People are always complaining about our present day by telling us that back in the “good ol’ days” things things used to better. But every generation seems to think that their era was “the good ol’ days.” So the real question is, did such a time even exist? And if so, when were these “great” times we’ve built up in our minds?
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- Pessimist Archive
- Pessimist Archive Twitter
- Stranger Things, Miller Lite, and the Power of Nostalgia in the Marketplace
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Brittany: Hi, Connor
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: So I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the good old days. People seem to be a little bit obsessed with this idea that back in the day, and I say that with air quotes, back in the day, things were so much better than they are today. And we see that even with the election, right? You’ve heard this slogan Make America Great Again, for example. But what does again mean, right again, means would mean that there’s like a time before now that was so much better than right now. So I guess my question to you today, Connor, is when were the good old days, what do you think?
Connor: Oh, that’s an interesting question because I think, I think we like to sanitize history. Yes. that’s kinda a weird way of saying it. Sanitizes like clean or we try and like, we try and have like a different version of it. I’ve actually been reading a lot of history books lately that are designed to teach children, so like social studies, you know, third grade, fourth grade, fifth grade kind of stuff. And it’s amazing how the authors kind of portray, historical events, you know, like they, they can totally change the perspective on something by simply changing one word or by removing part of the story. And so thinking about the good old days makes me think that like, you know, throughout history there have been days that have been horrible and there have been like, you know, there were a lot of things that were way worse about history that if we’re just talking generally, you know, in a lot of ways life has never been better. And, granted there are some aspects of history that I personally think are, you know, people were, better off in a sense, or things might have been better in a way. but, you know, you couldn’t pay me to go back and live in say, the 18 hundreds like you could literally pay me no amount. We, I, just told my kids the other day, like, you know, they’ve been, struggling and, in a sense of like, you know, complaining about things that, you know, don’t perfectly match their expectations. I’m like, guys, you need to understand you live as an 11-year-old and a 90-year-old better than kings just a century ago. and so in so many ways, I think in, most ways life has never been better.
Brittany: Yeah, I would agree with that. And even the times where you can think of, I think I talked in a past episode about how I missed video rental stores, you know, even though I missed that, it’s not like I’d go back because even if I went back to those days, I wouldn’t have the internet and I don’t think I could live without social media. So well, I’d bring this up because I was listening to a podcast earlier today. We’ve mentioned the podcast before, it’s called The Pessimist Archive and they talk about technology and, kind of the history of technology and how people used to fear it. Well, on this one it was a little bit interesting on this episode that I listened to. They dove into this topic, but they tried to track down when the good old days were right. So they went to somebody and say, when do you think the good old days were? And if they said, oh, the 1950s. And they went into the 1950s and they tried to track down similar studies. So in the 1950s, they asked somebody, when were the good old days, oh, the 1920s, then they go to the 1920s. So they did this, and they actually ended up going back thousands of years trying to track this down. And what they ended up finding out is there were no good old days every, right, like every single era was like, oh, no, no, no, we need things back to how they used to be. But every time that they went on like this, this perpetual treasure hunt, it didn’t lead them anywhere. They just found out that everybody wanted something that didn’t really exist. So I don’t know what you think about that, but I thought that was pretty interesting.
Connor: Well, let me, put it back on you. Why do you suppose that people have the tendency to feel like, you know, years past were the good old days? It sounds like this is just a general human thing, that people throughout time have always looked to the past and fondly remembered the good old days. Cuz you know, they’re, seemed calmer or, you know, whatever than today. What, do you suppose it is about life or the human condition that leads people to feel that way?
Brittany: This is kind of a two-part answer based on what I learned on the podcast today. And one of the interesting things about this is it’s not a human condition. It’s a very European condition. So you and I, obviously we don’t live in Europe, but we are of European descent. Not to assume where you’re from, but I would have to imagine Connor, you’re of European descent, So
Connor: I’m a Scottish descent. So I, let’s see, did Scotland leave the European Union? I don’t remember.
Brittany: I don’t remember,
Connor: But yeah, I get your point. Broader European,
Brittany: Broader European, no, you’re fine. So broader European descent. So this is very unique to us and a lot of it goes back to something we’ve talked about before, which is individualism. So nostalgia is a word that means longing for the past. And it’s interesting because it’s not necessarily a happy word, even though you’re looking back at the memories fondly, you’re almost like sad because you missed the past so much. And when they did this whole thing and they tried to track it down, they noticed that everybody had this longing for their past, but they tracked it down to where or tried it back to when people started living in less tribal societies and were individualistic. So back in the day, people used to record maybe a group or a tribe’s history. That was really the only history that mattered. You know, what your tribe did. Well, later on in European history, people started writing about individuals who changed history, not just the tribe. And it’s when you see an individual record of stories where they can actually start to trace back where people started, where nostalgia started this missing the past. So I thought that was really, really interesting.
