Just a short rant: Whenever I try to explain the benefits of permaculture gardening and applying it to the rest of your life people think I'm being a luddite. They claim its another fringe attempt by the "green movement" to go back to the olden days of how people lived in the 1800s.
This also happens when discussing organic gardening or anything else related to a sustainable lifestyle. No, I don't want to return to the 1800s. Though I really don't think it was as bad as the mainstream tries to make it out, but I realize that there were serious disadvantages. There was no good old days. We need to use the organic and sustainable methods available to us in the 21st century to create a good "old" future. To create a lifestyle that allows people to work much less, use energy efficiently, create close communities that eliminate need for driving, and get rid of chemicals period.
Thats the future I am talking about. The "good old days" are only a basis for what the world may be like after oil is gone or how we can live in a more resourceful world. No one actually wants to go back there.
I am largely in the same boat amongst my peers and family... That is to say, I am 'accused' of being a luddite. Though, I must be honest and admit that I am on the fence as to which period I would rather live in. I am sure that many of you would agree when I say that modern convenience and technology is a double-edged sword.
You touched on the mainstream media's depiction of traditional life, and I will support your statement with the quote by Churchill, "History is written by the victor." Realistically, no one has really any clue what life was like back then. We didn't live it, at least not in this life anyway. I am not so sure that I am willing to fully trust that which is written in text books. And even so, one can look back on key fundamental aspects of traditional living and point out the very roots of problems that they faced. Disposal of excrement being the largest one. If people knew how to compost their own excrement in a safe manner instead of excreting into a toxic pit, and thus into their groundwater, my guess is that they would have averted many illnesses. Food cultivation is another big one, and largely interrelated with the aforementioned 'waste' management. I don't really have to elaborate here, I am sure most of you get the jist of what I'm saying. Knowing what we know now, we can begin to re-approach facets of those lifestyles.
I am personally of the belief that humanity needs to start over a clean slate. There is so much that we have to relearn about our world and our true relationship with it. I feel strongly that there is a need for an absolute and total restructuring of our value system, because "money makes the world go 'round" is clearly not working out for us. When the Great Library was burned and the subsequent edit of the bible by Constantine occurred, we lost all of the knowledge that empowered individuals on this planet to live in communion with the Earth. To top it all off, western civilization has wiped out nearly all indigenous cultures on this planet, one way or another. I'm just thankful that permaculture is a budding community that is growing by the day. Furthermore, the internet is a fantastic thing for obvious reasons.