Everything used to be better, in former times, the older generations think. The Youngsters don’t know the old days so think it’s all better now, that’s their standard. It’s always a bit more nuanced, of course. But let’s turn it around, question the elder with regard to the younger standard: What is there now, in 2022, and not in the past, that you would not want to miss anymore? Say 50 years ago. And then of course the other way around, after all, we are elderly… A small anthology, with yet another new year.
After some thought, I have to conclude that much of what seems indispensable today, in fact we already had back then, but then simpler or without electricity: you already wrote documents on a typewriter, on the same keyboard as you still have today. Only now electrically, the text is recorded and, that is, is very easy to change, instead of all that typpex back then. (the spell checker doesn’t even know the ‘word’…) And take photo cameras, hedge trimmers, washing machine, and the like: they all existed, just not electrically. By the way, I still cut my hedges by hand: it saves me electricity and a visit to the fitness center. And then there is TV and telephone, it was already there, and electric as well, albeit in a clunky big form and not mobile. I could still live with all the variants from that time, both the non-electrified and the clumsy variants. But that wasn’t the question…
What has essentially changed, and what I in any case find indispensable, or would in any case greatly miss, is in the first place access to information, in all variants and forms. That is truly a Valhalla. Although I have to admit that it now tends to ‘information overflow’, too much….
Another thing I wouldn’t want to miss: open borders! You can travel all over Europe without a problem: Of course, those borders also had their charm, especially in Eastern Europe, but at a certain point they only became annoying. Now it is wonderful to wander in Europe, especially with the Euro for which the same feeling applies: all those different coins were fun, but at a certain point it was just difficult: I still have a drawer full of those old coins.
I had to think about all this after an intriguing thread on Reddit: In the forum the question was asked, what do you miss most from the past, especially the less common things. Of course, only the elderly can answer this…! And the answers were fascinating and recognizable.
Starting with some more general stuff like missing the sears/wehkamp catalog, or finding records in a real shop , or renting a movie from a video store. (for the younger elder)
Something more poetic for example is someone who writes: “rsvp mattered”. Indeed, much more planning was needed, and letting you know whether or not you were coming was important. Making plans was an adventure anyway, some responded: such as going to the cinema: first make an appointment, find out film times (where is the newspaper for Thursday…), find out bus times (walk to and look at the bus stop pannel…), etc. And then call your girl friend if she joint you. And then you first got the parents on the line….
Another one writes: I miss the innocence, not knowing a lot of things. That is indeed something you can no longer imagine today: that something is really unknown. Although, people do try to make things unknown again: through fake news and conspiracy theories, reality and the news become ‘unknown’ again.
Others add: the lack of knowledge was related to practicing patience, waiting for the next newspaper or magazine, which comes only a week later. And something you looked forward to. And many missed that.
Again someone else misses writing letters. Indeed, when I think back, how many letters have I written? Especially professionally. Every invitation or question was sent by letter, and the answer took a few days. There was already a telephone, but just calling someone was much too informal. ( That’s something very handy today, with that email and all….)
But the best reaction came from someone who wrote how she went to Paris from the US, to study for a year, arrived there with a few hundred dollars. And nothing else: no mobile phone, no internet, only a tiny guidebook of Paris and the address of a hostel, obtained via via. And not knowing anyone, you were 100% on your own, and had to find out everything on the spot, and above all a lot of questioning! Asking people! But it worked! And you managed, without all modern means.
Not least by hitchhiking… That was completely normal. When I was a student, I hitchhiked home and back every weekend. Rain or shine. Occasionally you were unlucky and stood for hours, but usually that went quickly. There were even special hitchhiking places on the outskirts of towns.
Unprecedented for new generations these days, but it did indeed work that way. Traveling was an adventure, literally. I remember when on vacation we called home once a week, that was all contact during that period. And vice versa, my parents called just once to tell me where they were. You might also receive a postcard, although more often the parents returned from vacation before the card was delivered.
But even in your own environment, if you were out for a day, you were unreachable for a day. Privacy was more or less self-evident.
It was a nice list, building up in that Reddit post. I could also add a few things:
Boredom. Just nothing to do. Hanging out a bit, playing cards, standing by the local football field, watching. Or you just started doing something, and discovered new things that you would never do otherwise. I had that feeling again during the first corona lockdown. The Sunday nothingness , actually, is what I miss.
Which is also no longer there and what I also miss, if you think about it: there was no through traffic, or barely: almost everything was local destination traffic.
And perhaps the most important: not knowing at the time, what is needed today, or already seems indispensable… If we had all known at the time what was coming…. We were already quite happy actually, flower power, hitchhiking on vacation and such things, we didn’t see the point in going in the direction of capitalism and imperialism. If we knew then what we know now, what was yet to come, I wonder how we would have dealt with it…
Young people don’t think about this, I recently realized: for them today is simply the standard, the reference. They again have no idea what will come their way in the next 50 years… However… We do have some idea, although we don’t know exactly how that will turn out in practice, and I don’t know if I want to know all that , so I also miss the ‘not knowing’ again….
Image home page: Rolling Stones: 50 years of change…? Living in a Ghost Town, a new song released in 2020… Great song, Stones are now at their peak….