Connor: Yeah, that is interesting. And it’s one thing to have nostalgia about the past, I think when we run into problems, is that when people use that to then fear the future. Yes. Right. Because oh, things were better. back in the day, at least I feel that way. and I rhymed, Hey so, you know, things used to be better in the past, therefore I can assume that things are going to be better today than they’re in the future. So I don’t like change. Yes. I don’t like, you know, upsetting things. We’ve talked in the past about like automation where, you know, some people like that there was, you know, the cashier at McDonald’s, well now we’re kind of changing where it’s gonna be touch screens or you can place an order on your phone and then someone walks it out to you in your parking lot or whatever. And so, you know, people, especially like older people who have been used to a certain way of doing things, seem to have this desire to kind of keep things the same, almost like a conservative kind of thing. They want to conserve the way that things are and then that leads them to oppose or, have concerns about the future. So then that leads to the people saying, oh, we don’t like automation because it destroys jobs. And we talked about that in a past episode, but I feel like it’s connected to this where people have kind of nostalgia for the past. And so they almost have this like, unsettling feeling about new technology and new innovation that continues to change what they’ve been used to.
Brittany: That’s a good point. And on another, you know, angle and this kind of ties into that, it’s a good selling point, right? So like nothing sells better than nostalgia and not just when you’re talking about ideas like that with fear, it also sells in the market. I don’t know how many families are watching what is the, it’s not scarier things, what is the show called? Stranger Things? Yeah, stranger Things. So that became like this crazy important show. And a lot of the reason that it did is because it calls back to a lot of parent’s pass, right? It’s said in the eighties, and a lot of parents today grew up in the eighties, and so they wanted to go back to their past. They wanted this nostalgia. And we see the same thing happen in governments, right? Make America great again. People want to go back to this, this time that they believed was so great, so much better than now. And, is it according to the research? It really wasn’t.
Connor: So that’s interesting and, you know, the pessimist archive that you mentioned, we’ll, link to that episode, on today’s show notes page and also to their Twitter account. So for the parents who are on Twitter, this is an account that I think is definitely worth following because, what these, so the pessimist archive, the whole concept is they’re creating an archive, they’re creating content or rather they’re gathering content, identifying in the, in the past when people have been pessimistic about the future when people have made false predictions about the future when they’ve been worried about something. I remember, reading one some time ago where people in the 18 hundreds were, you know, asked about the future. and you know, one concept was, you know, that everyone was bald, that this person said that the rapidity of modern conveyance, which means that the rapid nature, the speed of modern transportation, in other words like, you know, cars, except they, they didn’t know about cars yet. so that the speed of modern transportation literally scalped those who journeyed much so that this person’s concept of the future was that, you know, there’d be some new-fangled way of being transported apart from just, you know, carriage and, buggy on a horse and, to the point where people would be bald because they couldn’t handle the speed. another person said that you know, oh, monstrous machines will fly within inconceivable swiftness, you know, and it’s like they
Brittany: Weren’t wrong.
Connor: Yeah, yeah, there you go. And, so people try and contemplate what the future’s gonna look like. And, it’s so fun to look back in the past because as we review how people in the past have been wrong or wrongly concerned, overly concerned about the future, that, you know, things have not turned out as, horribly as, many have feared and predicted, I think that gives us more confidence today for the future because we can see, like, look, all the people who were nervous today complaining about the McDonald’s guy losing his job or, you know, whatever, we can say, you know what, it’s gonna turn out alright. Cause look, people have always been just like nostalgia. People have always kind of looked back, the people have always been kind of nervous about the future as well. And, things have turned out all right. It’s not gonna be, you know, always these doomsday scenarios of people, worrying about things. So I think it’s important to learn from the past, which is why I love these guys’ accounts at Pessimist Archive because they provide just so many examples that they dig up from history, showing, you know, where these predictions failed. And it shows that I think as people, we kind of have a really weird sense of, I guess progress is the word.
Connor: Cause like we look back with nostalgia and we think, oh, things were so rosy when really there were a lot of problems in the past that we’ve since solved and technology has made better and life is more convenient and easy and, blah, blah blah. And so we, have a bad sense of progress in the past, and then we also have a bad sense of progress in the future in terms of like not being able to predict how much better our lives are gonna be and just how crazy some innovations and, and so forth are gonna make lives even better in ways we can’t even imagine right now. and so I just love the pessimist archive for that reason.
Brittany: I think you’re right. And I think one of the main reasons we do that is we get scared about things we don’t know. So the past, even if the past wasn’t even that great, at least we know what happened. And so there’s no surprises, right? There’s no twists and turns. Sure. So we think the reason that maybe we get so caught up in the past causes at least it’s predictable, it’s what we know where, you know, people used to be scared of the internet. They didn’t know what that would bring. Of course, maybe they should have been, but, we’re here now. So it’s interesting. It’s because we don’t know what lies ahead for us. But I get excited because I can’t imagine anything right now, you know, better than my iPhone. I can’t imagine what technology is going to be better than this, but I know there will be, there will be something great. So I think instead of fearing things that we should be kind of excited to face the future and see what it holds.
Connor: Amen. That’s a great note to end on, guys. Head to Tuttletwins.com/podcast to find the links that we’re sharing with you today. Make sure you’re subscribed and share the podcast with a friend or two or 23. And, until next time, Brittany, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.