Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. tanstaafl74
    Offline

    tanstaafl74 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2015
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    24

    Should previous generations/eras be judge by today's standards?

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by tanstaafl74, Jul 6, 2015.

    I've been noticing a trend around the net lately, mostly on sites like reddit, imgur, and other mostly unmoderated social sites, to disparage and generally hate people over a certain age. And what's more, they seem to judge all eras by today's standards. The impression that this gives is that everyone below a certain age thinks everyone in the 50s was a horribly sexist and/or racist.

    The question this leads me to is: Is it right to judge an entire generation or era by the standards of today and completely disregard societal norms of the time being judged?
     
  2. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,210
    Likes Received:
    4,222
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    An interesting question. In my view, no. The reason is simply because the previous generation (and for this, I'm talking about 1950s America) didn't have access to the knowledge we have now. To them, all that made sense. All that was normal. Of course segregation was right, it had been this way since the end of the Civil War. Of course women didn't hold much political power. It's been this way since...well for the majority of human history. They learned from their parents, who learned it from their parents and so on and so forth.

    Was it wrong to have segregation and the like? Yes, but we have to understand that they were working off what they knew was normal. The idea that segregation was wrong, that women could hold public offices was so alien, so out of the realm of possibility that it only existed in imagination. If they could imagine it. It's not easy for an entire generation to split from the viewpoint of the parent generation. Even if they weren't racist/sexist/homophobic/everything, they were still working off of what was already there. Most of them were probably too scared to try anything different because those who tried to deviate from the norm of the day were scorned, shunned, and made social pariahs of society.
     
    BayView likes this.
  3. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,634
    Likes Received:
    5,115
    I think it's kind of the old 'hate the sin, not the sinner'. Most people in the 50s, for example, were horribly sexist and racist by today's standards. Their beliefs and actions make that clear. It doesn't make sense to have a sliding scale on labels like that, I don't think, because it would obscure the realities faced by women and people of colour in that day and age. ETA: Like, if you believe black people aren't as smart as white people, that's a racist idea, by definition. You're believing something inaccurate, and the inaccuracy is based on race. So, racist, in any day or age.

    But I do think we should consider how far we extend the judgement past the specific flaw toward a verdict on the person's whole moral character. A person who holds the same ideas today as people held in the 50s is probably morally flawed, and I might even say they're a 'bad' person or something like that. They're out of step with society, and they're out of step in the direction of hatred and bigotry. They had a chance to do better and they failed. A person with the same ideas living in a society where almost everyone shared those ideas didn't have the same chances to escape ignorance, so I don't think it's as much of a moral flaw that they didn't.

    I can use a similar idea to 'judge' people in today's society, based on the opportunities they've had to do better. If someone grew up in a racist family in a racist area and has only recently left that setting, I can see them as racist without also seeing them as incurable asshole. But if someone has grown up in a non-racist family in a less racist area and has been given lots of opportunities for education and meeting people and exploring ideas? If that person is racist, I have very little sympathy for them.
     
    Mckk and Link the Writer like this.
  4. tanstaafl74
    Offline

    tanstaafl74 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2015
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    24
    What occurs to me when reading these replies is that nothing has really changed. All throughout history you find instances of the people of the day judging prior generations by their current standards. It's only natural to happen, but what that implies seems to be arrogance. To state that only now do we have it right and every other human and society in history got it wrong seems off to me. Only "today" are we right. Of course, in 100 years people will be doing the same thing, they will be looking back at right now and talking about how wrong we were.

    To address some specifics though, I would suggest that the 50s were very sexist, but not as racist as you might imagine. Don't get me wrong, racism was rampant in the 50s, but it wasn't everyone like people seem to think. Even during the civil war you had white people fighting for rights and equality for everyone.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  5. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,859
    Likes Received:
    10,034
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    It's also important to remember that what we get from the past is a filtered, "Cliff's Notes" version that often get's encapsulated into a paradigmatic wrapper that may well be a very false impression of the given period of time. To use the example of "The 50's" that's already in play in the conversation, there are numerous books concerning the fact that The 50's (starting at the end of WWII and going up to about 1965) is a thing that never really happened. How we think about it, about that period of time, is as much a product of media and propaganda as of actual history.

    It's not arrogance that makes anyone judge things from there particular point in history. It's just that we, as human paradigms, have a hard time slipping out of our selves to view a thing from the outside.

    For example, and in the other direction...

