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Sunday, August 10, 2003

MISTAKEN NOSTALGIA In today’s Observer, David Aaronovitch makes a point that shouldn’t really need making anymore: the past was in fact worse than the present. While I am just as guilty as the next of over-idealising even my own youth, which accurately speaking was far from pleasant, at least I tend to remember when speaking about political and social trends, that in truth virtually everything has been getting better. I find it hard to find anything that has been moving the wrong way. Okay the only thing off my head I can think of is, that violent crime seems to be up. I write “seems” because actually, it might not have gone up. It could simply be that we are less willing to tolerate it than in the past and hence report it more. The only serious thing I can think of, where the negative aspects of change outweigh the positive ones, is perhaps in our cultural confidence. The people over at Spiked write regularly about this (see this for example on the current weather hysteria), but this lengthy piece in the right-wing New Criterion by Mark Steyn gives the topic a more detailed treatment. An important point that needs to be made though is that this is, or at least should, not be an exclusively right-of-centre issue. Progressive politics also draws its inspiration from Western traditions. Aaronovitch makes a deserved snipe at the backward-lookers and makes clear what has clearly changed negatively:

And I am increasingly suspicious of those who, from Left or Right, want to go backwards. Aren't they the same people who are always moaning? Don't they regret the passing of the days of stoicism at the same time as complaining about one inch of snow, one inch of floodwater or three days of heat?
Now that you didn't get in the Fifties, when thousands of men who'd survived the trenches were still in their early sixties and the country was full of men and women who'd been through the Blitz. They didn't spend their time longing for the return of the workhouse and public hangings.

Indeed, time for us today to be a little more grateful of what we have, to keep it in its right perspective and do our bit to maintain it, whether it be by force of arms or by improving our political systems or whatever may be needed.

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