Friday, 19 October 2012

On Nostalgia



It's damp, and cold. Don't forget about the cold. We're in a car, buzzing down these worn down rural roads in the Irish countryside. We pass by a rustic looking pub with a thatched roof. The setting sun makes the mountains behind us look like a slumbering giant. I'm in the car with my dad, chatting away. Radio 1 is on again.

"Around here like?"

"Just over there, beyond de Bothar dere"

A birfucation in the road. We turn left, the bay to our right, the water eaten up by the sea rock incisors. We stop briefly to let another car pass us.

"We would walk this road. Big backs of apples over our shoulders. Seven, eight, nine we was."

"This was Declan yeah?"

"Ah yeah, sore ah was only fooken fryends wi him cause he had fucking Abbey Road on the player..."

"Heh"

We motor on.

"Sure, it must have been fierce hard walking around on roads like this in this kind of weather. You'd be drowned and all."

"You'd think so, but yous ed be used tae et. I mean, we used tae nic apples from trees at all hours. And I mean, all hours."

"How late was late?"

"Well, it was unusual for us tae be home fore one yeh no?"

"So what, you'd be walken round all dese rural streets and the town itself, midnight plus, at the ages eight or nine? And no one would care?"

"That's de way the worelde was bac den Francis. Everybody knew everybody. Everybody watched out for everybody. Even the tra-velers were a good bunch of lads"

"No kicking the shite out of each other no?"

"No, like, very friendy people. We gave them wat theys needed and then they headed onwards."

"Huh"

"Wha?"

"Nothen. Just tryen toos imagine that today".

For the whole of my life, I've been taught that history has been this traumatic, sad and bloody, tumultuous sequence of events where men of great affluence and stature beat women and made black people into slaves, that the world has never been better, that we are the most fortunate generation in the history of humankind. I'm in no way trying to deny the plethora of violent events, suffering etc, but talking to my Dad in the car that night really intrigued me. In a recent youtube video, user graaaaaagh started getting into the meanings of words, in the case of nostalgia, how the word's meaning has metamorphosed from home sickness to time sickness. Go watch it, it's excellent. But, there's another aspect of what the g-lad said, that I'd like to build up on. First, time sickness nostalgia is, or at the very least can be, a vicarious experience. My childhood wasn't a bad one, but it was a contained one, it was a rubber stamped, approved, don't take candy from strangers one, not to the fault of either of my parents, who are both great people whom I owe a lot to.This idea of time sickness nostalgia is transferable. My grandfather, before he passed on, is another example of this. The man, that crazy bastard, went on adventures and did things that would make Marco Polo blush. Again, this was not Grampa Simpson an onion tied to my belt shite. This, was getting mixed up in fights and triumphs, ups and downs that would leave their imprint long into the future, and continue to do so. Not only was this time sickness nostalgic related for him as he recalled his story in the hometown (only now surrounded by opulent Swiss tourists with lavish country homes), it was for me as well. Our generation has no struggles, no triumphs, and any potential mountain we have to climb has either been altered for us, (hooray, everybody's a winner!) or it has become forbidden to cross and is fuelled by Lexapro, because we, we are all the same, we are all equal, we are all made of stars after all. I miss, yearn for a time I never had, back in an epoch that might not have ever existed in the first place.

This might have been exacerbated by the fact that I don't really have any homesickness nostalgia. I never felt apart of the community in the first place, never a part of their rugby teams, or the people, or their ideals, or even being Irish. What does being Irish even entail anymore? To expand on the graaaaaagh's point even more, I believe that more and more people don't have this homesickness anymore. So what happens? They substitute it with the shared, borrowed, timesickness one. They have to establish a connection. They hear about the wonderful time their parents had (and yet, they don't have their own nostalgia of a hometown) and they get mad that they never experienced that, this reason to feel a part of something. They live in a fantasy land of their own (or somebody else's) creation. That's why so many people play the fantasy on the internet. Homesickness implies attachment, so a fake persona implies a reinvention, something to get attached to. But this is a big fucking problem.

You can build on an idea, obviously. Example, if you are homesick about a town, you can take the good qualities out of it and incorporate it somewhere. Now, people only have themselves as their own reference points, trapped in their own heads, everything is nothing more than relative. They have no ground for this time sickness, because they never had actual nostalgia. This is why leftism can triumph, because of the lack of day to day joys to feel nostalgic about, one constructs impossible ideologies, uses time sickness nostalgia that is in itself impossible, that circumvents reality, that is progressive. That the answer to make communities again is to make everyone the same, square pegs in circular hones, even though this is of course, impossible and frightening in its own way.

A lot has changed in the past 50 years.

4 comments:

  1. My roommate was talking to me one day about a reddit thread he was reading. It was about things that you say to kids that make you realize how old you are - the post he read aloud talked about how elementary schoolers today don't actually know the reason for why smartphones make a click sound when they take a picture.

    I recited graaaaaagh's statements on nostalgia to him - with a few modifications. "Kids these days" don't know what it is to feel an attachment to a place, to a group of people. All they have now is a time, a specific window of time not even encompassing a significant region of space. It's "did you watch X TV show", or "remember that one fad", or some other transient fashion. Nobody has any attachment to anything permanent anymore. There is no real way for them to understand what the elderly they do community service for anymore. It's a foreign concept to them.

    He said he didn't get it either, and it didn't really seem to matter. It was "just [my] opinion". It was as if he didn't realize I wasn't making a monologue, but a response to what he started with earlier.

    But perhaps that's exactly what it was.

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    1. When we don't have attachments to our communities, no real reason to invest in them (given how superficial they have become), chaos reigns, ultimately. I would also like to know is this the reason behind the whole "go travel! see other places!" culture that has permeated the thoughts of my generation. Finding a place that isn't there, ultimately.

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  2. Quite true. People no longer have the basic, traditional set of ideas and feelings - the 'magic', as I call it - that used to guide them in their daily affairs. Now everything is a struggle, a puzzle, but a tempered and well-packaged one - a manufactured game, except this is life.

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    1. What makes this worse is that everyone is made out to be a special snowflake, when in reality, you're a drop in the ocean. This is not a bad thing by any means, go and enjoy life, the problem is, is that when we're made out to be special, we turn as you say, everything into a manufactured struggle.

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