If you could live in any other period in history, when would it be?
That’s a question I’ve been grappling with lately. Or rather, I’ve asked a few friends here and there and they’ve been grappling with the question.
For me, though, the answer is a no brainer: the time is now. There is no other time period I’d rather experience. We have access to so many technological, medical, economical, social and travel advancements now. There’s the internet and everything that brings (underage sexting and online harassment are unfortunate evolutionary glitches in the system), the eradication of polio, globalisation, and minorities have never been more equal than they are now.
That’s not to say there isn’t more work to be done. When I expressed my disbelief that anyone would rather live in any time but the present to a friend, she asked me if I wouldn’t rather live in a future where women, gays, the disabled, transgendered people and those of colour were viewed as equal to the straight, white male: of course I would! But when I’ve asked the question that makes up the first sentence of this post to a gay friend, for example, he said he’d love to live in 19th century America! Now the 1800s span a vast period, but it was an era where blacks were slaves, women couldn’t leave the house without a chaperone and were deemed washed up pariahs if they weren’t married by their early twenties, smallpox and cholera were endemic, and forget the liberated lives gay men in the Western world experience today!
But this wasn’t an isolated opinion: I went on a tour of historical beats (public sex spots for gay men; think George Michael) in Melbourne run by a gay man as part of the Midsumma festival over the weekend. Telling us about the underbelly of gay culture in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, our guide expressed a nostalgia for those times and that as a modern gay man he felt he “missed out” on experiencing some of that culture. Are you kidding me?! Sure, maybe the thrill of doing something you’re not supposed to is enticing, but the reason so many of these beats weren’t known to the general public is because homosexuality was still a crime in Victoria until 1980!
As a “minority” (even though women make up roughly 52% of the global population), I just can’t fathom that any fellow minority would voluntarily give up the progress and relative freedom we experience in the West for the prohibition of yesteryear.
I’m sure some of these comments were just made in passing without taking into account the other factors I’ve mentioned above, and I myself am partial to some ’20s, ’50s and ’80s fashions and, being a child of that era, some ’90s music every now and then, but I wouldn’t change my existence for anything. The struggles those who came before us endured paved the way for people like me to be able to speak up about the myriad injustices still taking place all over the world. I only hope that when my children or children’s children (NB: I don’t plan on having children) step out into the big, wide world (though it’s getting increasingly smaller with each new advancement) they can look back on 2013 and wonder how their parents and grandparents lived free with all our times’ limitations.
What do you think? Am I overreacting or do you agree that our time is now?