Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

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Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby roc314 » Thu Aug 14, 2008 7:47 am UTC

I've heard a lot of stuff--here and elsewhere--about something in the present being worse than how it was in the past. And eventually, it made me wonder, what is everyone's view on this? Is the past superior to the present or vice versa? Is one time better in some areas but worse in others? (This applies both on multiple levels: are we better/worse as a world/in your small pocket of reality?)

I personally prefer where we are now. This is probably just my gut reaction against nostalgia, but I feel that we are better off now than before. The average person is less likely to die than they were several hundred years ago. We are more accepting and tolerant as a worldwide society. Technology is getting better day by day. Medicine is improving. A lot of good things are happening. We could be better off than we are now, but I won't make an issue out of the world not hitting the maximum growth every time.

Admitted, there are many negative things also: the "war on terror", global warming, famine, drought, suffering economies in many places, religious zealotry, overpopulation, terrorism, the oil crisis, the energy crisis, and people trying to kill the internet. I just have trouble exchanging our current woes for past woes. This is one of the few places where I am strongly optimistic, but the future is better than the past. Not everyone agrees (at least for individual areas), so what do you think?
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Adalwolf » Thu Aug 14, 2008 8:32 am UTC

Past, definitely. Thousands of years in the past. Or heck, maybe even just 1400 years or so in the past. The Dark Age was where it was at. A time when a strong man could carve our a kingdom with his sword-arm. Fucking badass.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby TheStranger » Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:06 am UTC

Sure the past has it's high points... horses, all those hard core people, ridding across the steeps to rape and pillage one of those chump cities (yea, take that ancient Sumer, that base-8 counting system didn't help you against the Assyrians)... but it had it's downside as well... the plague, crappy antibiotics, no central air, bad food, random barbarians showing up to burn down your stuff and ride of with your women.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby janusx » Thu Aug 14, 2008 12:34 pm UTC

Definitely the futu... I mean present. As much as I think the past is very cool to study, I think the past would be a terrible place to live. No electricity, plagues, no xkcd, no grocery stores, no hospitals, etc.

Personally I'd much rather live in the present than the past and much rather live in the future than the present.

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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby protocoach » Thu Aug 14, 2008 2:49 pm UTC

Is it really even a question? People live longer, healthier lives, have more money, and are able to do what they want now. In the past, life was worse.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Plasma Man » Thu Aug 14, 2008 3:02 pm UTC

I think a lot of people view the past in a positive way, mainly for nostalgic reasons. Personally, I'd much rather live now than at any time in the past, not only because you're much more likely to survive any illness / injury you might get, but also because of all the good things we have - a prime example being the ability to discuss things with people around the globe through the internet.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby roc314 » Thu Aug 14, 2008 5:10 pm UTC

Well I often hear people complaining about how something was better in the past, so I was simply curious if people thought the past was better or if it was just very specific things they preferred.

Of course we're better off now than hundreds of years ago, but what do people think relative to just the past few decades? I should have been more clear that past could be near or far.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby protocoach » Thu Aug 14, 2008 6:37 pm UTC

roc314 wrote:Well I often hear people complaining about how something was better in the past, so I was simply curious if people thought the past was better or if it was just very specific things they preferred.

Of course we're better off now than hundreds of years ago, but what do people think relative to just the past few decades? I should have been more clear that past could be near or far.

Again, we're much better off now than we were before. This is not necessarily true for everyone - people in developing countries, or countries that have suffered from a lot of fighting would probably disagree - but speaking for the US, we are in a dramatically better place. 40 years ago, black people and white people couldn't sit at the same lunch counter; now interracial couples are commonplace. Gay people did not exist publicly. Now, homosexuality is moving towards acceptance. Back then, being called a communist could ruin your career...yeah, so we still haven't gotten over our permanent state of pants-shitting over the possibility of communism.

This isn't to say that race relations are perfect, or that we're at a societally healthy place with sexual orientation, but (bear with me, an "I have black friends!" anecdote is coming) look at it this way: my father, who is 63 years old, never saw a black person before he was 23, and never spoke to a black person until he was 30. He didn't see an openly gay person until he was 25 and he didn't speak to an openly gay person until he was 29. Now, he counts members of a number of races and both sexual orientations among his best friends. One generation later, I've had black and Hispanic friends since I was born, I've had openly gay aunts since I was born, I have a black cousin, and out of my circle of friends, half of it is non-white. And this is in the state of Iowa, where we're nice people, but there's not exactly a reputation for tremendous tolerance.

And that's before we even go into the advances we've made in other areas. We've leapt forward technologically: computers, the internet, more efficient/hybrid vehicles, cell phones, iPods, etc. We've removed lead from toys and asbestos from insulation, installed seat belts and air bags, and a thousand other small things that have improved the quality of life. We're living in a better world. The people who tell you otherwise are either deluding themselves, or they just don't like some of the ways that it's been improved.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Elvish Pillager » Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:27 pm UTC

Quality of life is good and all, but what about happiness? Suicide rates are going up across the board. Explain that, present-lovers!