    I'm gay. I love that I live now when things are changing so much for LGBT people. I'm inexplicably grateful for the people who struggled and fought and literally took bricks in the face so that I can enjoy a more seamless integration in the Greater Us of society. There are times though, when I feel resentful that it didn't happen sooner. That people didn't fight back sooner. But the truth is, here in 2015, at 45 years of age, I don't have a clue what it was like to live as a gay person in 1910 or 1920. I can read about it, but again, there's no way for me to know how much of that is real and how much is anachronism, how much is wishful thinking and how much is ugly thinking. I would have to have been a gay man living in America in 1910 to actually know what that was like. All can I do in my present state is conjecture as educatedly as I can, but to say that it's a knowledge would be a lie indeed.
     
    Hubardo likes this.
  6. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,075
    Likes Received:
    5,272
    Location:
    California, US
    I don't think it makes much sense not to consider the context of time and culture when evaluating a person.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  7. tanstaafl74
    Offline

    tanstaafl74 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2015
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    24
    My parents were teens in the 50s and from their accounts my picture of that time is very far away from what was presented to us by the Cleavers. Luckily, more people than not these days seem to know that the idyllic picture painted by TV and movies is a false one.

    Individually you are correct, but as a whole societies tend to judge themselves correct over all else. This is where my statement comes from.

    Which brings up another point, this one about the cyclical nature of history. If we go back far enough you will find that homosexuality to some cultures was more accepted than it is today. The Romans and Greeks, for example, had no issues with the subject if some histories are to be believed.
     
  8. Wreybies
    Offline

    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    18,859
    Likes Received:
    10,034
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    *shrug* You and I look to be pretty close in age if your member data is accurate. I think part of it also that we're just hitting "that age" when "young people" doesn't mean us anymore at all. Today I took a silly Buzzfeed test on Facebook to see how many "Lesser Known Shows of the 1970's" I could get from an image taken from the show. I was flabbergasted. Every single one of the shows was a wildly popular show from the 70's. The original Battlestar Galactica, for pete's sake, was on the list. That show was ON FIRE back when I was kid. All I could think was that whoever wrote that "quiz" could not have been any older than 24 or 25 at the most, at a stretch. Clearly that person has no idea what the 1970's was really like if this is what they were taking from the media he or she came across. I'm sure there is no way for me to even explain to the person how much of what we think of as "The 60's" is really the early 1970's. I mean, if the person thought Battlestar Galactica and Alice and Quincy M.E. were obscure shows, what chance is there for me to get across the finer points of actually having lived in that era of time. Just as you mention that the image of June Cleaver in her perfectly pressed shirt-dress, heels and pearls, her hair perfectly coifed, dinner perfectly on the perfect table at perfectly 6:00 pm for oh-so-perfect Ward Cleaver to enjoy, still in his perfect suit from the office is a fabrication of which most of us are aware (and some of us are aware of the purpose of that fabrication), so too is the misguided impression had by the person who created that quiz of what the cultural zeitgeist was focused on in the 1970's, which, from the perspective of "formative years" in a person's life, is my 1950's. It's the era I look back on and think, ah yes, that's how it was when I was young and everything was still shiny and new and I trusted that adults knew what the hell they were doing. :p :D
     
  9. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,634
    Likes Received:
    5,115
    Well, Buzzfeed may not be the best source for analytical historical information....

    I think it does a disservice to the people of the past who weren't part of the dominant power group to deny the -isms they faced. I mean, if we're sticking with the fifties, a big chunk of the US was still banning interracial marriage in the 50s. That's a racist law, and there's no way to call it anything but racist without somehow implying that maybe it was a bit justified. Maybe white people and black people back then really were so different it would be a terrible thing if they intermarried. Bullshit. The law was racist, and it was supported by racist law makers who were voted in by racist voters.

    It's not setting ourselves up as perfect to point something like that out. We can look back at the fifties and figure out things that were better back then, too, I imagine. And we can accept that we're still making mistakes today, and people in the future will look back at us and label our mistakes as what they are - racist, sexist, or whatever.

    We can't say that people in the 50s were all assholes. We can't say it was an evil society, or that people were more cruel back then, or whatever else. We can't judge the whole person, or the whole culture. But we can damn well judge individual aspects of it. It's disingenuous to pretend we can't.
     
