Back in the Unspecified, Selectively Painted Day


“Used to be, things were different” – or so goes a line in a commercial for mortgage services from a credit union. This bothers me. The grammar, the style, the redundancy, and the very idea get under my skin.

“Back in the day” contains the subtext that things have gone askew from an objective line of functioning society. Sometimes it’s benign, and merely plebeian commentary on the step up in advancement from one means of something to another – from LP to 8-track to cassette tape to CD to mp3. But “back in the day” can also be tsk-tsk judgment and criticisms of what’s perceived to have gone askew. Women working – “When I was growing up my mom stayed at home and took care of the house and children! Look at how degenerate society is now that women don’t stay in the home!” Men stayed in the home too. The home often doubled as a place of business – the farmhouse next to the fields, the quarters on the floor above the storefront in town, the study in the manor for the wealthier class – and women performing housework also worked as part of that business. They weren’t rigidly separated. The man didn’t drive a car from suburbs into a city to get to work, away from home, and even that stereotypical hat he would wear was only in style for so long.

But a very large chunk of the bulging population pyramid grew up in the idealized Baby Boom. The post-war years of urban sprawl and wholesome television contained many very new concepts – it was not traditional at all. It was an experiment, really. The West was on a roll, with war having rebooted the economy (albeit on borrowing money for military manufacturing jobs for women back at home) and the family model of The Good Life of automated home appliances for wives whose husbands had steady employment and whose families could be big and wholesome to rebuild the West after so many trying periods before. This didn’t last very long, but it was the world today’s talking heads grew up in, so it’s the natural state that us goddamn young people are fucking up.

But I digress. Yes, things used to be different – different from today and different from times previous to that. We see progress in past periods of history going at a fairly slow pace that we’ve accelerated to the peak of human accomplishment, and so few think about how lumped together this era will be from whatever milestone chosen – the end of WWII, the light bulb, the telephone – to whatever point an actually drastic change occurs when people of the future look back. Will anybody except for specializing historians concern themselves with the difference between kids lying on the floor watching their black-and-white television set in the 1950s and kids sitting at a desk watching YouTube videos on a computer? The most nostalgic parts of those great wholesome days are blips in reality, created by a world trying to pretend it didn’t almost destroy itself and it’s not borrowing against the future to fund present propaganda of bliss.

According to that credit union, though, things have changed so much in the world around us that only well-established community foundations like them can be trusted with your banking – even if you have to use the internet to do it.


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