I'm not particularly convinced that it's possible to judge one time period against another, at all - it's not as if anyone can experience both and decide between them, after all. There are so many confounding factors... even my suicide statistic has a lot of ways it could be non-representative of the people's happiness (it's just the best I could come up with.)
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby protocoach » Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:51 pm UTC

Elvish Pillager wrote:Quality of life is good and all, but what about happiness? Suicide rates are going up across the board. Explain that, present-lovers!

Uh...could we get a citation for that? Because the data I'm seeing, from the CDC's NCHS, is that they've stayed fairly constant, at least through '05.

Male Suicide Rates, per 100,000

1990 - 21.5
2000 - 17.7
2004 - 18.0
2005 - 18.0

Female Suicide Rates, per 100,000

1990 - 4.8
2000 - 4.0
2004 - 4.5
2005 - 4.4

And from the looks of the historical graph that I found, it looks like all those numbers are pretty regular, since 1950.

NCHS Study (PDF)
WHO Study (PDF)

Elvish Pillager wrote:I'm not particularly convinced that it's possible to judge one time period against another, at all - it's not as if anyone can experience both and decide between them, after all.

Sure they can. Ask minorities and gay people in the 60-70 age range if things are better now or then. I can tell you right now what answer you're going to get.

EDIT: Just another kind of interesting fact: Wikipedia's listing of countries by suicide rate. This is the first time I've been happy about the U.S.'s ranking on one of these country lists in a while. :)
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Elvish Pillager » Thu Aug 14, 2008 11:41 pm UTC

Huh, that's just what I read in a newspaper. Stupid newspapers. :D

As to 60-70 year old people
1) they're quite different people now than they were a while ago.
2) I can just as well find some who say the country's going to the dogs.
3) most importantly, they spent their formative years in one era and not the other: even if people who grow up in year X may usually prefer year X + 50, that doesn't mean people who grow up in year X + 50 like that year any more than the former group liked year X.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Indon » Fri Aug 15, 2008 12:35 am UTC

Elvish Pillager wrote:Quality of life is good and all, but what about happiness?

You know what helps happiness? Treatment for bipolar disorder helps happiness. Know what else it helps to do? Drop suicide rates.

Anyway, If I could, I would select 'future'. Things are better now than they have been, due to the work of those who came before us. But things can get still better, due to what we do. We can make a present for those who come after us which will make the world we live in seem pathetic.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Pixel » Mon Aug 18, 2008 4:02 pm UTC

Present, hands down. *At most* I'd want to go back about 10-15 years.

20 years ago (1988) The internet only existed in a tiny way and was almost useless compared to the resource/interaction/shopping/lolcat/etc medium it is today.

30 years ago (1978) No internet, no MP3s, no CDs. And well, it was the 70's. Economic doldrums, ugly emissions-strangled cars, horrible fashion & interior design. Have you watched movies from that era? Everything is dirty, ugly, and/or covered in shag & "earth tones".

40 years ago (1968) I get the choice of being a "hippy" and living with poor hygiene, no economic opportunities, the real risk of getting the shit beaten out of me. Or being part of "The Man" and having to wear a buzz-cut, slacks & button down shirts (or worse suits) as every-day wear. I can't skip shaving, and have to adhere to a long list of "acceptable" behaviour for being part of society.

50 years ago (1958) See above regarding "The Man", except that is pretty much my only option. Also 1-3 TV stations total, AM radio only, highway system brand new, so traveling long distances still not simple. Very formal rules for dating & courtship meaning if I like someone I can't just simply "hang out" with them. If my facade of "proper" behaviour slips it can have very real negative job & social implications.

60 years ago (1948) I will have just finished fighting in a world war a few years ago, assuming I survived.

etc...

I am a 30 years old. I have friends or acquaintances of a variety of races, sexes, sexual orientations, religions & economic levels. I am openly agnostic and don't attend (or affiliate myself with) any church or religion. I share a house with two good friends, one female and one biologically male, but openly transgendered. I am openly into science fiction and attend cons[1]. I can dress just about however I feel, and so long as my genitalia is covered no one can do a thing about it. I'm openly poly, and my married girlfriend & I go out openly, and everyone including my mom knows. I enjoy kinky sex, and should I so desire can publicly attend fetish events & meetings of fetish groups in public places. Hell, my gf & I can have sex whenever we want (and with other people as well) without having to worry significantly about her getting pregnant or either if us getting an STD.
Should I get in a car accident there are very good odds of me walking away relatively uninjured. And should I get injured badly I have good odds of surviving due to advances in medical science. Also the hospital is *required* to treat me, regardless of if I can pay, whether I work for the company that owns the hospital, or what my racial/religious affiliation is. Oh and if I need that ambulance (or the police, or the fire department) I can pull a phone out of my *pocket* and dial 911 *anywhere* in my home country and be connected to the local emergencies services, who can then triangulate my rough location and find me.
Even on my mediocre salary I can afford to buy a car for less than a year's salary. that car will be warrantied for *years*, and won't need significant maintenance for tens of thousands of miles. I don't have to have it serviced every 3000-5000 miles, and tuneups aren't required every 30K. And despite this the car is pretty much certain to start every morning regardless of the weather. And I can hop on an interstate highway and drive anywhere I want to with a box half the size of a paperback automatically telling me where I am and the best way to where I want to go. And if driving is too slow I can buy a plane ticket for under a month's salary that will take me anywhere in the country.

