The Malta Independent 17 October 2019, Thursday

TMID Editorial: Nostalgia - Is ‘now’ better than ‘then’?

Wednesday, 11 September 2019, 10:35 Last update: about 2 months ago

For the past weeks The Malta Independent has been carrying features showing photographs of public places as they were tens of years ago, and comparing them with photos of the same places as they are today.

The old photographs formed part of the Nostalgia series that this media house published a few years back, and as much as possible we tried to produce modern photos taken from the same angle, showing the differences between the Malta of the 1800s and 1900s with the Malta of the 21st century.

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We have entitled the series – which has covered Valletta, St Julian’s and Sliema, and the Three Cities – “Then and now”. And the question we keep asking ourselves when we are preparing the pages or uploading the photos online is whether Malta was better off when it was poorer and people lived a simpler life.

Somehow, the older photos exude tranquillity, simplicity and peace, whereas the newer ones express confusion, a hectic pace and chaos. We might be more comfortable today, have more means of transport, but our ancestors certainly led a less stressful life.

There is no doubt that Malta has registered great progress since the end of the Second World War. Successive governments have all contributed to make life easier, generated employment which meant a better standard of living for most of the community, and also did their best to improve the overall situation, including the public spaces.

We have had our difficult moments and political turmoil, but on the whole when we see the situation in Third World countries and also in some of the nations that share European Union membership with us, we must all admit that most of us lead a contented life with all the modern amenities, everyday freedoms and enjoyments, and an overall sense of having what we need, and perhaps more than we do.

There are, unfortunately, pockets of society that have been left behind as the country progressed, and some say that the gap between the better-off and the poorer continues to grow. In this respect, the efforts being made to bring these people in line with the rest need to be further enhanced.

But, in general, we cannot really complain. Still, when one comes across these photos – and with an ever-growing social media there are many of them that crop up regularly – the general impression is that although life was certainly harder in those days, and people possessed fewer material items, they seemed happier.

They had more time for each other, and although communication the way we know it today did not exist, there was a bigger sense of solidarity and comradeship. They did not have hundreds of “friends” on Facebook, but the few they had were sincere and helpful. They knew all the people who lived in their street and had a better sense of what a community should be. Today, the present-day generations are more inclined to play with their mobile phones rather than exchange a few words with people they know who are sitting next to them at the dinner table.

We cannot roll back the years and cannot live in the past. But, as we reminisce and feel nostalgic about the time that has gone by, if we manage to take some lessons from those who preceded us, we can surely make our lives better, and not just from the materialistic point of view.

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