Today I was walking with a friend to the local coffee place. The cluster of traffic lights near my house had gone on the blink. There were a lot of nice police people waving arms in the middle of the congested traffic. They waved us real people through the gaps while the machines sat smoking angry fumes. It was a cold bright morning with the sun glinting off the machines. One old man in front of me, mind you, he was old, bent and crabby looking with thick glasses and and orthopaedic shoes asked a police lady what all the fuss was about. She said the lights had all stopped working. He said “Well done, back to the good old days” and laughed. We were amused and laughed with him.
I was thinking, what makes us all crave for “the good old days”. Every generation craves for the good old days and however young you are, you will be no different when your time comes. Throughout history in every country and in every generation, in peace time, I should add, people have craved for the good old days. One reason could be that we all have a distorted memory of the times past. Another could be that things have got steadily worse as time went. When I look back to my youth I fondly remember the long summers and the beautiful golden afternoons in September. This could be attributed to the good memories of my youth. But if I look at the past forty years objectively I do think things have got worse.
The rot I think set in around the 1980s when the system went into overdrive We could blame Margaret Thatcher or Ronald Regan but that is just our tiny human minds trying to assign blame due to our frustration. That is like blaming the men wielding the whips in the old Roman galleys. They were just tools. Even the owners of the galley ships were tools to the system and Caesar himself was more beholden to the system than anyone else. He could not have changed the way things operated any more than Obama in our present day could implement his much trumpeted change. I think it was Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who may or may not have said in his debonair way, “events, my dear boy, events”. Events do take control of our lives. We may blame the technological age or overpopulation or immigration policies or greed or lack of education or terrorism or Islamic fundamentalism or female genetic mutilation or arranged marriages or even those poor misunderstood bankers! Especially those poor misunderstood bankers! They are part of the system too, just as much as Hitler’s nasty capos were in the concentration camps.
So! As I was saying before I went into a rant, since around the 1980s we gradually went into a race to produce; something like the arms race between the Soviet Union and America where neither party could back down but kept producing more and more nasty weapons till one party, the Soviet Union imploded with sheer exhaustion. The production race is similar except that we are racing against ourselves. Piling up more and more goods, working ten hours a day and twelve hours a day and fourteen hours a day as my children are doing, working without overtime pay, taking work home to work all night and dragging ourselves bleary eyed each morning to work just because the means becomes the end in itself. Work becomes the criteria, how much, how fast, how hard, and how slavishly subserviently you do it. There are not even the goods to show for it. The sum total of your production shows up only in your appraisal forms and reports and the other papers that ultimately the bankers in upper echelons shovel back and forth with their silver spades. That is our production folks! That is why we break our backs daily till we die.
No one even tries to justify why we work anymore. There is no philosophy behind that thing we call work; that thing we spend two thirds of our waking lives doing. In the end we all get shafted. The harder you work, the more you get shafted. I was talking to a someone who by any standards should be called wealthy. He worked very hard for that wealth all his life. He had everything you can dream of, property, vehicles, all the gadgets money could buy. Yet he has to work until he dies. His pension fund got stolen. He envied me my pittance of a regular pension. Is that not a crazy world to be in? There are a lot of people out there who are in a similar position. They will understand why this man has to work until he dies.
So, Long Live the Good Old Days!