and prefer that to how things are now.
There is a variety of reasons why persons speak nostalgically of “the good old days.”
Sometimes they have in mind the fact that products such as cars, appliances, clothing or houses seem to have been better in the past.
Others may be thinking more about the general way of family life or the general way of life that prevailed in years gone by. It will be revealing to examine both aspects.
Family life and friends
One thing that appeals to many about years gone by is the fact that people then seemed friendlier.
You got to know other people as friends. Good neighbors were not simply persons living nearby—they were also friends. There was less attention to material things and more attention to personal relationships.
In this regard, one millionaire basketball player was asked: “Are there any drawbacks to having a lot of money?” he replied:
You’re a target in many respects. It’s difficult to have a genuinely open relationship. You have to read people, you have to have your suspicions. The vast majority are going to be acquaintances. You can say ‘friend,’ but it really means acquaintance."
Yes, it is often the case today when ‘what you have’ or ‘what you can get’ seems so important to many. And, clearly, the scarcity of real friends is not the problem of just the wealthy.
Today’s exaggerated emphasis on possessions rather than relationships causes persons of all statuses to lack true friends. They therefore are inclined to yearn for “the good old days.”
Years ago family members did not constantly “isolate” themselves from each other in front of a 3D TV or a computer screen.
Nor did they have the sophisticated means of transportation that enable modern parents and youths to “zoom” away at high speeds in different directions.
Families did more things as a unit. The members were closer. This also contributed to more family conversation and memories that can be truly treasured.
General way of life
But there is more to the widespread yearning for “the good old days” than just an overlooking of the technical progress mankind has made.
As mentioned earlier, some persons particularly long for the way of life or the atmosphere that used to exist.
They may recognize that today’s manufactured goods are in certain respects superior to yesterday’s products, yet that alone does not bring them contentment.
They personally may sense that some fundamental need is not being satisfied to the extent that it was in former times.
Furthermore, some thinking persons may wonder whether this basic lack of satisfaction may be contributing to the general moral breakdown that we see abounding despite man’s material progress
The fact that we are not mere animals with physical needs so that the more abundantly these are supplied the happier we automatically must be.
Rather, humans have physiological and emotional needs too. And if these are not being satisfied, we will not be truly happy or find real joy in living.
For example, some researchers at the University of Connecticut studied seventy-five men who had given up executive jobs for lower-paying positions that would mean less pressure on them. The result?
Even though the men could not have as much materially, they “often had happier lives and better marriages.”
Another recent study of successful speculators in the stock market indicated that they tended to be failures in romance. Why?
It appears that their self-involvement with moneymaking ‘precluded them from getting close to someone else.’
So, while many persons find that they have more money and material things than in past years, they still may be fondly recalling “the good old days.”
True, years ago most persons had to work hard to earn a living, often putting in longer hours than is common today.
But it was normally a matter of their working to get the basic necessities of life, and then enjoying them.
On the other hand, today many persons are desperately pursuing ever more advanced technical products, but the fact is that the acquisition of these seems to bring them less real satisfaction.
With regard to manufactured goods, there is little doubt that craftsmanship was generally better in past years. Workers used to take more pride in what they did.
You could see that in the finished products. Years ago you were not as likely to find carelessly chipped paint or loose bolts on a new stove, auto-mobile, or bicycle.
The carpenter who built your cabinet probably was a real craftsman and he realized that he was working right in the community where he lived; as a result, he likely did a respectable job.
For one thing, it seems that much of the technical progress has been made our present living conditions a little more complicated.
To mass-produce the more complicated technical products, industrialized cities with many factories have been built, and these are recognized as chief contributors to the present pollution problem.
The industrialized way of life has had its effect on the workers too. They have been pressed into leading more hectic, nervous lives, as well as living in dirtier, less healthful surroundings.
This has taken its toll on the emotions and stability of people.
But as of now the distressing problems associated with today’s industrialization still exist, causing people to be unsettled and to long for the good old days.
But were all things better than now?
However, aside from workmanship, are today’s products inferior? In many cases, no. From a technical or practical standpoint most of them have improved.
For example, recall how often Mom faced the messy chore of defrosting the refrigerator, which did not even keep things very cold.
But if you own a newer model, it may have a separate freezing compartment as well as a self-defrosting unit.
True, it is more complicated, having more features that can malfunction. But do you not enjoy these features?
Would most persons readily go back to the type of refrigerator that Mom had or the simple icebox Grandma had?
Similar points could be made about new houses or cars. Someone may think of his old car as being more sturdy than that of today.
Yet, was its ride as comfortable and safe as that of recent models?
It probably was harder to start on cold days, more difficult to steer and took more effort to bring to a stop than today’s models that have better ignition systems, better power steering and improved brakes.
As to materials, plastics or polyesters may not have the same natural or rich “feel” as wood, leather, cotton or wool products that were common in bygone years.
However, they have their own advantages that we may tend to overlook. Ask a woman who each week used to have shirts to “blue” and starch if she misses that task.
Modern shirts and blouses made from blends of natural and synthetic fibres usually need less pressing and are more stain-resistant. And they may cost considerably less than all-natural products.
No, without doubt, there are certain good aspects of today’s products. Usually require less maintenance and have many labor saving features that are valuable in the fast-paced system in which we live.
But what is the value of being aware of these good aspects or the “spirit” that was more common in “the good old days”? Can we change how things are now? Definitely no.
The fact is that we personally cannot undo all the technical progress that has been made. Nor do we necessarily want to, such as by trying to live as our great-grandparents did.
Today is today. This is a fact we may have to learn to live with.