We have on occasion, overheard the negative judgmental declaration, that someone or something is not au courant, but remains stubbornly, or unfashionably, old-fashioned, or “retro.” Nonetheless, based upon our perception of the contemporary scene, we would maintain, that such judgmental epithet is not necessarily critical, or dismissive. While it is inarguable, that one is obliged to be “up to date” in certain areas, such as medicine, science, computer engineering and current events, it is our view (and the theme of this writing) that the formerly admirable criterion, of being universally, in sync with the times is now, in our view, questionable. The world and its human inhabitants have materially, changed, and not uniformly for the better. In support, we offer a few, comparative illustrations:
[Family retro]. It was not that long ago, that the designation of family or family member, signified certain features that identified the relationship as unique and distinguishable from other members of society, even the closest of friends. The family group evinced a singular, nuanced lexicon, the sharing of predictable opinions, and mutually agreed upon stereotypes (albeit, possibly, inaccurate). They usually had meals together (especially, dinner), went, en famille, to religious and many recreational events, especially vacations, and, generally, enjoyed an intimate, intra-family relationship, inclusive of a consistent pecking order; a parent, for better or worse, being the ultimate authority.
[Family now]. The traditionally intimate relation of family members has been recast, into an informal category of publically, recognizable group of individuals, each with his self-determined, independent agenda. Parental direction is, at times, even denigrated as, imperial, retro, and, at times, an interference with privacy. Often, children are not heard from, for days, with the possible exception of some sort of unsatisfactory and, enigmatic, computerized message. The institution of family, as an intimate unit, has, unquestionably declined, from its traditionally personal and societal fulfilling, status.
[Identity, communication, retro]. Before the advent, exponential development, and universal use, of the addictive and convenient “smartphone,” individuals communicated with each other, in person or by telephone, enjoying the social and psychological benefits of assurance of a familiar voice and personal recognition, unhampered emotional expression, timeliness and relevance of response, as well as the basic, assured ratification of one’s own nuanced, public personality.
[Communication now] The effect of the separation and isolation of the parties due to modern electronic communication, and the resultant absence of felt intimacy, in effect, makes mere acquaintances of friends, and, indeed, has discernable impact on all of our presently listed categories. The costly surrender of the benefits of personal communication, in exchange for little, digital-like symbols, projected on a small, hand-held, lighted screen, is an exorbitant price to pay for speed and convenience.
[Citizenship, respect for democracy and the rule of law, retro]. During the period of the Second World War, the population was united in its support of the Nation and proud to carry the assigned designation as American. It bought wartime bonds, practiced air raid drills and paid rapt attention to the radio reports of the progress of the war. Children collected scraps of iron and rubber for the war effort, during after-school hours, adults volunteered as “Air Raid Wardens,” and American society was united, by the strong epoxy of patriotism. Listening to Presidential, “fireside chats,” regarding America’s military progress in the war was a routine weekly, practice. The end of the war saw America’s relieved and overjoyed population celebrating together, in neighborhood “block parties” and many other events.
During this comparative period in our recent past, appropriate respect for the law, for academic achievement, for schoolteachers, elementary and college level, for the police, for elder members of society, the handicapped and for the government, was the mainstream, American, norm.
[Citizenship, respect for democracy and the rule of law, now] The modern period, especially following the toxic, virulent pathologies of Trump and Covid, evinces a markedly, comprehensive change in the general nature and outlook of the American citizen. The elevation to the Oval Office of an incapable, ignorant and immoral individual, whose words and nefarious deeds, exacerbated a prior developing, national divisiveness, and promoted action, which was anti-democratic. Refusing to accept defeat on an election for a second term, Trump instigated an unprecedented insurrection, to stop the formerly peaceful, democratic transfer of the Presidency to the winner, Joseph Biden involving many hundreds of rioters. An even worse consideration, as an existential threat to democracy, is Trump’s large support in the previous election and their continuing loyalty, thereafter, by the undereducated, underbelly of our Nation. The would-be autocrat, Trump, is an undeniable, existential threat to our democracy.
There is, unfortunately, a multitude of such citizens, who oppose the valuable, definitional, democratic institution of the popular vote, and lemming-like, unwittingly, act against their own, ultimate democratic rights. Frighteningly, many State Legislatures have ominously, and perniciously, passed Statutes, purposed to limiting the votes of members of communities of color, due to their previously, heavy votes for Biden. In the desire for candid empirical analysis, we have previously stated, that a plethora of dumb people is an existential hazard to representative democracy. It is among such people that conspiracy ideational theories thrive, and “truth” ignored.
[Respect for knowledge and factual truth, retro]: America, eternally priding itself on its enlightenment and accomplishments, has traditionally, exalted intellectual prowess and human advancement to a high plane. The citation of exceptional Americans, Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Alva Edison, Stephen Hawking, and Jonas Salk, is to select but a modest sample of our Nation’s brilliant scientific minds. In literature, educated citizens have traditionally extolled the abundance of great authors, including, Herman Melville, William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, Toni Morrison and Ernest Hemmingway. There was then, a shared respect for eclectic knowledge, liberal arts and the humanities, which subjects tend to enhance man’s perspective, as to himself and the world. Serious plays, poetry, essays and other literary creations of aesthetic and informational value, were, beneficially, popular and served to enhance the citizen’s quality of life, and maturity of perception.
[Respect for knowledge and factual truth, now]: It would be an aesthetic falsehood and a stretch of reality, to liken the contemporary period, to that of the described, recent past. In the mundane lives of a vast number of uneducated and ill-informed members of our national population, aspiration to the goals of enlightenment and wisdom, is either, limited or completely, non-existent. The existence of empirically truthful facts, in fact, truth itself, among that population, is not, ultimately and appropriately, decisive, when compared to subjective, self-interested, fantasy. The governmental patent for societal depravity, deservedly, should be granted to Donald J. Trump, who is universally credited, among a plethora of other harmful traits, for his serial mendacity, his disparagement of “truth,” and the new tactical institution of delusional, “alternate” facts.
Education, research, art, the humanities and literary achievement are no longer matters of exalted public interest, due to the influence of Trump, and especially, his ardent supporters, the hordes of undereducated and uninformed citizens. Moreover, in many quarters, conspiratorial ideations gain easy victories over empirical facts. Sad to say, the traditional, mainstream, American citizen, has reason to fear the possible advent of autocracy, as the possible successor to our democratic republic.
The foregoing selected illustrations of representative features of the recent past, and the indicated, factual, comparison with their contemporary context casts considerable doubt on the negative, or derogatory, context, of accusations of “retro” or “old fashioned.”