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Was life really any better back then?


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About DJC

The older I get, the less I know and the more inquisitive I get.

Unfortunately, despite a lifelong search, most of the answers elude me. That said, I love to ask the questions and fuel the debates that will ultimately lead us all to a better understanding of the big issues in life, the universe and everything.

They say that we spend 98% of our lives in our head. I for one would like to use that time as effectively as possible.


They say that the world was a safer, brighter place ‘back then’. Tell me, are they right?

Admit it, you've heard them all: Life was so much simpler back then; it was so much easier back in the 50s; politicians were different back then; songwriters in the 60s were a cut above those of today; the world was so much safer when I was a kid; the media was more reliable when I was a kid. 

A simpler, happier time, perhaps? Picture: Shutterstock.

A simpler, happier time, perhaps? Picture: Shutterstock

We've all heard statements like these ..... suggestions from those getting older that that the world was somehow better in their youth.

You may well have said similar things. I know I have.

I have long wondered whether the world was somehow better then than today. Was the music better? Were the politicians better. Was it safer? Was the media more reliable? Was the world a simpler place, or do we just look back on the past with rose-coloured glasses and a hefty dose of blinkered nostalgia?

Well, there is no doubt in my mind that Bob Dylan is a much greater talent that Ed Sheeran. That said, there was plenty of dross around when Bob Dylan was at his peak and to some extent, that helped him stand out. There are also musicians today with a great deal more talent than Ed Sheeran and one of them may well win a Nobel Prize one day.

There is no doubt that the population today has good reason to doubt the value and credibility of Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. That said, I would also question the credibility of ''do-nothing Robert Menzies'', ''could-I-possibly-be-less-engaging Arthur Caldwell'', impeached ''Tricky Dicky Nixon'' and ''I-killed-millions Joseph Stalin''.

Was the world really safer?

The fact is, in Australia, crime rates (with the exception of burglary) are at their lowest level ever and continue to decline. There is actually less terrorism in 2017 than there was in the 1980s. There is actually less war in the world than at any time since World War II. It may not seem like these things are true, but they are.

Was the media really more trustworthy?

We have all read about the scandals in the media over the years and they keep on coming.

While there are many more channels now and more news reporting than ever, it is these facts and not the reality that have created the perception that the media was any more reliable in the past than today.

There have always been vested interests and the media has always been influenced by them. Indeed, it could be argued that with all the media today, it is easier to find out when the media is behaving badly or in an untrustworthy manner.

Was life really simpler back then?

I wonder. Certainly, it was simpler from the perspective of less technology. But is that the best measure of simplicity? 

As Professor Clayton Christensen from Harvard University noted in a recent speech: Our needs as human beings change little over the years, all that changes really is the available solutions.

Technology has delivered new and better solutions, all of which we can ignore if we choose to.

Was life really better all those years ago?

In 1900, the average life expectancy of an Australian male was 50 and a woman was 55. By 2000, this was 75 and 78. Today it is closer to 80 and 82.

So we certainly live longer, which makes it better for those who have managed to live a good life.

Although today we have dementia to contend with, but that is because we are living long enough to get it.

Most things look better in retrospect than in the present. We humans have a way of remembering the good things and forgetting the less good. Also, as we are living longer and change is happening faster, we are all living thought a lot more change on a lot more fronts, and to some extent it is this constant and often radical change that causes us stress and contributes to a time when things were different.

Further to this, while reflecting on the past most of us revisit our childhood, which for most was a happy time. It was a time of less responsibility and less concern. Mum and Dad managed the concern for us.

So am I right, or wrong? Was life simpler and better ‘back then’?

Tell me please. I would love to hear your stories.

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