I’ll describe my experience with those who came of age around the 1940s or a little earlier. Much of this generation has passed into glory; this is for benefit of today’s youth who didn’t know them as I did, and to preserve their memory. My experiences are mostly those of Midwesterners; perhaps this skews my perceptions somewhat. If you suspect I’m about to tell you how they walked to school in the snow, uphill both ways, you’re basically right, but work with me here.
Getting it into perspective
Despite whatever problems they had, by and large their day was a charmed age compared to now. A young man from 1946 who stepped into a time machine and visited America today might be a bit shocked: first by the technology, then by the decadence and corruption. I won’t say that this was a mythical golden age when nothing went wrong and everyone was perfect. Every society has its good points and bad points, and all times have had their challenges.
Back then, there were some very dirty dealings going on in the government, some of which backfired horribly. Already the media was keeping the public in black darkness and confusion. There were things afoot in the educational system that would later cause the upheaval in the 1960s that would seriously damage society. (This is a major reason why things today aren’t a lot more like they were for the generation I’m describing.) I can’t blame the public then for not acting on what they didn’t know. If they could’ve seen things from today’s perspective, they would’ve drained the swamp in record time (as I hope we do shortly), or perhaps gone the torches-and-pitchforks route.
There were cheating husbands, wives who slept with the milkman, and premarital experimentation happened sometimes. However, this sort of thing was a lot rarer because it was considered shameful, not celebrated. As for people who didn’t want to live by society’s rules, they sensibly did their best to keep private things private.
Other than that, they had their share of crooks and gangsters, but their crime rate was rock-bottom compared to now. Also, the 1940s and 1950s are often thought of as a time of intolerance in many ways. However, I’ll let history be the judge of whether there might have been perhaps a little reason for at least some of that.
For the Greatest Generation, personal honor was sacred. A man’s word was his bond. Today, a contract must have pages of legalese to spell out what is expected, yet isn’t considered as binding as a handshake once was. Back then, debts got repaid even if that meant getting a side job digging ditches. Today, if you lend money to a friend in need, chances are your “friend” who desperately needed the cash will conveniently forget all about repaying you. Honesty has a direct effect on how well society functions.
Aside from that, character really mattered. Although they didn’t have the Internet to record drama-fests for years to come, word still got around. From what I can gather, public respect was greater back then. Cursing like sailors was for sailors. Politeness is oil for the gears of society.
People back then worried about how jazz and rhythm and blues (which evolved into rock and roll) was a bit too sexually suggestive. Still, that was as pure as the driven snow compared to some of the stuff on MTV today. Now think about that music video award thing with the tongue-twerking in the beginning and ending with the even more bizarre foam hand business. That stuff was unthinkable when the Greatest Generation was running the show. It wouldn’t have worked even thirty years ago; the trends in the music industry leading to this were only still in the works.
They took religion pretty seriously back then. I’m not here to debate whether or not God created the universe, but on the whole, religion provided a positive influence. They really believed that a mortal sin means damnation; that was definitely a check on rotten behavior.
Relations between the sexes
The Manosphere has talked quite a bit about hypergamy. That generation was raised on the belief that marriage is a sacred vow which included procreation and that purity is a virtue. It’s not too surprising that they had more stable marriages than those who grew up with recreational sex and quickly abandon relationships (rather than trying to fix or improve them) from whim or a cost-benefit analysis. Not all marriages initiated back then were perfect, but by and large, they got things right. It brings to mind the words of Tacitus about the admirable northern barbarians:
Their marriage code, however, is strict, and indeed no part of their manners is more praiseworthy.
Divorces happened, though not nearly as frequently as today, and it was considered a stain on one’s character.
Men were expected to be gentlemanly. This wasn’t a problem, since they weren’t ignored or used as chumps for doing so. If a dame played someone for a sap, that wasn’t all copasetic. Having a good personality and a steady job was enough to make a bachelor a hot prospect. An average man was suitable for an average woman. Some of the old movies did show a leading man successfully dealing with a Shit Test or a Bitch Shield. Still, it wasn’t necessary for a guy to know an arsenal of game to get taken seriously.
Men were respected for being men back then; just as women were respected for being women as they still are. Finally, men had a certain Stoic toughness that’s a little hard to understand today. They inherited much of this vitality from their pioneer forefathers, and it was reinforced by the times of trial they experienced during the Great Depression and WWII.
