Hello Gentle Reader
Nostalgia is a bittersweet miasmic poison. It’s an air born existential pathogen. One often transmitted through routine conversations, dialogue exchanges, and communicative exercises. Much like an earworm, once it’s crept in it will reside for days and months—if it leaves at all. Yet today’s world is riddled with nostalgia. There are remakes on television, or remade movies, or politicians politicizing the good old years or better times; and the list goes on. Yet, it were to appear, the cultural and artistic elements of society has reduced and resigned itself to a limited position and narrow perspective. One which has neither: room, hunger nor desire to initiative any sense of innovation. The entire atmosphere has collapsed in on itself; with no one pushing boundaries, exploring new ideas, innovating in new forms, or revolting against the established grain.
This is where I will give credit to previous generations. Throughout the twentieth century there were continual waves of artistic, literary, and creative movements. Across the board, ingenious creators sought and redefined the principles of their crafts.
Such as Writers like: Such as [Visual] Artists like:
(i) James Joyce (i) Pablo Picasso
(ii) Virgina Woolf (ii) Henri Matisse
(iii) Marcel Proust (iii) Marcel Duchamp
(iv) Francis Pong (iv) Frida Khalo
(v) T.S. Eliot (v) Salvador Dali
(vi) Samuel Beckett (vi) Giorgio de Chirico
(vii) Yasunari Kawabata (vii) Andy Warhol
(viii) Franz Kafka
(ix) Jorge Luis Borges
(x) Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(xi) Italo Calvino
Filled with artistic & literary movements such as: Architectural Movements such as:
(i) Modernist (i) Art Nouveau
(ii) Futurist (ii) Art Deco
(iii) Surrealist (iii) Brutalist
(iv) Magical Realist (iv) Mid-Century Modern
(v) Dadists (v) Futurism
(vi) Cubism (vi) Postmodernism
(vii) Pop Art (vii) Structuralism
(ix) Nouveau Roman
(x) Beat Generation
Completed with such philosophical movements:
(i) Continental Philosophy:
(ii) Analytical Philosophy:
- Logical Positivism
And the last great wave of philosophers:
(i) Jean-Paul Sartre (vi) Michel Foucault
(ii) Simone de Beauvoir (vii) Jacques Derrida
(iii) Susanne Langer (viii) Gilles Deleuze
(iv) Bertrand Russell (ix) Roland Barthes
(v) Albert Camus
These authors, [visual] artists, musicians, movements (be it artistic, literary, architectural, or musical) all sought to progressively promote these respective fields beyond their classical predecessors, thought processes, values, ideals, beliefs, and perspectives. They explored the possibilities, pushed the boundaries, caused debate and outrage, and through these routine and continual conversations pushed the world to heightened methods, medias, and modes of thought and appreciation, which in turn infected and influenced society. Whether or not the greater public enjoyed or approved of the content, they did discuss it, they had opinions on it and they debated them whether for or against. This is the purpose of these movements, of these—I use this term loosely—professions, is to engage, provoke, and progress societies values, ideas, ideals, beliefs, and perspectives through engaging and thought-provoking works of art, literature, performance arts, architecture, philosophy, and even music.
So when I review the current landscape and climate of today’s cultural climate and atmosphere it is a rather sad state of affair when compared to the previous generations. With great honesty I wonder: is that all we had? Were the previous centuries prior to the twentieth century so tyrannically oppressive in their demands and restrictive objectives of what constituted as merit worthy, be it artistic, literary or otherwise—that when the yokes where shaken off, society flung themselves into octane state of experimentation, whereby it tried every new idea, concept and thought that popped into its head through the past century, with such speed that any innovative or inventive notion has been exhausted?
Currently the cultural climate cultural climate is nothing but: remixes, redo’s, and remakes. A real reduce, reuse, recycle concept of cultural formats. To be acerbically blunt, the current state of cultural innovation is non-existent. Society as a whole appears to have entered a state of backwater afterthought suburbia, complete with garden gnomes, lawn flamingos, and white picket fences. It is tacky and unoriginal. The words of Ecclesiastes immediately come to mind to summarize the brain drain or lack of cultural importance of today’s world:
“There’s nothing new under the sun.”
