We are seeing a tremendous shift in the political climate of major powers of the world. The sentiments of the public lean toward and long for the old days when they felt governments were more stable.
Far from innocuous, the infatuation with a mythicized past is shaping politics in risky ways. Nostalgia induces citizens to find comfort in a time when the world was less flat and governments (apparently) had the power to protect their citizens from external threats.
This nostalgia affects everyone. Perhaps, we can't prevent people from looking back to "happier" times when things felt secure and there were less uncertainties plaguing their daily lives. But I wouldn't say that applies to all.
Though there are people throughout the world who remember better times in the early 20th century, there is an equal number of people whose identities were forged through suffering and hardship which led to reforms that enable the newer generations to enjoy freedoms which their predecessors did not.
Despite its Romantic flavor, nostalgia is actually a malaise—and should be treated as such. From a purely psychological point of view, nostalgia represents a coping strategy for dealing with moments of deep uncertainty and radical discontinuity.
It removes its victims from an unpleasant present and throws them into a familiar past, reinforcing their self-esteem and the self-confidence, which are needed to navigate periods of sustained stress. But nostalgia is usually accompanied by amnesia. It depicts the past in such an idealized way that some details, often not irrelevant, are lost.
Which is why in an age of nostalgia, people need to be more aware and proactive in imparting the truth of history to their children. Of course, we can only share those which we know and given that we live in a world of disinformation, let us just be sure that we know what happens in reality.
(Image credit: Ryan Parker/Unsplash)