Another dot in the blogosphere?

Good old days?

Posted on: February 1, 2021

When some people say how things were better in the “good old days”, have you ever wondered when those days were?

Well, Jason Feifer of the Build For Tomorrow (previously known as Pessimists Archive) podcast tried to figure that one out.

At around the 47-minute mark of his first podcast of 2021, he summarised how one generation romanticised the “good old days”. Those in the USA today might look back fondly on the 50s, those in the 50s preferred the 20s… and his research and interviews went all the way back to the early history.

This was made plain at the 44-minute mark. Feifer described how the ancient Mesopotamians, the first to write and record history in 3500 BCE, looked back to a time when humankind learnt to cultivate crops, create laws, and apply mathematics. They moaned that “since that time, nothing further has been discovered”.

The bottomline: We tend to look back at the past with fondness and desire even when the present has so much good to offer. Why do we do this? Feifer offered three reasons:

  1. Achievements of the past were evidence that we can do better.
  2. We attempt to reclaim the pride, processes, and/or products that were lost particularly to oppression by another party.
  3. Records of history that highlight “golden ages” were often driven by nostalgic narratives.

These cloud our perception. I think of it this way:

Nostalgia is like grammar. It makes the past perfect and the present tense.

So what is a rational person to do to clear our collective vision? Feifer suggested not aggressively telling people they are wrong — they will simply dig in. His alternative was to provide a more compelling narrative for the here and now.

That seems to his overall goal with the name change of his podcast. It is also a good principle for me to follow when trying to convince people about the good that technology can do in schooling and education.

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