So then, what has taken the pristine position of cultural innovation and invention? Nostalgia. Nostalgia has taken the position of any notion of innovation and invention, and maintained a cycle of repeat. Ironically it is a cycle of repeat from only a couple of decades ago. As we speak there are live actions remakes set for release for nineties Disney films: “Aladdin,” and “The Lion King,”—with more set to come in the coming years. We’ve seen startups of completed shows, renewed for a quick comeback. Continual remixes of old songs. And of course the perennial conversation: “you know you were a nineties kid when,” among other such catchphrases and taglines. This is rather startling and strange. Generally speaking, nostalgia is a wistful air longing for another time, generally exhibited by people who are much older than those entering or leaving their twenties! Most individuals who are afflicted with nostalgia or who exhibit signs and symptoms of the contagion are generally a lot older then people who are in their twenties. In fact the people, who are generally considered the demographic age group to have been afflicted with the septicity, are often middle age to late middle age—people who have finally realize how mortal they are. These same people who now coming to terms with the frailty and fragile nature of being mortal, often fondly look back to their twenties as a better time; which is a key trait of nostalgia, people envision and idealize the past because hindsight is not always twenty-twenty, but rather selectively twenty-twenty with a rose tint, made more appealing because in the past one is also a lot younger then they find themselves in their current situation. This is frightening, when one considers the current miasmic atmosphere of nostalgia currently, and its intended demographic, of people who are in their twenties and are nostalgic, I am rather confused as to what they are nostalgic for! Do they wish to be children again? What a preposterous thought! At least form my perspective. Yet that is the state of the current cultural trend. This blatant pretentious air of consumerist revolt, embraces the notion of nostalgia at an attempt at revolting at the usual suspects: Be it: corporate greed, government, consumerist conditioning, media designated notions of beauty, social oppressive norms predesignated by the patriarchy—the list once again can go on. Yet all the same with hypocritical irony, these same individuals feed into the media saturated world, require the latest technological advancements and devices, and will hurry to see the latest remixed or remade rendition of their childhood fantasies once again. All the while any cultural movement is left sitting on three functions: play—pause—rewind, before play once again. An outdated soundtrack.
The generation is not solely responsible for the squandered suburban wasteland of the current cultural disposition either. The humanities themselves have refused to move forward, and have instead found themselves embroiled in pedantic debates, arguments, and poncy promotion as well as pauper panhandling regarding:
(i) Political Correctness
(ii) Cultural Appropriation
(v) Inclusion & Induction
Literary, artistic, and other cultural and philosophical practitioners, trendsetters, visionaries, who sought to push the boundaries and elevate the work to new heights—or at least push the envelope; have now found themselves ensnared in the predilections of social and political spheres of thought and influence. Not that literature, art and co were ever segregated or severed from those realms, or have no influence over them; they just revolted against them, and their established perspective; they mocked them, they caricaturized them; and blatantly criticized them, often in the most outlandish manners. Now, these same critical elements and caricaturizing institutions, have taken the mantel of propagandists to propagate these concepts and ideals. To once again be acerbic: political correctness, as a whole has damaged literary, artistic, philosophical and other cultural institutions beyond reputable repair. Political correctness, is at its core—regardless of its intentions—an entitled demand and call for censorship, be it self-censorship or societal. This is not an ideal or value which should be promoted by any cultural, artistic or literary institution—literature on it’s forefront should be adamantly opposed to the notion, as it has been opposed to all forms of censorship prior. The same should be stated with artists, philosophers, dancers, and musicians—any individual who associates with or has any notion of cultural pedigree, predisposition, or perspective, should adamantly oppose these otherwise stifling values, as hindrances and impediments. They are what have allowed the entire world to be put to a screeching halt, as it demands a inclusive, gentle, inoffensive world and culture. Noble in pursuit. Failure in application. Impossible to achieve. Full stop.
It is no wonder then the world continues to fixate on remakes, reboots, redoes, remixes, and refabricate the past, because any notion of new or creative or extraordinary or innovative or visionary, would most likely be: offensive to someone, not be diverse enough, poach or distribute or inappropriately display another’s culture, and will alienate others; which cause a societal upstart and uproar, and the league of social justice warriors, takes to their social media accounts to ignite the crusade and shut it down full stop. This leaves little in the way of options for individuals who seek creative liberty and freedom, due to the ever present threat they will face prosecution in the age of mass social saturation, from a boisterous overzealous group of impudent idealists, who cannot understand or fathom reality as it exists, or the concept of freedom of speech. This leaves little to the imagination and little freedom to explore, which creates a void that nostalgia fills.
Nostalgia then is safe. It’s the rose tinted perspective of times gone by. Nostalgia is also noxious. It’s nauseating. Yet its appeal has not dwindled or been limited. Its stench wafts through society and in its wake leaves nothing but a septic squandered suburb, complete with garden gnomes, lawn flamingos, and its white picket fence. Except now, the garden gnomes are cracked or smashed; the flamingos are bleached or broken or stolen (and accused of cultural appropriation at this point); and the white picket fence is in disarray (also it shouldn't be white anymore, because its a symbol of prerogative values, and therefore is not inclusive enough) ; all because the entire culture is centered on the suffocating self-absorption of nostalgia.
