Monday, August 31, 2015

The old time days were horrible

For the past two weeks I have been blissfully unaware of election news. That’s because during this time I have been virtually bedridden recovering from a small bout of pneumonia. I say blissfully, because I’d choose nausea, fever and constant coughing over having to stomach anymore election news any day. This election free news nirvana doesn’t look like it will last though. 
Thanks to modern antibiotics, I am well on my way to recovery. If I were born one hundred years earlier, in the good ole days, I might not have been so lucky. In the early Twentieth Century, pneumonia was the leading cause of death in countries around the world, and even minor infections like mine could have meant a death sentence.
This is the kind of mundane reality about the past you never hear about by people who love to go on about the 'good ole days'. Take for example Nappy Myers’s classic and nauseating song 'the ole time days'. Forget poor sanitation, illiteracy and lack of vaccines, ole time T&T, Nappy informs us was a kind of fantastical utopia. A place where we all “respected each other”, "lived like brothers” and apparently were only too eager to share our sou-sou money. 
Which I suppose came in handy for your family if you just died from an infectious disease like diphtheria because there was no vaccine yet available. You have to cut Nappy Myers some slack though, after all, who wants to hear a song about the benefits of having chest x-rays, antibiotics and vaccines.
But songs like 'the ole time days' aren't just harmless nostalgic drivel. People really do love to romanticize the past and believe that intuitively it makes sense to view the past as a place where humanity was more 'authentic'. A place untainted by such modern superficialities like the Internet, iPhones, and dialysis machines.   
This can manifest itself in incredibly stupid ways. Take for example the popular fad diet called the Paleo diet. The 'Paleo diet' was dreamt up by con men to appeal to morons, who believe that the diet of ancient Paleolithic man is the most natural and healthy way to eat. You know the Paleo era; it was before our diet became corrupted by such evils like bread, sugar and drinkable water. 
The fact that in real life, cavemen, if they were lucky, usually lived to the ripe old age of thirty-two hasn’t deterred people from buying into the idea of the paleo diet. Such is the power of delusional old time nostalgia.
Fad diets aren’t the only industry preying on our false ideas of the past. The ‘natural childbirth’ industry sells women the idea that in the old time days, you didn’t need things like epidurals, fetal monitoring or fancy hospital equipment to give birth. 
Never mind of course that maternal death and infant mortality rates were both absurdly high in the old time days. Then of course there is the organic food movement. The movement that says we should all be eating food farmed the old-time way. You know before ammonia fertilizers and pesticides existed and most of the world starved.
When nostalgia isn’t feeding us false glories of the past, it’s busy bemoaning the cultural decay of the present. There is no better example of this than current commentary about Carnival. Apparently in the old time days, Carnival was the highest, most pure form of artistic expression there was in T&T. Not like today, where people only treat it as an excuse to get drunk and have a good time. Like it’s some kind of Carnival. 
In the old time days, you had classic meaningful calypsos like Sparrow’s road march winning ‘Drunk and Disorderly’ or Lord Kitchener’s ‘Sugar Bum Bum’, not like the crass rum and sex songs you have today. Carnival costumes were also more creative back in the old time days as well. If you count copying sailor outfits and cowboy and Indian costumes as being creative.
In his article entitled 'The world is not falling apart' Steven Pinker reminds us that despite what we feel, we are living in the most peaceful and prosperous time in human history. All forms of human violence, sexual assault and victimization of children are on a global decline. 
We are heading into a future of unprecedented scientific achievement where poverty, disease and starvation may soon become things of the past. Therein may lie the real appeal of nostalgia. Not the longing of a glorious past. But a way to cope with a glorious future we won't live to see.

1 comment:

NomisTT said...

You're right. I hate when people (including my own parents sometimes) say "Long time we didn't have this or we had that" blah blah blah.

I was a child of the 80's and yes there is some nostalgia but there were a lot of things that we have now that I would have loved back then too. It's relative.

And I am very nostalgic person, but I am never serious if I say "the good old days".

The future is where the answers are. Look forward.