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What Made The “Good Old Days” So Good?

This is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately.

It tracks back to masculinity and Christianity eventually, but we need to do some work to get there.

Many people (including those who weren’t alive) tend to reminisce about the “good old days,” often referring to somewhere around the 1950s.

The implication is that we should want to return to those times as a way to escape the insanity, moral corruption, and degeneracy of today.

To hear these mystical years talked about, once would believe that they were up there with the Garden of Eden in their peace, beauty, and perfection.

Personally… I don’t know. I’m one of those people who wasn’t alive back then!

But like most things, there’s some fact and some fiction involved in the fantasy.

Maybe back then the government didn’t exists solely for the purpose of taking as much control from the individual as possible.

Maybe back then the media didn’t exist solely for the purpose of the concentrated pushing of some twisted, anti-family social agenda on the people that tuned in nightly.

But men were men, and women were women (in retrospect, at least).

Of course, there are arguments to be made that life wasn’t as idyllic for some groups of people.

We’ll just leave it at that.

And while most people went to church (because it was an unwritten rule), that expectation led to a lot of pretending to be pious and holy, which in turn led lots of people away from the church a few years later.

So I think it’s a mistake to ascribe a level of perfection to that era that didn’t really exist…

But I do think it was better in many ways.

Why?

Here’s where I need to digress, but if you can stick with me for a while, I’ll come back around to it!

The false gospel of entrepreneurship

Growing up, I never really gave much thought to the idea of entrepreneurship.

Kind of ironic, given that my mother was a business-owner when I was in school.

But I always assumed I would get a job.

I went into the Air Force out of college, then went straight to work for a big insurance company after that.

But I hated that job. It made me miserable. 

That’s when I discovered entrepreneurship and started my own insurance agency.

Talk about a thrill… I was doing things the way I thought they should be done.

No boss.

And running your own business is great, but it can quickly become even more of a burden than having a boss or a job.

But that’s another topic. 

Here’s what I really wanted to talk about…

If one so chooses, they can easily get involved in the cult of entrepreneurship.

Here are some core beliefs of this group of people:

  • Working for someone else is for losers
  • It has to be scalable 
  • Systematize everything so you can get other people to do the “work” work
  • The goal is to make as much money as possible (and then make even more money on a big “exit”)

And similar ideas, like the “laptop lifestyle,” or the 4-hour workweek, or “passive income.”

A perfect example of this shows up in a book that I used to love, but now have mixed feelings about: The Millionaire Fastlane.

The concepts in the book are solid, which is part of why I have mixed feelings, but I also think that people who buy-in to the concepts too much can be dissuaded from starting businesses doing very necessary and useful things, because they don’t meet the ‘Fastlane” model.

Mostly meaning that they don’t scale (as in you can’t make endless amounts of money because your income depends on your labor).

BUT… this can be true or false, depending on your goals.

The problem I have with this model struck me when I happened to overhear a conversation recently.

What I overheard

Two women just happened to be talking about what I think was a family member.

She had gotten divorced and moved back from the other side of the country with her 18 year old daughter.

The 18 year old daughter decided to go to cosmetology school with the goal of becoming a hairdresser.

One woman said to the other (I’m paraphrasing), “It’s too bad she didn’t go to college and get a job that contributes to society.”

And there it is…

A bias that may be destroying our society

I forgot to mention another idea that pervades entrepreneurial culture.

That’s the idea of the value of your time.

And this is yet another example of something that’s not bad on the surface (or even necessarily bad at all), but can be extremely damaging when one takes it as a fundamental truth of life.

It looks like this: If your time is worth $X, you should never do anything that you could pay someone else less than that amount to do.

For example: If your time is worth $100/hour, and you can pay someone less than that to mow your lawn… then you should never mow your lawn again.

I have no doubt that you understand, but I’m going to give another example anyway!

If your time is worth $100/hour, and you can pay someone less than that to prepare your meals and clean your house… then you should never do those things again.

This is where we get into the assumption that certain occupations contribute to society and other occupations don’t.

We’ve developed a bias towards those types of work that involve either a specialized degree or are highly technical.

Oh shoot… let’s just say it out loud: we’re talking white collar vs blue collar jobs. Office work vs manual labor.

Doctor: contributes to society. Hairdresser: doesn’t contribute to society.

Computer programmer/coder: contributes to society. Farmer: doesn’t contribute to society.

Yet somehow we overlook the fact that the blue collar, manual labor jobs are often every bit as technical and demanding as the white collar, office jobs.

But we don’t respect them as much. Why?

I think we’ve been conditioned by years and years of programming to believe that an individual is somehow worth less to society if they don’t go to college.

Most of those manual labor jobs don’t require college, so they must not be as valuable.

But why? Why is better to go to college, expose your (or your child’s) impressionable brain to (at least) 4 years of indoctrination, and potentially 5-figures plus of debt?

Maybe… just maybe… someone out there benefits from that indoctrination and debt.

But we’ll get back to that.

Coding doesn’t require a college degree, so what about that?

Well… the more people can be enticed to stop working with their hands and start parking themselves in front of a computer (like I am right now…) to build things that will keep other people parked in front of a computer, the more they’ll have to rely on others to meet their basic life needs.

Now the mark of success is that you can pay others to do for you the things that you don’t want to do yourself.

I’ve fallen into that trap myself.

Is money the problem?

A couple of things have to be said about money:

  1. Money is not evil.
  2. Money is necessary to get things that we need. 

That said… “For the love of money is the root of all evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from he faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV).

And you can find plenty more verses related to this topic. 

In my opinion, it’s the love of money that has gotten us to this point.

