By The Editor

The Good Old DaysAfter eighteen months of the pandemic’s new normal, I often hear people complain about the restrictions of their freedom and violation of their human rights. Road rage shooting and increased murder rates are common in parts of the USA. Sexual assaults and teenage pregnancies in countries like Uganda are rising astronomically. Such complaints and talks  got me thinking about the good old days. Were the old days as good as people say they were? This note and the other articles will address this question.

To answer the question, I went as far back as recorded human history goes. Lo and behold, I found the answer, but it is nuanced.

You might already know that the Neanderthals and other earlier forms of humans might just have been obliterated by the Homo sapiens, our species. If so, there must have been constant violent fights between the two species. The Neanderthals are no more alive; no good old days for them.

Fast forward to human relationship within and between communities, countries, or continents. A quick look at European history shows that it is littered with wars, lasting for months, years and even centuries. The Roman, Ottoman and other empires, expanded through wars of conquest, but they also eventually declined due to succession as well as wars of resistance. Cultural wars pitted the Catholics against the Protestants, Christians against Muslims (see Power’s article), and others, at the cost of millions of lives.

Africa suffered from both internal wars between communities as well as from violence associated with the horrific slave trade. Asia was also not free of violence. Various dynasties in China, Southeast Asia and other regions waged wars of conquest and occupation.

America also lived violently. The Aztecs practiced ceremonial human sacrifice. Of course, North and Central America and the Caribbean had slavery.

In addition to wars, in the olden days people suffered from natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes, famines, and plagues.  

OK. Maybe those were not the good old days if you were to be thrown to hungry lions at the Colosseum during the Roman Empire, a captured enemy warrior bound for human sacrifice in the Aztec Empire, or an innocent child or woman captured and sold into slavery by any of the African chiefs of the time, etc.

Olden days, those were. Now, the world has undergone tremendous technological development. We now know a lot more about the material world and how to manipulate it to suit our needs than our ancestors did. Land, water, air, and space transport has never been better. Our medical knowledge far surpasses that of ancient people. After World War II, the world swore never again, to commit genocide. Can we say that the good days are here now?

Unfortunately, technological advancement also means development of the most efficient weapons of destruction. Wars are no longer fought with axes, spears, and swords on foot or on horse back. Guns, missiles, planes, and drones are the new war machines. Countries like North and South Korea are busy dueling to see who can make the most destructive bomb. Meanwhile, genocidal, conventional, and terroristic wars still happen.

When Edward Jenna developed the cowpox vaccine in 1796, anti-vaxxers were out in full force as you can see in James Gillray’s satirical image depicting cow heads growing out of the bodies of vaccinees. How frightening it must have been! One would think that after 225 years, people’s attitude towards vaccines has changed. Oh no! Today, anti-vaxxers are just as busy spreading fake news about vaccines. It must also be frightening to hear anti-vaxxers misinforming people that vaccines implant microchips for tracking vaccinees; vaccines will turn people into genetically modified organisms (GMO), or vaccines cause testicular swelling. The difference is that today, fake news can be weaponized and spread faster than it could in the olden days.  

In Africa, people fought for independence. One would think that they would govern according to the will of the people. Heck no! Political freedom and democracy remain elusive for many people. Just recently, Zambia had a peaceful transition of government. Before we could even finish congratulating Zambians on their success, Guineans staged a coup d’état against one of Africa’s many long ruling autocrats (see Acemah’s and Kaheru’s articles).

Now that you have it, you can answer for yourself whether the good old days were real, a matter of relativity or merely an illusion.