Dude the future present rocks!


[1]did you know as recently as 30 years ago being in "fandom" could have negative job & social repercussions?
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby quintopia » Wed Aug 20, 2008 4:52 pm UTC

protocoach wrote:Is it really even a question? People live longer, healthier lives, have more money, and are able to do what they want now. In the past, life was worse.


That's what the present wants you to think. Truth is, good clean tribal living (as was common circa 10,000+ years ago) is a lot less work with a lot more moral support. Sure, they didn't live as long, mainly due to lacking technology, but 1) money was a meaningless concept - people traded services and support, and 2) people were able to do what they wanted to an even greater degree. Summary: in the past, life was, in some ways, better.

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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby janusx » Wed Aug 20, 2008 6:08 pm UTC

quintopia wrote:
protocoach wrote:Is it really even a question? People live longer, healthier lives, have more money, and are able to do what they want now. In the past, life was worse.


That's what the present wants you to think. Truth is, good clean tribal living (as was common circa 10,000+ years ago) is a lot less work with a lot more moral support. Sure, they didn't live as long, mainly due to lacking technology, but 1) money was a meaningless concept - people traded services and support, and 2) people were able to do what they wanted to an even greater degree. Summary: in the past, life was, in some ways, better.


The trading of goods, services, and support is the foundation of a monetary system. If someone in the tribe was born unhealthy or with any sort of handicap it is unlikely that they would survive long.

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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby protocoach » Wed Aug 20, 2008 6:10 pm UTC

quintopia wrote:
protocoach wrote:Is it really even a question? People live longer, healthier lives, have more money, and are able to do what they want now. In the past, life was worse.


That's what the present wants you to think. Truth is, good clean tribal living (as was common circa 10,000+ years ago) is a lot less work with a lot more moral support. Sure, they didn't live as long, mainly due to lacking technology, but 1) money was a meaningless concept - people traded services and support, and 2) people were able to do what they wanted to an even greater degree. Summary: in the past, life was, in some ways, better.

That's simply untrue. You couldn't do what you wanted, because you spent all your time just staying alive. A lot less work? No, it was a lot more work. No toilets, no machines, few tools; that life required tons more labor. Moral support is just a question of working on building connections with other people. That's perfectly possible to do now. And you can't just lampshade the lifespan with "Sure, they didn't live as long". Sorry, that doesn't work. At 40 you were ancient. Screw that noise.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby toshiro » Thu Aug 21, 2008 8:08 am UTC

The Present, obviously. Because history has shown that reverting back to a previous stage is impossible (see French Revolution and ensuing hilarity), and only in the Present can we change according to errors made in the Past to avoid the same mistakes in the Future (yeah, I'm of a hopelessly optimistic mindset, when it comes to that).

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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby poleboy » Thu Aug 21, 2008 11:48 am UTC

quintopia wrote:
protocoach wrote:Is it really even a question? People live longer, healthier lives, have more money, and are able to do what they want now. In the past, life was worse.


That's what the present wants you to think. Truth is, good clean tribal living (as was common circa 10,000+ years ago) is a lot less constant work with a lot more moral support. Sure, they didn't live as long past 30, mainly due to lacking technology every single disease and infection being potentially lethal, but 1) money was a meaningless concept - people traded services and support, and 2) people heterosexual men were able to do what they wanted to an even greater degree. Summary: in the past, life was, in some ways, better.

I'm not sure about the whole moral support thing either...

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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Adalwolf » Thu Aug 21, 2008 2:54 pm UTC

protocoach wrote:
quintopia wrote:
protocoach wrote:Is it really even a question? People live longer, healthier lives, have more money, and are able to do what they want now. In the past, life was worse.


That's what the present wants you to think. Truth is, good clean tribal living (as was common circa 10,000+ years ago) is a lot less work with a lot more moral support. Sure, they didn't live as long, mainly due to lacking technology, but 1) money was a meaningless concept - people traded services and support, and 2) people were able to do what they wanted to an even greater degree. Summary: in the past, life was, in some ways, better.

That's simply untrue. You couldn't do what you wanted, because you spent all your time just staying alive. A lot less work? No, it was a lot more work. No toilets, no machines, few tools; that life required tons more labor. Moral support is just a question of working on building connections with other people. That's perfectly possible to do now. And you can't just lampshade the lifespan with "Sure, they didn't live as long". Sorry, that doesn't work. At 40 you were ancient. Screw that noise.


Do not speak about that which you obviously have no knowledge (ie: hunter gatherers).