Women acted ladylike. There were surely some exceptions here and there, but that sort of behavior wasn’t encouraged in a “go, girl” way. Acting crazy wasn’t condoned. Cursing by ladies was pretty much out of the question, and men took care not to use foul language around them. Smoking was frowned on; that’s just as well since that social taboo saved lives. Girls learned the domestic arts from their mothers. Modern appliances reduce the need for some of that, but knowing how to plant a garden or sew a dress still counts for something.
Back in the day, tattoos were uncommon, even for men. Mostly that was for sailors, circus people, and ladies of the evening. Ear rings didn’t really get started until the 1960s, and even up until the 1990s, nose rings were only for bulls. Finally, they knew that to be treated as a lady, they should dress the part.
Best of all, the sexes got along pretty well. The changes being deliberately engineered to split society in two started to appear in the mid-1950s but didn’t get serious traction until the mid-1960s.
This generation grew up during the Great Depression, an experience that lasted a lifetime. They were very financially cautious. Some were a bit too much so, for instance saving up scraps of string just in case. The prosperity of the 1950s allowed them to loosen up a little, but they weren’t really known for retail therapy. They took care not to overload themselves with debt.
In the late 1940s, the economy was roaring. A high school dropout easily could get a well-paying unionized factory job. Back then, when a guy turned eighteen, it was normal that he’d join the military, work on the farm, or get a factory job, whether or not he had completed high school. It’s just as well that we started taking education more seriously in the 1950s, an effort spurred by the launch of Sputnik. Still, the pendulum has swung too far on this lately. Quite a few people with advanced degrees in not very marketable subjects are working at coffee shops while chipping away at millstones of student loans to the banksters.
There was considerably more loyalty between employer and employee. Moving factories to whichever country the CEO can pay the fewest peanuts was far less common then. The boss made more than anyone else, but not astronomically so. There were far more small businesses, though in the 1950s large chains started pushing them out. Even so, there were far more manufacturing jobs, which were pretty stable until the economy got screwy in the 1970s.
On a side note, technology was rapidly changing society. The Greatest Generation was born when horses and buggies started becoming obsolete, and they witnessed the beginning of the atomic age and the space age. There were two thoughts on all this, both optimistic (“better living through chemistry”) and pessimistic (“secrets mankind wasn’t meant to know”). Out of all this, we got the golden age of science fiction.
What we can learn from the Greatest Generation
We would do quite well to encourage virtues like honor and loyalty. This is something our elders got right, and there’s no down side to it.
Better relations between the sexes can be reestablished by thoroughly discrediting radical feminism. Even if overnight we defunded all women’s studies departments and showed the public that feminism (along with other manifestations of cultural Marxism) was a tool to wreck society, there would likely still be a few decades before all the post-1960s fallout settled. So we’ll have to keep shining the light of truth on their narratives until they shrivel up, but it’s going to be a long road ahead.
As for today’s decadence, the genie is out of the bottle. One might argue that our forefathers were a bit too Victorian about it all. It’s not quite going to go back to when a teenager who got “in a family way” (perhaps because she didn’t know what she was doing) went to live with Aunt Mildred for the next several months and then pretended the kid was her little brother or sister. Even so, we’re going to have to find a proper balance, while taking care not to overreact.
Let us remember that the Roaring ’20s were a bit similar to our times with loosening moral standards and gender-bending stuff (though not nearly like now), yet the pendulum swung back. There’s much that could be done toward encouraging good judgment and healthy values. An excellent first step would be reintroducing the concept that private things should be kept private. Also, it would be good to encourage virtue and sensibility. Another might be showing the GLBT movement that tolerance doesn’t mean they get everything 100% the way they want it; the camel has got its nose under the tent far enough by now.
Some Millennials – reacting to the economy’s “New Normal” – are similarly adopting a minimalist lifestyle. Prudence and realism is a good thing; we should welcome this and encourage further progress. I suspect that word is getting around about choosing majors carefully, now that it’s pretty obvious that not just any bachelor’s degree is the golden ticket to what’s left of the middle class. (That much is fair game for a cost-benefit analysis.) We should encourage small business ownership. Likewise we should rediscover crafts like auto maintenance, home repair, gardening, and sewing that mean less convenience but lower the impact on our household budgets.
There are those who will say “you can’t turn back the clock” or some other catchphrase, which hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to address later. Still, there’s nothing wrong with learning from the past.