- Education and Science
"Clinging To The Past" - What Makes People Do It, And Is That What They're Really Doing?
This Hub was written in reply to a question found in HubPages' "Answers" section. Here's the question as it was presented:
"What makes people illogically cling to the past when the past in many aspects is totally irrelevant. in postmodern 21st century society? Why are some people fearful of modernity, change, and growth, oftentimes preferring to remain totally entrenched in the past much to their detriment?"
This is obviously a pretty broad question; and since it was posted with a picture of a well known, 1970's, sit-com, bigot (Archie Bunker of "All In The Family") the question (and its wording) suggest a definite slant toward associating a wish to preserve some things of the past with ignorance (as was the character of Archie Bunker presented/created at the time).
I'd like to try to take a more objective and general look at the wish to preserve at least some things associated with the past, because all things from the past aren't negative or bad things (or positive/good things either, of course).
What, Exactly, Is "The Past"
My immediate response to the question asked was to think of the saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." With regard to what anyone wants to "cling to", there are some things with roots in the past that, if not universal "treasure" (what is clearly good for humanity, or the world, in general) are some people's individual "treasure". Whether the more "individual treasure" is all that much of a gem or not can depend on what's in question. Things like ego and the unhealthy wish/need to control others sometimes make "one man's treasure" nothing more than his (or her) personal "treasure". Considering the "one man's trash..." saying from a different angle, one mans' past is often another man's present. So there's that. "Past can be as simple and individual as one person's having cold eggs for breakfast earlier today to as complex and broad as "everything that has ever happened in the world (or universe, for that matter) before the present moment (or generation, or era, etc. etc.). So, cut-off points from "past" to "present" aren't always clear-cut. Then, too, there is the fact that, regardless of how individual or "reduced down" any "present" is or isn't, no present moment just came out of the proverbial "blue" in a big puff of magical smoke. Neither does "present" begin or end with any individual (although how much someone is involved with any moment can mean that one his immediate involvement in that moment/situation ends or diminishes, then that can be that person's cut-off point for "past". Also, "past" is sometimes a matter of how much someone can recall and for how long he recalls it.
Yet Another Saying Comes To Mind
When considering what, exactly. "The Past" is, I thought of how another saying could kind of apply to the past: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." Plain and simple, depending on what "past" someone has in mind, there are some things that are "from the past" that are positive things - things worth trying to preserve or maybe even bring back. Some positive things have stood the test of time, of course. Unfortunately, so have any number of negative things.
Sometimes something thought of today as "from the present" is really nothing more than a matter of something "from the past" that has stood the test of time and been re-packaged into something that looks like it's "from today", rather than the past.
For any number of reasons, and for any number of individuals or groups of people, "The Past" truly is in the eye of the beholder.
And, speaking of in-the-eye-of- the beholder, so are words like "clinging" (and particularly, perhaps, "illogical").
While it's certainly true that there is such a thing as "clinging illogically" to some things of the past, not all instances of someone's wishing to preserve something from the past are illogical. While "clinging illogically" can be a matter of out-and-out ignorance, or even one or another kind of character/personality flaw (or even mental illness); a wish to present SOME things from the past can also be a matter of wanting to preserve (or get back) something that has been associated with the past by people who don't understand the very valid and logical importance of aiming to preserve it.
"Beholders" come in all ages and from any number of different cultures, groups, and mindsets.
A Look At The Word, "Clinging"
"Clinging", as word and by itself, doesn't have a negative meaning. Let's face it: When it's used with "..to the past" it is coming from a place, mind and/or heart of judgment/assessment. And, when used with "...to the past" that place, mind and/or heart that is doing the judging or assessing most often is not seeing or portraying (even if only to oneself) the person who appears to be "clinging to the past" in a favorable light. Maybe it's appropriate to judge some "clinging to the past" in a negative light. It isn't always.
Based on the wording of the question that inspired this Hub, I think it's pretty clear that the asker of the question had in mind negative and destructive things of the past. This is not a unique or unusual question, however; and so often when someone asks it (or some version of it in slightly differently wording) the asker has chosen to use "clinging" (or "illogical") based on his own idea about what is worth preserving from one kind of past or another as a way ot expressing his prejudice against whatever it is from a past (or "The Past" or someone's past) that someone else has just not allowed to be buried or forgotten.
Here's where the choice of the word, "clinging", should bring the asker of the question a little more under scrutiny if for no reason other than his choice to use "clinging", rather than a more neutral and less judgmental word. I'm not saying that when some outrageously horrible and/or cruel and/or ignorant thing of the past is what someone "wants to preserve" there shouldn't be judgment or assessment (or use of a word like "clinging").
From an objective standpoint, however, there are plenty of times when the "clinging to the past" kind of question or issue is not a matter of someone's trying to preserve something from the past that was outrageously horrible, cruel and/or ignorant. Sometimes it's a matter of the person who sees "clinging to past" not understanding the logic to valuing some things from the past (often because that person doesn't have the information required to come up with the best logic); or because that person has the kind of arrogance that allows him to deem what is valuable or worth preserving not because of any logical reasoning at all, but simply because that person has deemed himself deemer-of-what-is-worth-preserving.
Sometimes The Past Just Makes Someone Too Uncomfortable
Sometimes The Past Just Makes Someone Too Uncomfortable
Whether it's a matter of one individual or a group of individuals and whether's it's a big-picture matter of small-picture matter; the present, as I said, hasn't just magically come out of puff smoke. Everything that exists in the present has been built on any number of building blocks of the past. Yes, there are times or situations when some of those foundation-level building blocks really aren't relefvant to one matter-at-hand or another. Then again, there are times or situations when some of those building blocks of the past are rotten. It's often far too late to even think of removing those rotten building blocks from the past. Nobody likes looking at them.
I suppose, depending on far back in any past some of those rotten blocks are, how uncomfortable they make anyone may depend on the degree to which those blocks touched someone's own life and/or present.
It's easy to wash one's hands of something that went on, say, hundreds of years ago, or before someone was born. It's not so easy to wash one hands of, or bury, those rotten blocks that appeared in the picture within our lifetime (or in some cases, within our own lives or family's lives).
Things like guilt, anger, the wish for truth or justice are things that tend to linger more around those rotten blocks that aren't quite as far back in the past as either someone wishes they were or else as they might seem to those who don't know any better.
Going back to the saying, "One man's trash is another man's treasure"...
Sometimes, or in some instances/matters; one's man's past isn't past at all and is, instead, one, long, present. It's not always possible to go far back into the past and replace or remove so many of those rotten building blocks. The ones that remain within our reach.and view are another matter.