Studies done on modern hunter-gatherers have shown that they spend less than 25 hours a week on average doing work- doing what they need to survive (ie: getting food, water, making new tools, making shelters [if they make shelters, that is]).

And modern hunter gatherers live on sub-par land to survive, as the best land has been taken and used for farming by civilization. So, going by that it it isn't unreasonable to assume that hunter-gatherers in the past would have spent less time working to survive.

Now, people did not live as long true, but I haven't actually read a study on ancient lifespans, but from what I've seen is that if you make it to adulthood, you'll most likely make it to 40-50. And if you make it that long, there's a good chance you'll make it to 60ish or even more.

In the studies I mentioned (I read them in the book called Stone Age Economics, if any of you are wondering), researchers noted a fair amount of elderly people at the campsites of the !Kung they were studying.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby pyroman » Fri Aug 22, 2008 2:29 am UTC

I find that a lot of times when people say that life was better in the past their only source material is that of tv shows from the era. Namely the cliche 1950s sitcom with the perfect family where everything is just dandy. I bet you never saw one off these 1950s tv shows that dealt with a war veteran suffering from post traumatic stress system who beats his family or someone living in fear of being called out as a Communist or hell even one that had a pregnant woman as this was considered taboo. While I cant fairly judge this time period as i was not alive during it can can say that it would take a lot to get me to give up the wealth of information i have access to at my figure tips on a daily basis know as the internet.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby protocoach » Fri Aug 22, 2008 3:42 am UTC

Adalwolf wrote:
protocoach wrote:
quintopia wrote:
protocoach wrote:Is it really even a question? People live longer, healthier lives, have more money, and are able to do what they want now. In the past, life was worse.


That's what the present wants you to think. Truth is, good clean tribal living (as was common circa 10,000+ years ago) is a lot less work with a lot more moral support. Sure, they didn't live as long, mainly due to lacking technology, but 1) money was a meaningless concept - people traded services and support, and 2) people were able to do what they wanted to an even greater degree. Summary: in the past, life was, in some ways, better.

That's simply untrue. You couldn't do what you wanted, because you spent all your time just staying alive. A lot less work? No, it was a lot more work. No toilets, no machines, few tools; that life required tons more labor. Moral support is just a question of working on building connections with other people. That's perfectly possible to do now. And you can't just lampshade the lifespan with "Sure, they didn't live as long". Sorry, that doesn't work. At 40 you were ancient. Screw that noise.


Do not speak about that which you obviously have no knowledge (ie: hunter gatherers).

Studies done on modern hunter-gatherers have shown that they spend less than 25 hours a week on average doing work- doing what they need to survive (ie: getting food, water, making new tools, making shelters [if they make shelters, that is]).

And modern hunter gatherers live on sub-par land to survive, as the best land has been taken and used for farming by civilization. So, going by that it it isn't unreasonable to assume that hunter-gatherers in the past would have spent less time working to survive.

Now, people did not live as long true, but I haven't actually read a study on ancient lifespans, but from what I've seen is that if you make it to adulthood, you'll most likely make it to 40-50. And if you make it that long, there's a good chance you'll make it to 60ish or even more.

In the studies I mentioned (I read them in the book called Stone Age Economics, if any of you are wondering), researchers noted a fair amount of elderly people at the campsites of the !Kung they were studying.

Ooops, you're right, I missed the part where you explicitly said "hunter-gatherer tribal societies in resource rich areas". Let me just go back and grab that quote so we can make sure we're looking at it in context.

Huh. Gee, that's odd. It looks like you never specified any such thing, but simply said "tribal living", which could and did encompass a whole range of things. I suppose one of those things could be hunter-gatherer societies in resource-rich areas, but since you never specified any such thing, it's just a wee bit intellectually bankrupt to retroactively redefine your terms, isn't it?

Now that we've got the idiocy out of the way, on to your claims. Yes, some societies did do less work. Most, though, did more, especially any agricultural societies and any hunter-gatherers who didn't have the luxury of land so resource-rich that they didn't have to live nomadically.

And the fact that once you made it to adulthood you lived longer doesn't mean squat. A large amount of the population never made it to adulthood.

You've still really done nothing to prop up the idea that living in the past had any advantage over living in the present.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Indon » Fri Aug 22, 2008 3:59 am UTC

quintopia wrote:That's what the present wants you to think. Truth is, good clean tribal living (as was common circa 10,000+ years ago) is a lot less work with a lot more moral support. Sure, they didn't live as long, mainly due to lacking technology, but 1) money was a meaningless concept - people traded services and support, and 2) people were able to do what they wanted to an even greater degree. Summary: in the past, life was, in some ways, better.


1-Money was meaningless because there wasn't very much to trade.

2-People were able to do what they wanted, so long as what they wanted involved violence, sex, or traveling on foot. Good luck finding anything else to do.

Even the ways in which life was better, life still sucked.

