I think most people tend to have a romantic view of the past, I know I do. I like to imagine having to go to the market each day. I like thinking about no one having cars so everything would be closer together, there would be more quite and more people walking around.
I think no category of people romanticizes the past more than conservatives. That is almost the definition of being conservative. In wanting to conserve the past and follow traditions it is implied that the best is better than today.
I've written several times about how strongly I disagree with the notion that we are less moral or ethical today than we were in the past (slavery, racism and sexism alone make me feel this way), but I think another area where conservatives tend to romanticize the past is in terms of freedom. There seems to be a sense that we are less free than we have ever been. I myself once held this view. It seemed that in the past people were much more free to do as they pleased without government interference. However, the more I learn about history, even recent history, I've come to feel the opposite.
I've recently begun making a list of crazy things from the past that I encounter. So far the list is short, but here it is:
~In the United States, during the First World War a person could be imprisoned for expressing disapproval of the war.
~While not officially sanctioned by the Government, tacit approval was given by not interfering or punishing those responsible: During the WWI, some people were dragged by horses down streets for not supporting the war, or being an Anarchist or Socialist.
~ During the early 1900's those who refused vaccines had police break down their doors and physically restrain them while vaccines were administered.
~During the Second World War, the tax rate for the highest income bracket was 90%.
(Plus all the things most educated folks are familiar with, like eugenics and women not being allowed to initiate a divorce etc.)
As crazy as some of these things may be, they aren't even from the ancient past, but the past 100 yrs, here in the USA.
Despite how short my list is, I think it illustrates a lot about that time period. If only one of these things happened today it would create outrage across the country. The fact that these things happened and were apparently not a big deal indicates that these type of events weren't uncommon in that era.
It seems that a lot of people, especially Americans tend to view all of the past as being just like the 'Wild West', with few laws and people. But in reality, most everyone has lived in close proximity to others and been restricted by laws and punishments since human beings first evolved. Humans are incredibly dependent on each other for survival and certain anti-social behavior has always been detrimental to the group's survival, requiring means to limit individual freedoms for the common good.
P.s. If anyone has anything else to add to my list, I'd be happy to hear it.
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