The "Good Old Days" Fallacy Dates Back To Prehistoric Times
"The good old days" are something to which we've all referred at one time or another. Typically, we're remembering a simpler time, whether it's a call back to our childhood or merely a time when our phones only served a single purpose. However, it's more likely than not that we're looking back through rose-colored glasses. Let's take a look at the "good old days" fallacy.
"Our Memory is a More Perfect World than the Universe"
The phrase "the good old days" is actually a recognized fallacy that encourages us to look back on history in a better light. If it were really true that the complications of the modern world are ruining everything, it would stand to reason that our caveman ancestors were happier because life was simpler, but ask a group of people if they'd rather return to the time of mammoth stampedes and rampant sepsis and you'll get your answer.
Every Period In History Waxed Poetically On "The Good Old Days"
When many people think of paradise, they think of ancient Greece and its vaunted scholars. Upon closer examination, however, efficient systems of plumbing were noticeably absent during that time, as were basic human rights for anyone who wasn't a wealthy male citizen.
Another time that is often held up as the pinnacle of humanity was the early reign of Christianity and the Roman Catholic Church. Many scholars have praised the medieval virtues that supposedly built the theocratic paradise, but events like the Crusades have dulled that notion.
The American "Good Old Days"
The earliest "good old days" of America came in the 18th century, in the era dubbed the "Gilded Age." (Those early years of starvation and war aren't looked back on as fondly for some reason.) Christian Fundamentalists that you've likely never heard of like Larry Pratt, R.J. Rushdoony, and David Burton promoted New England Puritan theocracy as the height of human civilization. Mark Rushdoony's quote "We must base our laws on faith, not reason" throws that notion out the window pretty quickly.
Another time that we enjoy romanticizing is the groovy era of Woodstock and Happy Days. It's harder to remember Kent State, lynchings, and the lack of voting rights in such a warm light.
International "Good Old Days"
Americans aren't the only ones fondly remembering times that weren't so awesome. The Germans have a word, ostalgie, that essentially combines "nostalgia" and "east." In practice, it entails a fondness for communism and the East German police state. It's also exactly why Germany keeps records in the Stasi Archives of the atrocities that occurred.
In Russia, there are apparently even those who still remember Stalin's governance fondly. Of course, they conveniently forget that the Gulags came to pass under his especially brutal watch. He also oversaw the starvation and deaths of millions as he and his cronies dined on caviar.
Personal "Good Old Days"
Many people attribute the "good old days" fallacy to their own lives. They remember bright summer days, running around without a care in the world, and winters playing in the snow. Sociologists trace these beliefs to selective memory and the lack of today's ills as proof that yesteryear was better. For example, an old man might bemoan the pain in his knees as proof that life was better before they hurt, but he's likely to only remember the pleasant days of childhood rather than the terrible ones. As author Rita Mae Brown once said, "One of the keys to happiness is a bad memory."
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