Meanwhile, I've seen the Earth's surface from thousands of feet overhead. I've seen, firsthand, more of Earth than someone who could spend twenty years walking (/swimming) its' surface. I can create things that do what I want them to. I can walk less than twenty feet and turn on a hot waterfall, or drink from cold running water untainted by any community upstream. I've probably already talked with more people on the internet than the global population as of 10K BCE, and if I exercise even semi-regularly I can expect to live to over three times my current age.

And most indicators imply things will only get better.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Ati » Fri Aug 22, 2008 5:24 pm UTC

Adalwolf wrote:Past, definitely. Thousands of years in the past. Or heck, maybe even just 1400 years or so in the past. The Dark Age was where it was at. A time when a strong man could carve our a kingdom with his sword-arm. Fucking badass.



Black Plague. No bathing. Leeches. Fuedalism. Fruit was cooked before eating. No practical medicine. No internet. No cars. No anesthetic. Kingdoms were passed down by the royals, and peasants were screwed no matter how good a swordsman they were.


I'll take the present, thanks. Preferably the future.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Pixel » Fri Aug 22, 2008 5:41 pm UTC

Ati wrote:peasants were screwed no matter how good a swordsman they were


In most cases a peasant couldn't afford a sword. Even if they could owning one was punishable by death in many kingdoms.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Adalwolf » Fri Aug 22, 2008 9:54 pm UTC

protocoach wrote:
Adalwolf wrote:
protocoach wrote:
quintopia wrote:
protocoach wrote:Is it really even a question? People live longer, healthier lives, have more money, and are able to do what they want now. In the past, life was worse.


That's what the present wants you to think. Truth is, good clean tribal living (as was common circa 10,000+ years ago) is a lot less work with a lot more moral support. Sure, they didn't live as long, mainly due to lacking technology, but 1) money was a meaningless concept - people traded services and support, and 2) people were able to do what they wanted to an even greater degree. Summary: in the past, life was, in some ways, better.

That's simply untrue. You couldn't do what you wanted, because you spent all your time just staying alive. A lot less work? No, it was a lot more work. No toilets, no machines, few tools; that life required tons more labor. Moral support is just a question of working on building connections with other people. That's perfectly possible to do now. And you can't just lampshade the lifespan with "Sure, they didn't live as long". Sorry, that doesn't work. At 40 you were ancient. Screw that noise.


Do not speak about that which you obviously have no knowledge (ie: hunter gatherers).

Studies done on modern hunter-gatherers have shown that they spend less than 25 hours a week on average doing work- doing what they need to survive (ie: getting food, water, making new tools, making shelters [if they make shelters, that is]).

And modern hunter gatherers live on sub-par land to survive, as the best land has been taken and used for farming by civilization. So, going by that it it isn't unreasonable to assume that hunter-gatherers in the past would have spent less time working to survive.

Now, people did not live as long true, but I haven't actually read a study on ancient lifespans, but from what I've seen is that if you make it to adulthood, you'll most likely make it to 40-50. And if you make it that long, there's a good chance you'll make it to 60ish or even more.

In the studies I mentioned (I read them in the book called Stone Age Economics, if any of you are wondering), researchers noted a fair amount of elderly people at the campsites of the !Kung they were studying.

Ooops, you're right, I missed the part where you explicitly said "hunter-gatherer tribal societies in resource rich areas". Let me just go back and grab that quote so we can make sure we're looking at it in context.

Huh. Gee, that's odd. It looks like you never specified any such thing, but simply said "tribal living", which could and did encompass a whole range of things. I suppose one of those things could be hunter-gatherer societies in resource-rich areas, but since you never specified any such thing, it's just a wee bit intellectually bankrupt to retroactively redefine your terms, isn't it?

Now that we've got the idiocy out of the way, on to your claims. Yes, some societies did do less work. Most, though, did more, especially any agricultural societies and any hunter-gatherers who didn't have the luxury of land so resource-rich that they didn't have to live nomadically.

And the fact that once you made it to adulthood you lived longer doesn't mean squat. A large amount of the population never made it to adulthood.

You've still really done nothing to prop up the idea that living in the past had any advantage over living in the present.


I didn't say anything in this thread about hunter gatherers until you spoke incorrectly about them.

Plus, the lack of major organized violence, pretty much complete freedom, and the close knit societies don't sound bad.



From Ati:
Black Plague. No bathing. Leeches. Fuedalism. Fruit was cooked before eating. No practical medicine. No internet. No cars. No anesthetic. Kingdoms were passed down by the royals, and peasants were screwed no matter how good a swordsman they were.


I'll take the present, thanks. Preferably the future.


So what? I'm talking about the Dark Ages. 500ish to 1000 AD. A time when a warrior could win fame and renown from his skills, rally other men to his banner, and found a kingdom- usually one that broke apart after his death, but eh, so what? Usually one needed to be a chief or noble, so maybe I'll qualify my statement: The past if I were a free farmer, or noble, or way, way back and be a hunter-gatherer. Preferably one hunting mammoths.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Ati » Fri Aug 22, 2008 10:21 pm UTC

Adalwolf wrote:
From Ati:
Black Plague. No bathing. Leeches. Fuedalism. Fruit was cooked before eating. No practical medicine. No internet. No cars. No anesthetic. Kingdoms were passed down by the royals, and peasants were screwed no matter how good a swordsman they were.


