The Past Was Better

NOVEMBER 7, 2005

The belief that the present is a particular nadir in human affairs be it culturally, politically or ethically is a frequent one throughout history. However its very recurrence indicates its falsity, something I couldn't imagine better put than this quote from Sir Thomas Browne's Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646; 6th ed., 1672) Chapter xi (cited Middlemarch p. 442) illustrates:

It is the humour of many heads to extol the days of their forefathers, and declaim against the wickeness of times present. Which notwithstanding they cannot handsomely do, without the borrowed help and satire of times past; condeming the vices of their own times by the expressions of vices in times which they they commend, which cannot but argue the community of vice in both. Horace, therefore, Juvenal, and Persius, were no prophets, although their lines did seem to indignate and point at our times.