Circling back around

I could absolutely be wrong about this, but here are a few things that I think made the “olden days” better:

  • People were ok living more simply. Houses and cars were not yet (or at least only beginning to become) status symbols.
  • People lived more in community. They knew their neighbors. They weren’t all picked up and moved at the whims of the corporations they worked for.
  • People did things themselves. They mowed the lawn. They grew a garden. They raised livestock. They built and fixed things (at least to a greater degree than now). There was no internet, so they learned how to do these things from family or other people.
  • People took responsibility for raising their own children.

There’s a good chance that I’m romanticizing some of this stuff (after all, I wasn’t alive).

I highly recommend the book The Everlasting Stream by Walt Harrington (<- that’s an Amazon affiliate link). 

Here’s a passage that caught my attention:

“It took my Father time to feel proud that I was a journalist. I mean, I didn’t even know how to replace my own car muffler. When I came to own a house, I wasted money on plumbers to fix leaky faucets and electricians to repair broken light switches. I hired a nursery to lay down the landscaping and a gardener to trim and tidy it all up twice a year. Even if he could have afforded it, my father would never have ceded so much mastery of his world over to hired hands.

I think that’s really what I’m getting at. 

Of course, these aren’t true 100% of the time. I can think of a friend who makes a lot more money than me AND knows how to build and maintain stuff much more than me.

I know some people will say that they hire out work around the house in order to spend time with their family.

But why is the decision to spend more time at work and less time maintaining the things you own? What if you spent less time working in order to spend more time with your family.

And even though I confess to disliking mowing the grass when I was a kid, working on those projects around the house are yet another way to spend quality time with your children AND teach them how to do things that are useful.

Fix stuff, build stuff, improve stuff with your children.

The message we send to our children when we work long hours to make more money and then hire out the “grunt work” is that work is the most important task in our lives, followed by family, and then everything else comes after that.

Why do I need to know how to do that stuff, anyway?

Here’s where my biases start to come through.

First, I didn’t really learn all this stuff as a kid. I mowed the grass, but I’m not good at fixing things, or building things.

But I think there’s something inside all of us men that wants to do that. That’s probably why I feel so accomplished with I actually grow or create something with my hands.

Like the chicken coop and friend and I built in my yard.

Second, I think that we’ve come to a point of over reliance on things like grocery stores, Walmarts, and global supply chains to provide us everything we need.

It might not be quite as severe in the country, but can you imagine what chaos would ensue in a city if all the grocery stores shut down?

A lot of people would probably die.

Look at things that have happened very recently: a ship got stuck in the Panama Canal, the price of lumber has skyrocketed, the power went out in Texas, there’s talk of vaccine passports being required to transact certain types of business.

No one is looking out for your best interests but you. 

Personally, that’s a system that I’d like to extricate myself from as much as possible.

Because I believe it will fail. Maybe in small ways, maybe in large ways.

And I would prefer to be self-sufficient to some degree. Provide at least some of my own food. Know how to fix things that break. 

I think that was far more prevalent in the 50s, when people didn’t go to the grocery store for ALL their food-related needs.

Third, I want my children to at least have a balance of skills that will make them useful adults. I don’t think this balance will come from going to college and getting an office job that allows them to pay for everything to be done for them.

It may be too late to cause sweeping change in my generation (or maybe not), but we can certainly equip our children to make that change as they become adults. 

And I think the world will be a far better place if more people are focused on building and growing than if they focused simply on making more and more money to buy more and more things.

In my opinion, anyway.

So what to do…

People who point and whine about the problems, but don’t do anything about it or provide suggestions for others are useless.

To that end, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Plant a garden. Start small. It doesn’t even have to be in the ground. You can grow a single tomato (or whatever) plant in a container on a porch. Just grow something. Expand from there.

2. Get chickens. Chickens are amusing, and can actually be pretty friendly pets if you get the right kind. They also give you eggs. And you can eat them. They don’t require a lot of space. If your city/HOA/etc doesn’t allow chickens… it’s probably time to move.

3. Mow your own lawn. I keep harping on this one, because it’s the easiest one for just about anyone to do. You might not want to get involved in complicated plumbing or electrical tasks (though you should learn how to do the basic ones), but anyone can push or ride a mower in their yard.

4. Learn how to provide something for yourself. I’ve gotten interested in milling lumber. But just build something. Use your hands. Get in over your head, mess stuff up and learn by fixing it. That’s what I did with my chicken coop. 

5. Don’t overlook the trades and apprenticeships. If your children aren’t pumped about school, let them consider learning something like HVAC, Construction, Plumbing, Electrical, Tree Work, or any number of other jobs. If they get an apprenticeship, they’ll get paid to learn (instead of spending tens of thousands, or going into debt), and come out the other end with a truly useful skill. And you can make money with those skills.

Conclusion

Somewhere along the way, we were convinced that we need more and bigger. Houses, cars, vacations, toys. 

So we started focusing on working more so we could earn more money. Then we decided that we needed 2 incomes, so we took mom out of the home and handed the kids over to daycare and schools… so we could have a bigger house, etc.

Then, exhausted from all that work, we started hiring people to do the “unimportant” jobs around the house, like lawn care.

Then we moved to an educational system that separated us from those things even further, getting us ready for jobs that mostly involved offices and cubicles, rather than fresh air, land, and animals. 

So now we hunt, fish, play golf, cycle, run, and whatever else to reconnect with the outdoors, to get back what we willingly gave away.

Bringing this back to God, I think the book of Genesis provides all the guidance we need for our relationship to creation. 

Study that.

Look at how much money, house, etc you actually need to be happy.

This is the biggest truth you can take away:

FAMILY IS WEALTH.

Now, go do something productive.

Thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comments section. 

P.S. All the memes in this post were stolen from Brett Pike at Classical Learner Today. You can follow him on Instagram for fresh gravy every day and at ClassicalLearner.com!