Tell me again how you want to go back to those halcyon days when things were simpler. When we didn’t worry about diabetes because sugar was a rare and precious treat. Tell me about the joys a quiet life of working the fields till the sun sinks into the crimsons and golds of an Old Master oil painting in the west and the cows low as they trudge homewards and no-body is on Prozac or blood-pressure pills. Tell me about your longing to return, sweating from an honest day’s honest labour and to have an honest woman (no anorexia, no insecurities, no nonsense) put an honest meal on the stove. Ah, back then the evening commute wouldn’t have been all smog and swearing , only the fresh turned earth sighing contentedly beneath your boots.
And ladies, those were the days of romance and gallantry, towers and traffic-cone hats, and handsome wandering minstrels. No heartbreak, no date-rape, no work-related social anxiety disorder. Swooning though, lots of elegant swooning. And those wandering minstrels. And that dashing, swashbuckling, chivalry loving, woodsman: Robin Hood. Ah.
I’m afraid to mention this, but I’m pretty sure Robin Hood had lice. Then again, maybe you wouldn’t mind so much because, realistically speaking, so would you. Two kinds. And ringworm. Maidens in towers wore iron chastity belts, even to the loo, and you were lucky if you lived through bearing your first kid (first of as many as was physically possible). If you did make it to thirty, you could be sure it wasn’t with all your teeth. Sewerage flowed in the streets (at least in the classy neighbourhoods it would be street not yard) and the pigs had to sleep inside in the winter, to keep from freezing.
And that was just if you were normal. Birth-defects or blindness, overdeveloped opinions or ill-health, not much of a public health system them, or a woman’s lib movement. Abusive husbands or faithless wives couldn’t really be managed by a the courts, or the social services, or by much at all. Creativity, grief, study, mourning, not much time for these frivolities under those kingfisher summer skies, not if you didn’t want to starve.
Not much time for choices.
So by all means, search for your golden dreams of dark woods and babbling brooks (not really our yore, us from this city of gold dust and veld grass), chase the slow, subsistence lifestyle certainly. But you only get it by going backwards if you accept that only one of your five kids is likely to survive to adulthood.
Nostalgia for things that didn’t really exist outside of fat books written by people like Robert Jordan.
It’s only from here, from this, all the contradictions and complications and craziness that is modern day living that we can dream of Elysium. Remember that next time you look down your nose at progress.
If we are to reach those days of wheat-gold and farm green again it will be reaching forward, not by looking back.
If we home-stead once more, make the planet our friend, find romance and leisure but keep our libraries and our teeth, it will be through science and not in spite of it.
Science-fiction is also about utopias.
We can find the sleepy villages and pastoral quiet again, if we really want it. We are on the verge of having the knowledge and skills we need.
Maybe we’ll find it on mars