I'll take the present, thanks. Preferably the future.


So what? I'm talking about the Dark Ages. 500ish to 1000 AD. A time when a warrior could win fame and renown from his skills, rally other men to his banner, and found a kingdom- usually one that broke apart after his death, but eh, so what? Usually one needed to be a chief or noble, so maybe I'll qualify my statement: The past if I were a free farmer, or noble, or way, way back and be a hunter-gatherer. Preferably one hunting mammoths.



So far as I know, the time that you describe never existed. For one thing, you've got a fifty-fifty chance of dying young just from one of the plagues (or a (today curable) disease picked up on your travels. Or any infection that no-one knows how to treat). Even if you are one of the lucky few who survive, and you just happen to be one of the rich ruling class, there's a reason you don't hear about old heroes - there weren't any. Lives of warriors were brutal, nasty, and short. Fame had more to do with family ties than any skill. And honestly, what would you use your swordsmanship for? Killing dragons? Unless you like jousting with other nobles, there's not a lot of real-world application. If you're a noble, you'll probably be able to inherit or buy some land to call your own. Maybe even a small castle But if you run around killing evil doers, and trying to steal other people's lands to start to a kingdom, you aren't destined for a long life.

The past is a third world country. However we romanticize it, most of us aren't willing to give up the freedoms, the wealth, and the technology that makes our lives so easy.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Adalwolf » Fri Aug 22, 2008 10:30 pm UTC

Ati wrote:
Adalwolf wrote:
From Ati:
Black Plague. No bathing. Leeches. Fuedalism. Fruit was cooked before eating. No practical medicine. No internet. No cars. No anesthetic. Kingdoms were passed down by the royals, and peasants were screwed no matter how good a swordsman they were.


I'll take the present, thanks. Preferably the future.


So what? I'm talking about the Dark Ages. 500ish to 1000 AD. A time when a warrior could win fame and renown from his skills, rally other men to his banner, and found a kingdom- usually one that broke apart after his death, but eh, so what? Usually one needed to be a chief or noble, so maybe I'll qualify my statement: The past if I were a free farmer, or noble, or way, way back and be a hunter-gatherer. Preferably one hunting mammoths.



So far as I know, the time that you describe never existed. For one thing, you've got a fifty-fifty chance of dying young just from one of the plagues (or a (today curable) disease picked up on your travels. Or any infection that no-one knows how to treat). Even if you are one of the lucky few who survive, and you just happen to be one of the rich ruling class, there's a reason you don't hear about old heroes - there weren't any. Lives of warriors were brutal, nasty, and short. Fame had more to do with family ties than any skill. And honestly, what would you use your swordsmanship for? Killing dragons? Unless you like jousting with other nobles, there's not a lot of real-world application. If you're a noble, you'll probably be able to inherit or buy some land to call your own. Maybe even a small castle But if you run around killing evil doers, and trying to steal other people's lands to start to a kingdom, you aren't destined for a long life.

The past is a third world country. However we romanticize it, most of us aren't willing to give up the freedoms, the wealth, and the technology that makes our lives so easy.


Uh, Harold Hadraada? Egil Skallagrimson? Ivar? Halfdan? Guthrum? Erik Bloodaxe? Eric the Red?

I'd use my skill with weapons to win gold, glory, women, land, etc.

Edit: And maybe life isn't supposed to be easy. In hard times the real you (you as any everyone) shines through.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Gunfingers » Fri Aug 22, 2008 10:52 pm UTC

Or died at six months old because vikings came to your village and killed everyone therein. You want a challenge? Here you go, have fun. I recommend Air Force Pararescue. Highest washout rate. But you're a hardcore guy. Shouldn't be a challenge for you.

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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Ati » Fri Aug 22, 2008 11:07 pm UTC

Adalwolf wrote:Uh, Harold Hadraada? Egil Skallagrimson? Ivar? Halfdan? Guthrum? Erik Bloodaxe? Eric the Red?

I'd use my skill with weapons to win gold, glory, women, land, etc.

Edit: And maybe life isn't supposed to be easy. In hard times the real you (you as any everyone) shines through.



Okay, so there were some royals, and they fought some wars. That happens today, too. War isn't grand, or pretty, or noble. It's ugly, evil, and vicious. People, probably you as well, die. They die alone, and they die with their guts spilling onto the ground, and they die in pain. It's even worse if you're a leader, because then your soldiers' blood is on your conscience even if you survive. In hard times, people don't shine. Well, a few probably show certain aptitudes that are useless in better times. Most people just suffer quietly for a while. As far as using your skills to 'gold, glory, women, land, etc.', I really don't know how to respond to how naive that idea is. Look, the past is not, for the most part, a fun place. If you'd like to try it, move to rural Africa - it's about as close as you can get. Let me know how it goes.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Indon » Fri Aug 22, 2008 11:24 pm UTC

Adalwolf wrote:I'd use my skill with weapons to win gold, glory, women, land, etc.


