That was then, this is now

Were the good old days all that good, or is this the best of times? Table Talkers weigh in this week.

Published September 29, 2006 10:35AM (EDT)

Private Life

The Good Ol' Days vs. Now!

David - 08:42 pm Pacific Time - Sep 23, 2006

Do you long for days passed: the much simpler times of your youth, cheap gas, catching frogs in the ditch, no Big Brother? Or, are you like, "No way! There was no TiVo, plasma screen television, CD, DVD, iPod, satellite radio, Costco, Home Depot, Target!?

ninj - 12:38 pm Pacific Time - Sep 25, 2006 - #4 of 18

I prefer the bad old days when folks were poor but retained dignity, courtesy, manners, and a reverence for privacy, while being part of a large family.

I prefer the bad old days when we still respected the neighbors' privacy when the windows were open ... before the days of air conditioning.

I prefer the bad old days when it was more common to look out for others ... rather than stare at others.

I prefer the bad old days when home was a place full of love ... rather than bursting with electronics and the self-consuming craving for instant gratification via material attainment.

Chronica - 08:55 pm Pacific Time - Sep 26, 2006 - #7 of 18

Help me, Jesus, I long for the halcyon days of the 1970s. Yes, there was a lot of crap going on then. But everything wasn't polished and marketed and focus-grouped to death. And it was Before Reagan.

Just Lee - 09:12 pm Pacific Time - Sep 26, 2006 - #10 of 18

I miss when politics were civil. Sure they were crooked but everyone knew that. It's the lack of respect for the position of the elected office that has grown. While it may have begun before, it took hold with the election of Clinton and the rise of Rush. I am guilty myself, having no respect for the current Occupant, but I try to keep my objections factually based, related to his decisions in office and actual statements made. (Lord help us, he gives us so much ammo for this.)

As to the gadgets, you can have my computer when you pry it from my cold, dead hands! The information that is at my fingertips is just astounding. I had no public library as a child, and the one at school was limited. "Look it up" was a task that might take days. "Google it" is so much easier, and you can find answers from many sources, you can read varying opinions, and you can see how the answer varies from country to country (depending on the topic, of course). The miniaturization of electronics is another thing I wouldn't want to reverse. I may not use my MP3 player a lot but it sure beats carrying my record player and a stack of 45s to my friend's house to share favorite music.

Soj - 09:55 pm Pacific Time - Sep 26, 2006 - #11 of 18

In the 1970s I was a kid living in a really abusive household and asthma drugs were horrible; they hadn't come up with inhalers so every attack meant a trip to the E.R. Not fun at all. And I lived in a nice white suburb where I got to hear "Nigger," "Half-breed" and "Oreo" way too often.

The 1980s were much better because I was older and OUT of that household. New medical technology came up with albuterol. There were also a lot less people in San Francisco in particular and California in general. Life was slower, but you could make it spin as fast as you wanted without pressure. There was one or two homeless people in the hood, and you sometimes slipped them $10 cuz they were such a novelty and you did feel bad for them.

Plus, there was punk rock music to get your aggressions out with. People without jobs formed punk bands and sometimes squatted in buildings, living feral and crazy. Punk rock was political, not commercialized, and posers were for the ass kicking. Alas, punk was dangerous at the beginning but it became defanged and commercial soon enough. It could be hard to get a job, no matter what Reagan said about tax cuts stimulating the economy. The minimum wage was like $3.35 an hour and no one I knew had any money for anything extra.

In the 1990s everyone started to get EZ credit. Lots of bankruptcies. Medical technology continued to improve for asthma and allergies. And for the first time ever, there were hair straightening products on the mainstream market! You didn't have to get Dark and Lovely for every damn thing, and white girls were literally ironing their hair.

The economy was good, and while our president wasn't perfect, damn he was so much better than what we've got now. I started thinking of getting an education for the first time in my life, and things looked positive. Everyone was making money hand over fist with computers and the Internet. It was also the rise of the Radio Right and Dr. Laura, though, and they would NOT let up on Clinton.

2000s. Damn. Stolen election, tanked economy, and war. It's not the easiest decade, that's for sure. Do I want to go back? Sure, but forever? I don't know. I'd like to go back to the 1990s and bet on a few of those stocks that blew up! But not to the 1980s or 1970s.

Gordon Wagner - 08:12 am Pacific Time - Sep 27, 2006 - #12 of 18

Post-it notes and the IBM PC (with U2 and the Police playing in the background) seemed to mark the end of a friendlier time in this country.

Reagan, greed, yuppies in suits (nuclear war? there goes my career!) -- the older, funkier parts of town being shredded and replaced with less desirable buildings, smaller businesses closing ...

It seems like we slipped the leash of our handlers in the early '70s. It took marketers a while to catch up. I remember watching "My Dinner With Andre" at one of the local second-run theaters (pre-VCR, remember!) and the point being made that the late '60s were humanity's last gasp at salvation. A high-water mark.

I have yet to experience anything to make me believe otherwise. We are living in a kind of new Dark Ages.

Taffy Lewis - 10:01 am Pacific Time - Sep 27, 2006 - #14 of 18

I am always nostalgic about my past. Even the shitty times have a certain poignancy in my memory -- luckily I became aware of this early on, i.e. realized this must be a false effect of human memory, and so I'm retraining myself to accept that now is pretty good too.

I wonder if we have similarities in cultural memories as well. I am amazed every time a conservative pines for the good ol' days, as if owning slaves and sexually abusing children -- "traditional family values" -- were somehow a good thing.

I myself could not live in a world without civil rights, without technology, without this huge bunch of knowledge accessible to everyone. Sure kids these days have taken your mama's instant gratification, free-based it, and found it lacking. Wah wah wah, kids these days!

The threat of free-market secular democracy looms large everywhere now, because we're on the same page. So does the threat of insular little gangs of thugs ruling by might makes right. It's all free choice, and we're asked to make courageous decisions.

We realize that people are inherently smart and people are inherently stupid, and that there is no contradiction. Interesting times are had right now.

Robert Chariot - 05:06 pm Pacific Time - Sep 27, 2006 - #15 of 18

I have no "Nostalgia Gene." I do not feel, nor do I want to feel, nostalgia for any phase of my life, for any experience. I have never owned a snap camera and have never taken snaps of birthdays or trips and such. When I see the hordes of travelers snapping here and snapping there, snapping-snapping-snapping, doing nothing but snapping, I wonder: are you experiencing, interacting with this moment, this event, or are you cataloging the moment, like some kind of prim technical archivist, so that you can experience it later, perusing tiny square paper images in the safety of some womblike living room, when life is not actually occurring in all its immediacy, its beauty and terror?

I do not understand the dynamics of nostalgia. When life is happening all around you, are you to ignore the present, take out that old photo album, submerge yourself in memories of another time, and say to yourself, "I was so happy -- then. That's when I was really happy."

No. Sorry, not buying it. Nostalgia is a marketing paradigm designed to sell Kodak products. If I am unhappy with the present, I do not waste a moment basting myself in memories of the oh-so-much-happier past. I change the present -- myself, or my situation -- to create more happiness. Now. And I don't take pictures of it for later. I just live it.

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