Sometimes I’ll hear people say “things weren’t so great back in the ol’ days.” Most of them are referring to the 1950s, and it’s in response to the nostalgic types who look back fondly on the era of Leave It To Beaver. They’ll point out less savory aspects of the era, some of which are blown out of proportions, but some of them unfortunately were as bad as described today.
I’ve been asked for my take on this from time to time. At first I didn’t know what to say. How do you quantify or measure the morality of millions of people, of an entire society, culture, and country? You can’t.
However, I can say that things were more stable. I think this is what the nostalgic folks are thinking but don’t realize.
It wasn’t “all great” back in the day. I won’t bore you with a whole list of issues that we tend to overlook when examining the past. At the same time, there is an undeniable sense that life was much more stable and, in my opinion, more in accordance with the natural order of things.
The problem is, people confuse what is natural with what is moral. It is natural to hate, but it is not moral. It is natural to dislike people who are not like you, but it is not moral. It is natural to associate with those who are like you, but that is neither moral nor immoral; it is just how people are.
A dysfunctional nuclear family in the 1950s wasn’t a happy one, but it was natural because it was one mother and one father sticking together to raise children in spite of their own unhappiness. Today, having a real father and stepfather and the same with mothers, plus step-siblings, is not natural. The former may not be more “moral” in the sense that the father could have been not so great a husband or the wife derelict in her duties, but the stability in the days before no-fault divorce ensured the children had the same parents as they grew up.
Likewise, two centuries ago things weren’t more moral necessarily. Living on the prairie might meant dealing ruthlessly with outsiders. But it also meant you spent the majority of your time with family and a community of like-minded people who shared the same values, customs, beliefs, language, and worshiped the same god. You shunned those who weren’t like you because they were seen as a threat. Again, not necessarily moral, but it is natural.
It is unnatural today for kids to spend the vast majority of their time in a state-run education system (or even private) away from their parents and supervised by people who actively oppose what they are taught at home. Meanwhile their parents spend the vast majority of time working with the wife or husband of another person. It is unnatural and immoral to encourage self-guilt and self-hate.
It seems normal, because it’s been the norm for a while, but throughout most history this would be regarded as odd.
Our society today is more or less unnatural and unstable. It is maintained and perpetuated only by continuous state intervention. That doesn’t make it any less moral than before, but this is why so many people can’t handle life without medicating themselves.
If it weren’t for state coercion, people would not behave like this. They are coerced into behaving in unnatural ways, and for most people they don’t even realize it.
A person can endure hardship if it is to be expected, if it make sense. Having to sacrifice for “the cause” during a war doesn’t leave one confused about why they’re suffering. But when your lifestyle contradicts your biological instincts and desires, it causes misery.
The unsettling reality is that what can’t go on won’t go on, and the way things are now won’t.
The question is when the music will actually stop.