There's just no getting away from the past in "The Waste Land," but Eliot's biggest criticism of modern society is that it has gotten too far away from the past. Throughout this poem, you encounter a lot of personal memories; but for Eliot, these aren't nearly as important as the "cultural memory" he's trying to preserve in this poem.
Many critics have criticized Eliot for being "nostalgic," meaning that he tends to fantasize about a glorious past that probably never existed. Sure, if all you read are the great classics of literature, then it's going to seem that everyone living in Rome was killing tigers with his bare hands and drinking wine with the gods. For Eliot, though, there's just no question that modern society has developed a depressing sort of cultural amnesia, and the decline of this society is directly connected to the fact that people don't have a good enough understanding of their cultural history. So you make the call: is he right on or way off?
In "The Waste Land," Eliot suggests that Western culture has no hope for the future, and that all it can do is sit around and mope.
In "The Waste Land," Eliot is calling for a full-blown revival of the past, and he truly believes we can return to a more glorious time in our history.