Another perk of the present - for the majority of civilized existence, women were property.

In the present, I can work alongside women as equals and peers, and I could have sex with/marry a woman simply because she likes me, and I don't have to buy her from her father.

The fact that I can't go into a village with a few friends and murder all the men and rape all the women and take their land, as far as I'm concerned, is a good thing.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Adalwolf » Fri Aug 22, 2008 11:30 pm UTC

Ati wrote:
Adalwolf wrote:Uh, Harold Hadraada? Egil Skallagrimson? Ivar? Halfdan? Guthrum? Erik Bloodaxe? Eric the Red?

I'd use my skill with weapons to win gold, glory, women, land, etc.

Edit: And maybe life isn't supposed to be easy. In hard times the real you (you as any everyone) shines through.



Okay, so there were some royals, and they fought some wars. That happens today, too. War isn't grand, or pretty, or noble. It's ugly, evil, and vicious. People, probably you as well, die. They die alone, and they die with their guts spilling onto the ground, and they die in pain. It's even worse if you're a leader, because then your soldiers' blood is on your conscience even if you survive. In hard times, people don't shine. Well, a few probably show certain aptitudes that are useless in better times. Most people just suffer quietly for a while. As far as using your skills to 'gold, glory, women, land, etc.', I really don't know how to respond to how naive that idea is. Look, the past is not, for the most part, a fun place. If you'd like to try it, move to rural Africa - it's about as close as you can get. Let me know how it goes.


You can have fun in just about any situation you can think of.

If I died in battle back in the day, yeah, it'd be painful, but I would have gone with a smile on my lips, knowing I'd be going to Valhalla. And today war isn't noble or pretty, and maybe even back in the day it wasn't either- but it was man to man for the most part. It took courage and skill to look your enemy in the eye and kill or be killed.

How do you think people won titles, fame, gold back in time? On the field of battle, that's how. That's a major reason why the Vikings actually went a'viking- for riches and new lands. I would've joined them, and with a little skill and luck, won both. If not, oh well. I would die and go to Valhalla. The downside to that...I can't think of any.

@Indon: well yeah, in present times.

Back in the day that wasn't the case, and if I had lived back in the day I, you, or anything man, would have done the same thing (maybe not gone raiding for them, but still).

I work alongside women as equals and peers as well. Your point?
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Joby » Sat Aug 23, 2008 12:01 am UTC

My apologies to those that are annoyed by US centric posts. I will choose a different point of view for my next one.

While I agree that, in general, rights have improved, ect, we have also lost something. In the course of reading history, listening to old speeches, and such, I have noticed that at one time this country had honor and integrity. We were a destination for intellectuals (for a while there, anyway), and a beacon of hope in the world. At one time we actually at least payed lip service to the old "give us your tired, your hungry, ect" speech. At one time this country operated under rule of law and the government existed to serve the people (see the text of the constitution). At one time, simply being American was something one could feel proud of.

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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Silas » Sat Aug 23, 2008 12:12 am UTC

At the risk of being a smug western triumphalist, I'll say that being a beacon of hope was never going to last forever. The rest of the world- enough of it, anyway- has joined us in the promised land. There's no need for a beacon when you can see the port by the lights of moored ships.

And if the rest of the world has gotten better about taking care of their own tired, poor, huddled masses, that's a good thing, too.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby protocoach » Sat Aug 23, 2008 4:48 am UTC

Adalwolf wrote:
Ati wrote:
Adalwolf wrote:Uh, Harold Hadraada? Egil Skallagrimson? Ivar? Halfdan? Guthrum? Erik Bloodaxe? Eric the Red?

I'd use my skill with weapons to win gold, glory, women, land, etc.

Edit: And maybe life isn't supposed to be easy. In hard times the real you (you as any everyone) shines through.



Okay, so there were some royals, and they fought some wars. That happens today, too. War isn't grand, or pretty, or noble. It's ugly, evil, and vicious. People, probably you as well, die. They die alone, and they die with their guts spilling onto the ground, and they die in pain. It's even worse if you're a leader, because then your soldiers' blood is on your conscience even if you survive. In hard times, people don't shine. Well, a few probably show certain aptitudes that are useless in better times. Most people just suffer quietly for a while. As far as using your skills to 'gold, glory, women, land, etc.', I really don't know how to respond to how naive that idea is. Look, the past is not, for the most part, a fun place. If you'd like to try it, move to rural Africa - it's about as close as you can get. Let me know how it goes.


You can have fun in just about any situation you can think of.

If I died in battle back in the day, yeah, it'd be painful, but I would have gone with a smile on my lips, knowing I'd be going to Valhalla. And today war isn't noble or pretty, and maybe even back in the day it wasn't either- but it was man to man for the most part. It took courage and skill to look your enemy in the eye and kill or be killed.

