Lies, lies, lies

It is human nature to look at the past through rose coloured glasses. Things were always better when you were younger, and morals are always deteriorating. Once upon a time, when somebody said something you knew it was a fact; people simply didn’t lie. People are so much more violent these days, too.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Take it from a history student. The more I study, the more I see that human nature really has not changed significantly in at least the last 3,000 years. Ancient Romans even used to make the same complaints about how much better things used to be!

In the year 41, Seneca the Younger was exiled. When the emperor Claudius’ wife wanted her sister-in-law out of the way, she accused her of adultery, implicating Seneca. The charge was completely false, and yet he was banished to Corsica for it. There’s some nice morality for you, from 1,972 years ago!

Going even further back, to 133 BCE, we can find the death of Tiberius Gracchus. He was a Roman politician who had proposed a new law concerning the use and distribution of agricultural lands for the benefit of the poor. The law threatened the land holdings of the very rich, including many other prominent politicians. It ended when members of the Roman Senate brutally murdered Tiberius and 300 of his followers and threw the bodies into the river.

As for sexual assaults and the subjugation of women, I find it hard to track down specific ancient cases. However I do know that in countless societies around the world, female inferiority arose alongside the advent of agriculture. That means that women have been looked down on for at least 10,000 years, and I see no reason to suppose that brutal rapes have not occurred with some regularity from that point onwards.

So no, things didn’t use to be better. People were not magically nicer. The world was not more peaceful or loving. The sun didn’t always shine, and the grass wasn’t always green. People have always been people, just like us, moved to act by essentially selfish motives – to gain something, or to get away with something.

If you want something different from the world, don’t look to the past. Work on it for the future.

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