Beware Social Nostalgia
My latest column in the New York Times:
AS a historian, I’ve spent much of my career warning people about the dangers of nostalgia. But as a mother, watching my son graduate from medical school on Thursday, I have been awash in nostalgia all week.
In personal life, the warm glow of nostalgia amplifies good memories and minimizes bad ones about experiences and relationships, encouraging us to revisit and renew our ties with friends and family. It always involves a little harmless self-deception, like forgetting the pain of childbirth.
In society at large, however, nostalgia can distort our understanding of the world in dangerous ways, making us needlessly negative about our current situation.
Nineteenth-century Americans were extremely worried, the historian Susan Matt points out, about the incidence of nostalgia, which was the term used to describe homesickness in those days. According to physicians of the era, acute nostalgia led to “mental dejection,” “cerebral derangement” and sometimes even death. The only known cure was for the afflicted individual to go home, and if that wasn’t possible, the sufferer was seriously out of luck....
Read the rest here.
comments powered by Disqus
- Obama May Create Monument to Gay Rights Movement
- China to release last prisoner jailed over Tiananmen Square protests
- Marine Corps investigating photo of iconic flag-raising on Iwo Jima
- Scholars Blast New Study Tracing Ashkenazi Jews to Khazars of Ancient Turkey
- Legendary Explorer’s Long-Lost Ship May Have Been Found Off Rhode Island
- The Historian Whitewashing Ukraine’s Past
- Andrew Roberts wins $250,000 prize from the conservative Bradley Foundation
- Daniel Aaron, Critic and Historian Who Pioneered American Studies, Dies at 103
- Liz Covart's amazingly popular podcast helps her audience understand early American history
- Justus Rosenberg is still teaching at age 95