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Friday, December 30, 2011

Ending the year with a look back at nostalgia

This trope [simplifying history for nostalgic reasons]  is called out in one episode of The Real Ghostbusters. Ray reminisces on the fifties and notes what a simpler time they are. Egon tells him that there's no inherent proof of that, and that each decade has its own individual challenges.

Joe McKeever: Nostalgia: Why This Friend Bears Watching
A few years back, a young friend in our church became hooked on "Happy Days," the television series. She fantasized of the 1950s as the golden age in American life. She thought it was all Elvis and sock hops and soda fountains.
One day I just couldn't take it any more and did something really mean.
I said, "Melissa, I became a teenager in 1953. In the '50s, we fought the Korean War, then went through the Cold War. We feared being bombed by Russia every day, and racism was rampant. I wouldn't go back there for anything."
I know, I know. I should have left her alone to her daydreaming. She wasn't hurting anyone.
 The challenge, I believe, is finding a balance that neither idolizes or demonizes the past:
While I think nostalgia is usually harmless, I also believe it has the potential to become dangerous.  As you mention, the '50's weren't all moonlight and roses.  Ignoring the negative aspects of the era can blind one to them and thereby lead shat person to offer "returning to the past" (as if such a thing were possible!) as a simplistic solution to all of society's ills.
On the other hand, I think we should avoid the opposite extreme of demonizing the past as well.  I think what we should aim for is taking the best of the past and the best of the present and try to combine the two.

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