The Good Old Days Depend on Your Perception

positive senior man in eyeglasses showing thumbs up and looking at camera

“Kids today! (Hitches up stretchy pants to just below armpits.) They just don’t have the moral code we had when I was their age. Why, back in my day…”

There was a saying we used during my radio career, at 680 News. “Country club consultations.” That mildly derogatory phrase referred to programmers, sales people, and even clients who used their friends’ opinions as if they represented all of society. In other words, just because you and your pals are experiencing something, doesn’t mean it’s happening to everyone else.

But we do that, don’t we? We take our lives and make assumptions that most people are having the same issues. We do it with politics, social norms, and the way kids behave. So, we hear about one, three, or five people scamming the system and it becomes something that’s happening “all the time.” And a new study shows those assumptions are often wrong. Put another way, there’s no evidence to prove them, when it comes to morals.

This study was conducted by a couple of Harvard students. They began with a survey and found that people in 60 countries agreed that morality is declining. Folks are becoming less kind and considerate, they said. It’s a problem, they said. The survey was redone several times over a ten year span with the same results. People from all backgrounds, ages, income levels, and educational experiences agreed that others were less “kind, honest, nice, and good” than in years past.

Think about that for a second. Someone who’s 59 agreed with someone 29 that people were more moral when they were young. It’s just not possible.

Difficult to Change Minds

But getting people to accept that there’s little to no genuine evidence for this belief is almost hopeless, say the researchers. Politicians don’t help. Wannabe leaders of every party around the world promises to return us to better days. Those wonderful, happy-go-lucky times when we had real freedom, almost no crime, and slept on bundles of cash every night. And we all nod our heads like zombies and agree. Yeah, yeah, it was so good back then.

Childhood was better because we weren’t aware of the bullshit going on in adult lives. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t have a mortgage when I was seven. Nor did I worry about someone’s morals, beyond how they treated me or my family. The great decline is an illusion.

Despite what our parents told us, people in the 1950s were just as “amoral” as they are now. They were having sex, extramarital and otherwise. They simply hid it like they buried everything else they were afraid to talk about. If they became pregnant they had a shotgun wedding or back alley abortion. Some went to “visit their Aunt out of province” for a year and put their baby up for adoption. There were as many gay people, unfaithful people, rude people and so on. It just wasn’t as polite to talk about it.

I think – and I haven’t conducted a study to prove this – that it’s just part of human nature to perceive that things are in decline. That the “good old days” really existed. News is negative by nature, and we consume it whether or not we want to. A burglar robs a neighbor’s house, then “crime is on the rise” in a “nice” neighborhood. Kids used to hold the door open for an adult. Now they just power through it with their earbuds in, shutting out the world around them. Thirty percent of Americans surveyed now say they have “no” religious affiliation. Heathens! It all weaves together to make the world seem like a worse place.

And maybe it is. Or maybe it’s just what we want to believe to help us get through today.

4 thoughts on “The Good Old Days Depend on Your Perception”

  1. Reading this validates a concept I realized existed many, many,years ago. I call it “ the Childbirth Principle”. People tend to forget the pain and challenge of carrying then birthing the child, and focus only on the positive . If they didn’t, most families would have one child.
    I sit silently as some of my friends share events and experiences from their childhood as viewed through their “ rose coloured” memory. Life long friends, whom I’ve grown up with, attended school or been associated with and wonder to myself ,’I was there , you’re full of crap ‘.
    It’s important to not focus on the negative and retain the positive as much as we can, but let’s be real about it .
    I absolutely and wholeheartedly agree with you.

  2. I’ve never had rose coloured glasses about the past. The present moment I’m living in is the good day.

    And “others” agree with me 😉

    Carly Simon “These are the good old days” ~ Anticipation
    Nick Charles “Don’t kid yourself – these are the good old days” ~The Thin Man

  3. “The good old days,” is a reference to the inherent human coping mechanism we all have in order to survive the ever changing environment around us enabling us to filter things into something manageable.

    We’re creatures of habit and routine and strongly resistant to change. Many quickly switch gears and adapt, many others resist and seek for the “good old days,” others never change and are left behind with others suffering debilitating mental issues unable to adapt or make the adjustment.

    The Good Old Days is what has given you the foundation of who you are today, you’ve just adapted along the way since then.

    You learn from the past in order to live today and plan for the future!

  4. Through the work I do and family ties, I know quite a few young people. As a group, they are great. I fully believe they are going to save the world.

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