  10. Hubardo
    Offline

    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2014
    Messages:
    1,075
    Likes Received:
    566
    I've been watching Game Of Thrones a lot recently and asking myself the same question. Raping and killing are norms in the show. Raping and killing have largely been norms throughout human history, which the show has made me realize. After agriculture was developed, and militaries and empires were built, all this was inevitable. And, perhaps it was inevitable that after all of this carnage, there was us, and there could have been no other way. Comfortable people getting fat inside the internet. Sitting all day. Food waits for us; we do not hunt. We cannot; all the predators and prey have been confined to little spaces where they are fed corn. Now we are corn. We do not own the space to grow enough food staples to survive on our own. We are all entangled in a global web of inter-dependency that could probably not have been built without lots and lots of raping and killing. This is why I often go temporarily mad thinking about where I got my ideals from. San Francisco, liberal as it is, could not exist if the Ohlone were not exterminated, if Manifest Destiny were not proclaimed as the high order of the times. And so on. So for me to judge horrific acts by horrific people thousands of years ago? So they could pave the way to me being able to sit and get fat and debate on the internet about things? Feels weird being grateful for it all. Feels weird judging it when I realize it's what has made my present moment possible. Time for sleep now.
     
  11. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    I'm reminded of a joke Bill Burr made of that Duck Dynasty guy who made a bigoted comment about gays. Burr said that it's kind of strange what a media frenzy it turned out to be because what did people really expect? The guy is old, has been indoctrinated in sunday school, and lives in a swamp, so of course he's going to say stuff like that. It was a joke, of course, but there's a grain of truth in it, I guess. We can't expect people who've been brought up in the '50s and '60s to necessarily have the most open-minded views on things. Give them a chance to learn. There's nothing to gain in hostile behavior. Unfortunately on the internet it's easy to forget about common decency, so I'm not surprised if sites like Reddit have young people acting all arrogant towards older generations who've been instilled different ideas and may struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing and shrinking world. But old dogs can definitely learn new tricks; sometimes you just have to speak to them in their language -- even if it feels like they don't deserve your patience.

    I was reading an article about Tom of Finland's (Touko Laaksonen) wartime experiences in the '40s. According to him, he had never gotten laid as much in his life as he did in war torn Helsinki back then. At the same time it's a horrible and romantic thought, and my mind instantly flooded with stories of people living in the now, expecting to be bombed to smithereens in the next instant, so they seized the moment, shoved aside their fears and prejudices, and lived like there was no tomorrow, since there probably wouldn't be. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But I still find it an intriguing story. He rarely spoke of the war, but the stories he told are scary and beautiful in equal measure.
     
    Link the Writer likes this.
  12. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,734
    Likes Received:
    1,282
    I think that the generations/eras should be judged by the highest standards available, but that most of the people in each generation/era should not be.
     
    BayView likes this.
  13. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,634
    Likes Received:
    5,115
    This works for me. And hopefully we can also judge the generation/era with an understanding of where they started. Like, if we pretend racism can be given a level of 0 - 10, with ten being maximum evil, and a generation goes from 7 to 5, that's more impressive than a generation that just started at 4 and stayed there. The racism should be judged accurately and objectively, but the generation can be judged with a little more context.
     
  14. edamame
    Offline

    edamame Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Apr 5, 2013
    Messages:
    794
    Likes Received:
    385
    No, it's not fair to judge previous generations or eras based on today's standards because what is progressive at one time becomes the norm in another. I'm sure in a few decades, people will be wondering how we can guarantee LGBT people the right to marry but not guarantee their right to not be discriminated against in their workplace.

    That said, elders should be informed and educated about progressive changes. If they're uncomfortable with some things it should be treated with understanding. Being uncomfortable (or even ignorant) is not the same thing as being prejudiced or hate-mongering.
     
  15. Void
    Offline

    Void Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2014
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    229
    Just because people are from the past/other cultures doesn't make them any less sexist/racist/bigoted/savage. It does, however, mean their morality shouldn't be judged as harshly for it. After all, we have a great deal less agency in who we become than most people would like to admit, and a lot of who we are and what we believe is heavily influence by the environment we are raised in. It doesn't really make sense to scold people for being more racist/sexist in the past any more than it does to mock people for being superstitious, since we would most likely be the same had we grown up in their shoes and been assured of the correctness of their views by virtually everyone around us.
    That doesn't mean we shouldn't consider these attitudes a threat, nor do we have to abide them, but it does help not to necessarily view people as evil for being lead to their beliefs. I think it's important also to not just assume anyone who has different beliefs has even been misled from the correct (our) beliefs, without considering that the reverse may also be possible.

