Looking to the Past to find a Better Future

We are seeing a lot of ugliness in our society. Violence, cruelty, narcissism, poverty, and apathy abound. There are many reasons for this, but in this post, I’m only looking at our physical environment.

I spend a lot of time reading about and researching the past, and it always shocks me to see how clean and open the living conditions were a century ago.

If we look at public life 120 years ago, the buildings, decor, architecture, signage, currency, and other aspects of our shared public life were designed to be beautiful and they were well maintained. It was not acceptable to have dirty streets or to abandon our public places to ruin.

1900 vs. 2014 coin

 

This isn’t intended to be a pessimistic post, nor to suggest the past was perfect. It’s a suggestion that we resurrect what was good and lovely in our past with the aim of softening and improving our world today.

Are our external conditions responsible for the crime and lowered standards? Not entirely, but they make a difference. Our behavior tends to match our environment.

We replaced the ornate and dazzling Victorian and Art Deco structures with brutalist architecture. We discarded beauty for a sanitized uniformity.

Romanesque vs. Brutalist Architecture

 

Metro – Late nineteenth century vs. today

 

We substituted distinctive and elegant signage and currency with bland, mundane alternatives.

Vintage vs. Modern Restrooms

 

 

 

Vintage and modern street signs

 

And in this new setting, we overcrowded. In our cramped conditions, our standards for cleanliness, behavior, accommodations, and nearly everything else greatly diminished.

Air Travel 1920 vs 2021

 

What would be the good of recapturing our lost elegance? It wouldn’t make things faster or cheaper, but is that what we need right now? My theory is that generally speaking, people treat each other more kindly when they are in lovely places.

Art Nouveau hotel vs. modern Archer hotel

 

We make wiser decisions, including in how we choose to govern ourselves, when our environment is serene and conducive to happiness. We behave better when we dress better.

1896 vs. 2004 currency designs featuring President Grant

 

Luxury car design 1922 vs 2022

 

I don’t know how we could do it. But I think we should try.

Share your thoughts on this post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s