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A return ticket to the past

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Published: Updated:

Those who wish to go back to the past suffer from a sick nostalgia and are deceived by a modified image of what they think were rosy days. They have not really thought about the scientific discoveries and moral and intellectual developments which made our world ten times better than the gloomy past.

If we bring back some important figures from the past to our present day, and house them in the most luxurious hotels, put them on board the most expensive flights, send them to the opera, have them spend vacations in the most beautiful islands while they taste the most delicious food and hand them iPhones, they will prefer to spend hours on WhatsApp and Twitter and stay in the present day for good instead of going back to the primitive past with all its glories.

The scene is different in the past where someone could simply smash your head to pieces because you have a different religion or sect. A long intellectual journey led humanity to a new phase that overcomes all old perceptions that humanity was locked up in for centuries

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

Difficulty in treating diseases

On the scientific level, today’s inventions were not known only 400 years ago. No one knew what DNA was, or the Big Bang theory or how things came into existence. They did not know what caused diseases and how to treat them so many people died of illnesses which you can now treat by simply buying some pills from your nearest pharmacy.

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The plague, which was known as the Black Death, killed one third of Europe’s population. A man would get sick from it and die a week later, however, this disease is no longer present today. The medical condition scurvy killed millions of sailors and its treatment today is simply effervescent vitamin C tablets.

Their children used to die before their eyes and they did not know how to save them. People in the past thought the earth was flat and did not go to the extremities because they feared they’d fall. They did not know anything about gravity. If they see the GPS we have today they’d deem it magic and sorcery. People did not know why lunar eclipses happened so some priests exploited their ignorance and promised them that the moon will return to its normal state only if they make offerings like money or beautiful women.

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In short, life and everything about it was a mystery to them. People roamed the earth with low IQ levels due to a severe lack of knowledge. If someone over the age of 40 from our present day decides to go back to the past, they will probably die as at the time, life expectancy was 35 years due to the spread of wars, diseases and crime, and due to the absence of police cars and surveillance cameras!

Moral development

On the moral level, human values and ethics have greatly developed in recent decades. For example, terms like human rights emerged, whereas if we go back to the past and mention such terms to people they will be confused and perhaps ask what human and what rights? The idea of man as a moral concept and independent entity only emerged in recent decades. This is why the idea of slaves was accepted in the past and did not trigger any qualms.

The opposite is true today as the idea of slaves is not only immoral, but it’s also legally criminalized. Why? Because we have morally and psychologically developed. The same applies to marrying minor girls. This was accepted in the past but it’s now prohibited and rejected because it violates the present conscience which developed with time until it reached its best phases today, despite all other problems.

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Racism which categorizes people and measures pureblood was an accepted idea in the past, even at universities in the 1930’s where it was a recognized major. This is what Hitler relied on for his Nazi theory which made him kill people with physical disabilities using furnaces and gas chambers as he viewed them as a burden and a black stain which must be purged from the blood of the Aryan race.

Women and intellectual development

Women were followers and second-class citizens. However today, two of the most important countries in the world are led by women, Angela Merkel and Theresa May. Women advanced from being maids to becoming leaders reflective of civilized development over the centuries. The idea of sabaya (slaves) is shameful and is a serious violation of human rights in our times but it was accepted in the past. If those who are obsessed with the past think that the possibility that they may be slaves who are sold and bought for cheap prices is highly likely, they will give up on the idea of returning to the past altogether.

On the intellectual level, humanity developed during the past centuries because education prospered and illiteracy rates decreased. During the Middle Ages, priests were the only ones who knew how to read while others drowned in the dark. The more we go back in history, the higher illiteracy rates become. There were no schools, universities or majors.

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There were no students to begin with. This is why bitter religious, sectarian and tribal wars which killed millions of people erupted. Nothing defeated intolerance and intolerant people except thinkers and philosophers who shattered their ideas and transferred humanity to a whole different level.

Today’s world has, despite religious and sectarian problems in some countries, overcome these wars. Global airports are the biggest example of the unprecedented mingling among people. The scene is different in the past where someone could simply smash your head to pieces because you have a different religion or sect. A long intellectual journey led humanity to a new phase that overcomes all old perceptions that humanity was locked up in for centuries.

It’s for all these reasons and more that our world is much better than the lie of the rosy and romantic past which bad novelists and fake poets praise and which exaggerating preachers sanctify. For those people, we can book a one-way ticket to the past with no return.

This article is also available in Arabic.

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Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.