    Although, people do have much less of an excuse for ignorance these days due to the increased visibility of the multitude of other viewpoints and evidence available.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  16. Lemex
    Offline

    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2007
    Messages:
    10,507
    Likes Received:
    3,151
    Location:
    Northeast England
    No, certainly not. I don't even think we should judge things happening in our own time by our own moral standards, especially when they are out of our control. Too much trouble is caused by people forcing their wills where they are not wanted.
     
  17. Ketlan
    Offline

    Ketlan New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2015
    Messages:
    12
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    Lancashire UK
    Bringing this down to a more basic question, we could ask whether books like Agatha Christie's Ten Little Niggers should have been renamed to And Then There Were None to avoid offending modern sensibilities or if the original title should have remained because that was, after all, the title. I have no problem with either title but I refuse to judge Agatha Christie (or her publishers) for what were acceptable norms in her day.
     
  18. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,075
    Likes Received:
    5,272
    Location:
    California, US
    It is interesting to see what was acceptable or a norm in days past. I remember reading that Joseph Conrad's The Nigger of the Narcissus was initially retitled by its publisher, but not because they were offended by it as people would be today. They were simply worried that no one would buy a book about a black man.
     
    Lemex likes this.
  19. Simpson17866
    Offline

    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2013
    Messages:
    1,734
    Likes Received:
    1,282
    See, I find "And Then There Were None" to be far more enticing
     
  20. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,967
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    I keep thinking, as I read this thread, that the past may not have been as clear-cut as people think.

    For example, many people think that movies have been progressing slowly away from puritanism, the older the movie, the more puritanical. They they get a look at a movie produced before the 1930/1934 Hays code and, yikes! And similar for comics before the 1954 Comics Code.

    And I remember a study--I wish I could successfully Google it--from sometime in the twentieth century when anti-Asian prejudice was strong. Some hotel keepers were asked if they would accept a reservation for an Asian couple, and the vast majority said no. When an actual Asian couple showed up to ask for a room, a large percentage of those hotelkeepers rented them the room. I always assumed that this reflects the concept that when faced with the people that you're supposed to reject, it's harder to reject them.

    I tend to think that the customs of the past might have licensed cruelty and hatred, but didn't make them as mandatory as one might think. I think that people who took that license and were cruel and hateful can, to a substantial degree, be blamed for that choice.
     
  21. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
    Offline

    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2013
    Messages:
    2,319
    Likes Received:
    743
    Location:
    Music Room #3
    Same here. Also, the original stirs up an image of American-American children surviving prejudice or something other than murder/mystery.
     
  22. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
    Offline

    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 29, 2013
    Messages:
    2,319
    Likes Received:
    743
    Location:
    Music Room #3
    But during the Civil War, how many Union soldiers were actually fighting for that? They were still racist, just didn't own Slaves and didn't want the other guy to win.

    Sexism did vary too, depending on your definition of sexism. Women could vote and own property, and could even play sports (depending on your school). Violence against women was seen as very wrong. The careers for women were very limited, though, and you were expected to find a husband by your mid twenties.
     
    Usagi likes this.
  23. Usagi
    Offline

    Usagi Member

    Joined:
    May 29, 2014
    Messages:
    20
    Likes Received:
    10
    No. We should celebrate those who drive change, but we shouldn't judge those who don't simply for living as they were taught to live.

    Having said that, the more recent the era, the harder I find it not to judge. When reading about older periods of history, I find it very easy to distance myself from my modern values.

    From what I've read, I would strongly disagree with that. Most white Union soldiers didn't even want to fight alongside blacks, let alone bring about equality.

    But would I judge them for it? No, because they were brought up to believe that whites were superior to blacks. All the more reason to admire figures who fought for equality against all the odds, such as Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  24. Mumble Bee
    Offline

    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

    Joined:
    May 18, 2015
    Messages:
    791
    Likes Received:
    1,305
    Ask yourself this, if you were to see this post in a 100 years and it didn't reach the 'correct' answer according to the beliefs then, would that make us terrible people or just less socially evolved?
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
  25. tanstaafl74
    Offline

    tanstaafl74 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2015
    Messages:
    58
    Likes Received:
    24
    Do you think people 100 years from now will be more socially evolved? Why? There is an abundance of evidence that humans have evolved and devolved over and over again throughout history, socially speaking.
     
    Simpson17866 likes this.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page