How do you think people won titles, fame, gold back in time? On the field of battle, that's how. That's a major reason why the Vikings actually went a'viking- for riches and new lands. I would've joined them, and with a little skill and luck, won both. If not, oh well. I would die and go to Valhalla. The downside to that...I can't think of any.

@Indon: well yeah, in present times.

Back in the day that wasn't the case, and if I had lived back in the day I, you, or anything man, would have done the same thing (maybe not gone raiding for them, but still).

I work alongside women as equals and peers as well. Your point?

You don't see any downside to getting a sword in the gut and spending the next week dying while your stomach acid slowly fills your inner cavity and eventually kills you? Or getting nicked on the arm or leg and having it amputated after gangrene set in? Or dying and leaving your wife to be traded among other tribesmen and your children sold into slavery? Or dying of pneumonia at age 6? If we really have to explain why the romanticized version of the Middle Ages is wrong, and why life then generally sucked, I suspect you're never going to get the point.

I think the point Indon was making that cutting off 50% of the population as nothing more than property is completely idiotic. Which would seem to be pretty obvious; working with an arm and a leg tied behind your back would be pretty freakin' stupid, and that's what relegating women to property boils down to.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Adalwolf » Sat Aug 23, 2008 4:54 am UTC

protocoach wrote:
Adalwolf wrote:
Ati wrote:
Adalwolf wrote:Uh, Harold Hadraada? Egil Skallagrimson? Ivar? Halfdan? Guthrum? Erik Bloodaxe? Eric the Red?

I'd use my skill with weapons to win gold, glory, women, land, etc.

Edit: And maybe life isn't supposed to be easy. In hard times the real you (you as any everyone) shines through.



Okay, so there were some royals, and they fought some wars. That happens today, too. War isn't grand, or pretty, or noble. It's ugly, evil, and vicious. People, probably you as well, die. They die alone, and they die with their guts spilling onto the ground, and they die in pain. It's even worse if you're a leader, because then your soldiers' blood is on your conscience even if you survive. In hard times, people don't shine. Well, a few probably show certain aptitudes that are useless in better times. Most people just suffer quietly for a while. As far as using your skills to 'gold, glory, women, land, etc.', I really don't know how to respond to how naive that idea is. Look, the past is not, for the most part, a fun place. If you'd like to try it, move to rural Africa - it's about as close as you can get. Let me know how it goes.


You can have fun in just about any situation you can think of.

If I died in battle back in the day, yeah, it'd be painful, but I would have gone with a smile on my lips, knowing I'd be going to Valhalla. And today war isn't noble or pretty, and maybe even back in the day it wasn't either- but it was man to man for the most part. It took courage and skill to look your enemy in the eye and kill or be killed.

How do you think people won titles, fame, gold back in time? On the field of battle, that's how. That's a major reason why the Vikings actually went a'viking- for riches and new lands. I would've joined them, and with a little skill and luck, won both. If not, oh well. I would die and go to Valhalla. The downside to that...I can't think of any.

@Indon: well yeah, in present times.

Back in the day that wasn't the case, and if I had lived back in the day I, you, or anything man, would have done the same thing (maybe not gone raiding for them, but still).

I work alongside women as equals and peers as well. Your point?

You don't see any downside to getting a sword in the gut and spending the next week dying while your stomach acid slowly fills your inner cavity and eventually kills you? Or getting nicked on the arm or leg and having it amputated after gangrene set in? Or dying and leaving your wife to be traded among other tribesmen and your children sold into slavery? Or dying of pneumonia at age 6? If we really have to explain why the romanticized version of the Middle Ages is wrong, and why life then generally sucked, I suspect you're never going to get the point.

I think the point Indon was making that cutting off 50% of the population as nothing more than property is completely idiotic. Which would seem to be pretty obvious; working with an arm and a leg tied behind your back would be pretty freakin' stupid, and that's what relegating women to property boils down to.


Downside to dying in battle: Some pain, and if my side loses the chance my family suffers. Yes. Upside: Valhalla, having a good death, being honored among my peers and family after I'm gone. Sounds like a fair trade.

And women never worked in the middle ages, eh? The just sat and had kids. Did nothing else?
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Silas » Sat Aug 23, 2008 5:07 am UTC

It's not central to your point, but I don't understand why you seem to think that Valhalla disappeared between then and now.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Adalwolf » Sat Aug 23, 2008 5:14 am UTC

Silas wrote:It's not central to your point, but I don't understand why you seem to think that Valhalla disappeared between then and now.


Oh I don't believe it has. Just seems like it'll be harder to get to.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Gunfingers » Sat Aug 23, 2008 5:19 am UTC

With two wars going on? No, it's not.

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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Adalwolf » Sat Aug 23, 2008 5:23 am UTC

Gunfingers wrote:With two wars going on? No, it's not.


Dying in hand to hand combat is a bit different than being shot or being blown up.
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Re: Past and Present: which is preferable to people?

Postby Silas » Sat Aug 23, 2008 5:24 am UTC

You were the one to bring up Harald Hardraade, who was shot with an arrow.
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