Ah, nostalgia. Remember when…? Well, actually we don’t accurately remember things all too well, especially the positive things in the past, but rather, we often remember the negative. So think back to yourself at 20. What did you cherish at that time in your life? Psychologists suggest that nostalgia may be fixed by about that time of your life. “Wistful yearning for the past.” Cowbells?
Yes, cowbells. Well, not for many here in the U.S. but surely in Switzerland. In 1688 a Swiss doctor, Johannes Hofer, identified a new medical syndrome that he referred to as nostalgia: “the sad mood originating from the desire for return to one’s native land.” Hoffer suggested that Swiss citizens working elsewhere in the world longed for simpler times including the sound of cowbells on the slopes of the Alps. He suggested that the nostalgia syndrome ‘removed people from present reality.’
We all enjoy periods of nostalgia, but what if a person gets stuck in nostalgia? What if nostalgia consumes a person? What about pathological nostalgia? Russian author Svetlana Boym penned the book, The Future of Nostalgia in which she says that there are two types of nostalgia: one healthy and the other unhealthy. ‘”Reflective nostalgia,” while grounded in longing, contemplating, and remembering, does not attempt to restore the past’ writes the author. We remember things, smells, sounds and situations of the past with warm memories but we do not long to transport ourselves back into that time.
On the other hand, “restorative nostalgia” is an unhealthy version during which a person wants to regain the feelings and the attitudes of a former time. They want to go back and live ‘then.’ This delusion may contain ‘conspiratorial elements’ such that the person would like to ‘remove’ current elements of society in order to get back to that time and place. An article in Harvard News about author Craig Lambert says this: “Restorative nostalgia is often an invented tradition—a dogmatic, stable myth that gives you a coherent version of the past. Generally it’s far removed in time.” And, I may add, impossible to restore.
Why do I bring up this information? Last evening on Hardball, Matthews had a segment he titled, ‘Black Tea.’ He wondered why blacks would be attracted to the Tea Party. During the segment he showed photos from the summer of ’09- photos that showed the racism and idiocy of that awkward gathering of ‘patriots.’ As we all know, that group longs for the past- restorative nostalgia and wishes to return to those ‘good old days.’ The days when blacks knew their place, women were in the kitchen, Mexicans were in Mexico and gays were taunted and beaten or killed.
Restorative nostalgia. Pathetic and pathological. The far-right- as dangerous now as ever!