nostalgia in modern times?
Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion for many people. It is oftentimes an idealization of the past and an embellishment of our memories, but it can also be a hindrance to progress. I use the word "progress" in a personal AND social aspect here, as I am discussing how idealizations of the past can be taken advantage of in politics and inspire ,,returning to tradition", for example. I find that nostalgia often warps realistic perceptions of the past, and how it influences and affects popular culture is debatable, but I see it mostly as a neutral effect.
When we look back on our childhoods, we almost always think of it fondly and with longing, even if we've gone through hardships and turmoil as children. This type of nostalgia is not very harmful and could even be considered positive, depending on how it affects an individual. However, it should be noted that we also apply this sense of longing to mediums we were exposed to as children, such as TV shows, films, music, and even design aesthetics. A popular example thereof would be the recent resurgence of Frutiger Aero, Y2K and similar styles that were characteristic of the 2000s. It is difficult not to question what exactly draws us to these design movements. Clearly, they do embody an optimistic view on technology and the future of computing. Emphasized and over-exaggerated sunny fields of soulless, corporate lawns and giant glass-laden company buildings. It certainly reminds us of a time when the future wasn't so bleak and the technology we were exposed to seemed a lot more harmless. Unfortunately, the same old capitalist machine plagues this aesthetic. It showed a bright colored future that never came to be, and took upon itself the task of making everyone trust them to make that depiction of future a reality. Of course, that didn't happen, and the common man ended up being given a false sense of empowerment while his liberty was taken away. The reality of these resurgences is a lot more political than one may realize at first glance; we want to return to a time before technology corrupted the world beyond salvation, and perhaps revel in the ,,innocence" of the 2000s. Of course, the 2000s were far from innocent, with the war in the Middle East being virtually an unpunished series of war crimes.
This is just one example - yet despite a myriad of tragic events and crimes, we are willing to idealize this period because it was simpler, somewhat less contrived and youth was (in my opinion) a little more counterculture-oriented. There seemed to be a heightened sense of rebellion within teenagers and youths back then, who wanted to challenge the status quo through various activities such as skating, listening to hardcore and metal music, or partying. With the corporate appropriation of human rights (e.g pride month) and their deluded attempts to connect with and relate to millennials and Gen Z alike, many facets of counterculture have been lost, and nowadays youths attempt to express their disdain for the system through ,,influencers" like Andrew Tate. These new movements still have leftist undercurrents in their dislike for corporations and their misuse and misunderstanding of modern concepts, but this undercurrent has been manipulated into becoming weaponized right wing hatred.
How does this tie into nostalgia? Well, it doesn't. However, these misguided teenagers have been tricked into believing they are nostalgic for the ,,good old days". This means that when they see an old analog recording of 1960s NYC with a bunch of white businessmen roaming the streets and old-fashioned cars cruising around, they will celebrate the absence of diversity and feminism. It's easy to fall into this trap of blaming feminism for the state of giant metropolitan areas, but what makes these old videos so appealing is not a lack of multiculturalism, but rather relentless urbanization, deforestation and overcrowding caused by a failure of capitalism to regulate living conditions.
Hence, I will claim that this relatively recent trend is NOT nostalgia. It is thinly veiled conservative propaganda
True nostalgia will also manifest itself through music -- a perfect example of music made to stimulate nostalgia is Boards of Canada's Music Has the Right to Children (1998). This 1-hour album is a masterpiece of electronic music and a testament to the power of nostalgia. The aesthetic of the album, defined by its cover artwork and sonic textures, is marked by hazy, faceless figures of children standing in turquoise, blueish and dreamlike landscape of rural 1970's Canada. This type of aesthetic harkens the aforementioned naive imagery of a world before overcrowded urbanization and technology took their toll on much of the world. However, this is done in a much more ,,childlike" manner; it's fun and dreamy, almost like you are in a giant green field with no care in the world, looking at a hazy sky with the sun obscured by some weird mist. It resembles news intros of the late 20th century, samples children's TV shows, and possesses an unmistakable DIY electronic style. It is entirely analog and devoid of any actual dance numbers; it focuses more or less only on melodies and melancholy-provoking arrangements unmatched by almost any other band.
Obviously, this is not the only example of nostalgia-oriented music, and I am more than willing to write more, as well as listen to such music. For brevity's sake, I have only mentioned MHRTC, and will probably keep writing blog posts here and there regarding these under-researched domains of everyday life we find don't have much of an impact. I believe nostalgia is a very impactful driver of political goals and motivations, as well as an integral part of ourselves as beings. Whether it's collective nostalgia for a better time, or just personal memories of days long gone.