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
- World War I records reveal myths and realities of soldiers with ‘shell shock’
- Were Neanderthals a sub-species of modern humans? New research says no
- Irish archaeological sites explain huge European population fall
- Reactions to JFK Assassination Included Fear of Possible Soviet Strike against U.S.; Desire to "Bond" with LBJ
- Swiss Museum to Announce Decision on Nazi-Looted Art Next Week
- Juan Cole says the postwar Middle East governments were modeled on the Soviet Union, though not communist (interview)
- Ted Widmer picks the 5 best presidential books worth reading
- AHA backs California's LGBT History law
- Cultural historian traces history of baby food
- Jules Witcover identifies the best and worst veeps in US history in an interview about his new book