Rose-colored Glasses and Cowbells

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!



9 thoughts on “Rose-colored Glasses and Cowbells

  1. “Restorative nostalgia” equals in the political sphere REACTIONARISM.

    The GOP whose initials can stand for the Gilded Old Party, as opposed
    to the Grand Old Party, is a backward looking party to the Gilded Age
    of the Robber Barons, roughly the period in American History from
    1865-1900. The establishment Republicanism of the twentieth century GOP Presidents Roosevelt, Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, and Bush was
    replaced bywhen BushI broke his “no new taxes” slogan and Gingrich defeated him in 1992 It was Gingrich, not Reagan that established the reactionary Republican Party and then BushII built off of that. The GOP now stands for total deregulation and programs to benefit ONLY the
    wealthy, foremost would be tax cuts. Of course, there was no income tax
    amendment in the Gilded Age and little economic or financial regulations.
    So, the GOP is trying to build a bridge back to the Gilded Age when they
    had all the wealth.

    1. the GOP is trying to build a bridge back to the Gilded Age when they
      had all the wealth

      Exactly! Yet, here is the confounding question: Why are so many non-wealthy citizens attracted to this GOP principle? Is it that the GOP has one of the best, well-developed propaganda machines? Look at the House vote yesterday – the vote to verify the Paul Ryan Budget- a ‘budget’ that cuts taxes for the wealthiest among us. Only 10 GOP House members opposed it. Ten. Do the other 221 Republicans represent wealthy congressional districts? I doubt it. Yet, there they were, 221 of them voting Aye on giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

      The average American [$40,000 – $50,000] gets $667 tax cut, but a person earning $1,000,000 gets a $408,000 tax cut. Do “average Americans” know this? And if they did, would they continue to vote for their GOP Rep.?

  2. I am working on a post about the US’s fascination with its foundation myth, which is similar to this. An example of this is the myth of the Wild West, which had much better gun control than modern society.

    the problem is that this is a rather complex topic since there are quite a few myths out there-not all of them healthy.

    1. there are quite a few myths out there-not all of them healthy.

      Indeed. One might inquire: why are myths so prevalent in a powerful democracy in the 2nd decade of the 21st century? One would assume that the further civilizations progresses, the fewer the myths. Why, then, is myth seemingly at the core of many citizens of this nation? Does it have to do with fundamentalist Christianity?

      1. Not necessarily.

        Myths are comforting. For example, the War for American Independence is much more palatable if one thinks that it was fought for liberty and equality and to throw off a foreign oppressor without the help of others.

        But, say the people who wrote:

        “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

        Not only owned slaves, but institutionally raped them causing the slave to bear the rapist’s child. Not only that, they could have really wanted the freedom to enslave others.

        Doesn’t that put a different take on the event?

        It’s not so far fetched:

        1. Doesn’t that put a different take on the event? Of course. Yet, we gild the myth, don’t we, which is why it endures.

          Those ugly Tea Party types don’t know [or gloss over] the fact that the U.S. Constitution was written by and for male property owners, not for The People.

          The myth endures, the facts do not.

          1. You guys! I’ve been waiting for a discussion on this very topic, but I have been out of town. You have covered all the points I had.

            Those clowns that want to go back to the days in which the Constitution was written have no idea of history. And the Republican Party they want would actually return us to the Feudal system of government.

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