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The Good Old Days

Apologies for not having posted in a while -- it's been a busy summer. I did manage to spend time with the family, play some decent tennis, read a couple of good books (Feast of the Goat by Vargas Llosa and Cutting for Stone by Verghese) and watch the occasional film.

One of these films, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, got me thinking beyond the pretty images of Paris. In the movie, the principal characters look beyond the considerable charms of contemporary Paris to idealize an earlier "Golden Age" -- either Paris in the 1920s Jazz Era or the 1890s Belle Epoque. They lament that they did not live in their chosen era.

It is, of course, not unusual for us to romanticize an earlier, seemingly superior period. Just ask your parents. In this perfect past, kids were better dressed and better behaved, contemporary music did not sound like screaming Banshees and adults could make it through a meal without tweeting, texting or updating their online status.

These ruminations on time and place reminded me of my first day in law school, almost 30 years ago to the day. The then Dean, Harry Wellington, welcomed my new classmates and I to Yale Law School with a talk which ranged from the usual orientation logistics (where do we eat our meals; where do we buy our West textbooks) to an Allen-like meditation on the passing of a Golden Age.

Dean Wellington told us that very soon after we came to realize that we had not, in fact, been admitted to this prestigious law school by mistake, we would quickly move on to bemoan our fate at having missed the Golden Age at Yale. Where had the former Lions of the Law all gone? Where were the Grant Gilmores, Alex Bickels and Boris Bittkers? The truth he said, was that each generation of students failed to appreciate that the young professors teaching their classes would one day be similarly revered. The class of 2014 starting classes this week will no doubt lament that they did not have the chance to study with Guido Calabresi, Harold Koh or Geoff Hazard.

In our crisis-laden times, we would all do well to remember the blessings of our present Golden Age. I have been writing for some time about the dangers of the over-indebted, no growth western economies, but I believe we are in only the early years of an Information Revolution which will outpace the Industrial Revolution. The threat of terrorism and regional violence remains real; however, we have lived more than half a century without nuclear or world war. Finally, we have global warming, depleting natural resources and super bugs, but infant mortality and life expectancy have improved in most parts of the world, and we are poised for scientific breakthroughs in green energy and the fight against cancer.

These truly are the good old days.
Published Friday, September 9, 2011 10:34 PM by Tom Glocer



Sophie said:

Well said. That reminds me, tomorrow night I attend a 'Golden Age' lecture by Dean Karlan at the Yale Club of London. The title of the lecture is: More Than Good Intentions: How the new economics is helping to solve global poverty- Sophie
September 12, 2011 1:02 PM

Randigb said:

Looking back on "The Good Old Days" has always seemed to me to be very one dimensional.  Looking back with longing always comes from the single perspective view of those that benefited the most of "The Good Old Days".

When I hear people long for the days of the 50s "Live it to Beaver" era, when kids knew their place and families stayed together, I have to remind myself that along with those days came tough times for women, African Americans and other minorities. And each nostalgic look back has its own disenfranchised and downtrodden.  

Lamenting about the past halcyon days robs us of the appreciation for the wonderful things that going on today.  Yes we have hard times, bad economy, joblessness, but we also have technology that is bringing people from across the world together.  It's always a matter of the good with the bad and which you choose to focus on.  In my opinion, learning from the past is helpful; longing for the past is not. It's a case of be careful what you wish for...
September 15, 2011 12:41 PM

lizpete said:

Dear Tom,

I have been looking all over the Reuter's website to find someone who looked like they might be able to do something about what I am going to write.

I just discovered something I didn't know before. Palestinians have been doing non-violent protests for a long time but the media hasn't been covering it.  In this TED video a young lady named Julia Bacha eloquently outlines a way media could be helpful to the Palestinian - Israeli peace process.  

So I spent some time trying to find someone to share this wonderful news with.  Maybe you could find a way to get this issue covered more?  

There is so much misinformation about both the Israelis and the Palestinians.  Maybe you can do something about it.  I don't know.


Thank you for reading my comment.
September 17, 2011 8:36 PM

kevinrivera said:

Very true!!!! The blog reminds me of my Old days and they were really memorable.
October 3, 2011 8:24 AM

ser11hill said:

WELL said!
November 15, 2011 9:43 PM

sarahdiazz said:

very nice article. and very true
November 23, 2011 3:39 AM

lakevacations said:

well, i really like author writing style about good old days. If you have write more articles please share the link with me.I would like to read your Articles.Thanks
February 25, 2012 9:27 AM

OvereagerIntern said:

Dear Tom,

I'm a newbie at this- I happened upon your blog through a chain reaction of events that all started with Tom Friedman. I was reading his, "The World is Flat," on the train to work one morning and in it he mentioned you, the then CEO of Reuters. So, like any college kid who was unfamiliar with a certain person that could potentially garner some interest, I Google'd you. The link to this blog showed up, and the rest is history; I've been catching up on every post since.

Whether you or anyone else read this post or not, I just wanted it to be known that I think your work here is excellent. It's so rare for an audience to be subject to the private thoughts and everday occurrences of a public executive in the news industry. Not surprisingly, I've found that yours are thoughts worth reading. There are a number of your posts that are both informative and interesting, but I chose specifically to comment on this one because it's inspirational. For it allows me, a twenty-year old Muslim girl from NYU, to believe that there's still some hope in what many have written off as an irreversibly ravaged, cruel, and uncaring world. But if this representation was in fact true, I would not have been able to sit on a computer at my summer internship and respond to a CEO's year-old blog post. Technology and globalization, social justice and individual freedoms, and unlimited access to literary sources both digital and analog, have made this moment possible. I understand that these outlets are availble to me because I've been blessed, and I acknowledge that each of the aforementioned categories still has much room for growth. But it excites me to know that I'm alive in this era to affect the proper change to do so. So thank you, for reaffirming my faith in the world and reminding me that ours are the good old days worth cherishing.
June 23, 2012 2:08 PM

jamesclark787 said:

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October 6, 2012 8:15 AM
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