THE GOOD THING about nostalgia is that it never runs out. Every day there’s more of it than before and there’s plenty for everyone. You don’t have to be a crusty 70-year-old or a grumpy 40 to be nostalgic about something. You can be nostalgic for your teenage years when you’re 25; you can be nostalgic at 20 if you want to be. You can be nostalgic for a time and place you never lived in. Nostalgia is the great democracy of the mind.
Unfortunately, for some people it’s the wrong sort of democracy, a bit like Brexit. Progressives, that sort. Guardian writers. Guardian readers. Schoolteachers. Or people who work for Sky or Demos, the think tank, and who get together to conduct a survey hoping to show how politically bad nostalgia is because it’s conservatives that get more out of it than the left. It was a Guardian writer who made the point, “Nostalgia is intrinsically conservative,” so there you have it. And that’s why the left hates it — they’re generally useless at producing anything people want to get nostalgic about. It’s a mixture of sour grapes and bad faith.
COMRADES! REVOLUTIONARIES! Let us celebrate! It is 50 years since the évènements of ’68 in Paris. Long live the spirit of the barricades! Remember what bliss it was to be alive then, what heaven it was to be young?
No, me neither. There was little bliss available in the rather dour, parochial environs of the ancient country town in North Yorkshire as I entered my fourteenth year. The political pronouncements of boss-eyed philosophe Sartre, the cobble-throwing students, the smart-arsed conundrums of the Situationists, these meant nothing to me or my contemporaries and barely even seemed to impinge on the consciousness of our parents who were more concerned by the fact that we had grown our hair long, dressed like scarecrows and listened to terribly loud music. To give them their due, though, they didn’t complain about us trying pass ourselves off as 18 in the local pubs (and sometimes succeeding) so we could get our hands on pints of cold, fizzy beer.
SO, THE MOUNTAINS of the Resolution Foundation groaned for two years and gave birth to…well, the usual farrago of nonsense and madcap propositions that think tanks are prone to. In this case it’s all about the “intergenerational contract” between the Boomers and the Millennials, how it’s being broken and what “we” should do to put it right.
This low-level conflict has been rumbling on for a few years now and really kicked off with a book by David Willetts, The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children’s Future – And Why They Should Give It Back (2010). Willetts is a former Tory minister and now runs the Resolution Foundation. “Former Tory” is what I nearly left it at, since his pronouncements these days have been most definitely un-Tory-like, favouring the kind of statist interference beloved of the left.
WATCHING OR LISTENING to the media these days is like being repeatedly subjected to one of those implicit bias tests HR departments force on employees to root out their supposedly unconscious prejudice. While the media frequently admonish us to “celebrate” our multicultural diversity whether we care about it or not, HR pretend they’re looking after the welfare of their company’s employees.