Are We Better Than Our Forefathers? Essay

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Are we better than our forefathers? To try to answer this question, we had better go back in thought about two hundred years, that is, before the great changes began that have made the modern world what it is to-day. To get a picture of their lives, we must cut out many of the things which are so familiar and necessary to us to-day that we wonder how men could ever have got on without them. Take travel, for instance. In the time of our forefathers, there were no railways or steamships or aeroplanes, no bicycles or motor-cars, or even good roads. They traveled slowly on horseback or in carts and carriages, and sailing ships. There was no postal system, so letters were rare and costly luxuries; no telegraph, no telephone, no wireless or broadcasting. Nearly all goods were hand-made, as there was no steam-driven machinery to manufacture multitudes of cheap goods. Houses were lit by candles or lamps, for there was no electric light or gas. Of medical science there was little or nothing, and public sanitation was unknown. In consequence dirt and disease were rife in village and town. There were no fully equipped hospitals, no trained nurses, and few qualified doctors. Education was the privilege of the rich. Most of the poor could neither read nor write. Books were few and expensive. As to amusements, there were no cinemas and no gramophones. Life in those days must have been dull and slow. So far, then, the answer seems to be an emphatic affirmative. Surely with all these advantages, and many, many more that cannot even be mentioned, our life to-day must be incomparably better in every way than the life of our poor forefathers. No doubt, in comfort, convenience, interest, variety, general health and well-being, we have the advantage. But is it really so? Are we really happier than our fore-fathers? I doubt it. In this mechanical age life is all noise and bustle,

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