Sometimes I hear comments like “times were simpler then,” or “we are living in dangerous times” and think– no time was good for everyone, everywhere. Today, we frequently hear the term “unprecedented” to describe a wide array of current events. While this is true in some cases, our memories are As American historian Jill Lepore noted in the talk she gave at a Politics & Prose forum, although people often describe current events as unprecedented, “A lot of things are precedented.” Perhaps we could begin to say, “I have not seen anything like this in my lifetime.”
Our nostalgia for the world of our childhood says less about the wider world at that point in history and more about the simplistic way we saw things back then. We were (hopefully) protected from extensive knowledge of weighty and horrific world events, and also spared the cognitive dissonance and countless adaptations that a mature adult has to handle.