Admiration is different than nostalgia. Admiration, my Dear Gentle Reader, is the complete opposite of nostalgia. Nostalgia is a hindrance. It’s an existential anti-depressant. It’s the fetishization of either ones youth or a time in which one feels they missed out on the party. Admiration on the other hand is the respect coupled with learning and emulation, then emancipation.
For example, Gentle Reader, I have a great amount of respect for the twentieth century literary and artistic movements which have taken place, and the plethora and pantheon of individuals who have inhabited that world of creative liberty and freedom. I am not, however, nostalgic for it. I do not wish to be a part of the Silent Revolution. I do not wish to revisit disco. I do not wish to meet Andy Warhol—or shoot him. I have no interest in seeing Jean-Paul Sartre lecture. I do not want to live under the threat of nuclear annihilation again. Those times are done. They have past. They exist in memory, in photographs, in writings, in paintings, in academic reviews, historical essays, archives, and the fond biographies and memoires. However, I would love to own brutalist furniture—not because I am nostalgic for it; but because I admire the aesthetics of the practitioners of the style: Paul R. Evans, Adrian Pearsall, Curtis Jeré and Tom Greene. These artists, furniture designers, and craftsman were able to create a unique piece of work that is functional and uncompromising. It is riddled with odd shapes, and ornamented with sculpted geometric patterns. Much like the architectural design of which they get their name, these works of furniture—be it lighting, sofa, chair, dresser or armoire—are uncompromising, statement making, and blunt in their bold obtuse designs. It’s a style where one either enjoys or despises; there is little room for anything else. The architectural style is even brasher. Concrete slab after concrete slab, speckled with windows and geometric formations, which clunk, grind and clamor in a cacophony of cement. An inharmonious site which brings to mind city life filled urbanites, who know how to traverse the world of concrete and glass. This being said: brutalist has been done. It’s complete. It’s finished. Any attempt at reviving it will only be, yet again, another cinderblock of nostalgia.
In today’s world there is a failure to move beyond emulation, which slowly mutates to nostalgia. Rather than simply standing on the shoulders of giants and seeking to surpass them or be their equal—cultural movements and institutions have simply shove themselves up the posterior, and cradle themselves there, shitting time after time another remix, reboot, or remake, in the continual reduce, reuse, and recycle culture. There’s a lack of emancipation, which is perhaps brought on by social movements such as political correctness. Or in other cases and depending on who you ask—such as social and cultural commentary Fran Lebowitz—it’s because you can’t smoke in bars anymore, or that life is also extraordinarily expensive and you can now no longer be able to afford cigarettes or a drink. If you can, then you have no time to enjoy either.
Beyond this, the culture of nostalgia has become a dangerous political weapon, where it’s a disturbed rationalization for a time which cannot be regained. Here in Canada we saw this in a recent provincial election. Political parties capitalized on a forlorn calling for better times with favorable economic impacts. Needless to say the masses ate this up like birdseed. They gobbled up the wistful desires of bygone eras, without facing the fact that the future will most likely not emulate or reflect this dreamscape of what was. Instead it will continue on its current trajectory, whatever that maybe. There will most certainly be consequences for failing to see beyond the chickenfeed. As the past is riddled with variables that impacted only then, and are in no way obligated to reflect or influence the present or the immediate future. This same politicization is seen across the world as well. The most famous example currently is Putin’s Russia. It is no secret that President Vladimir Putin often utilizes Soviet Era nostalgia to inflame the spirits of younger generations of Russians. There is the open confession that life was not particularly glamourous under those times, but back then at least Russia was taken seriously, it was a force that demanded respect, and whose shadow cast fear when crossed. Now it faces what some commentators have called a reduced position on the global stage. A bear who has lost its claws and whose teeth have fallen out. It grumbles and roars, but stirs no respect or fear. Going farther back the same idealization of nostalgia and glorifying the past can be found in Nazi Germany with Adolf Hitler, who admired and adored the classics, while viewing modern art as degenerate in nature. Without a surprise as Adolf Hitler would amass greater authority and consolidate more power, he would destroy, censor, and prohibit modern art from being either displayed, promoted, or dealt in; and instead ensured the masses suckled on the opium riddled pacifier of the classics, because it was his preference and offered a better viewpoint of life then what was currently being served at the time, and the future was bleak by all immediate concerns. Nostalgia then is a dangerous act of distraction and pacification, lulling the populace into a false sense of security, or providing them with the notion that even though the times were not always great (authoritarian), they were better than the current situation.
This is why artistic movements and literary movements exist: to agitate and innovate; inspire and irritate, and ultimately: to push the world further ahead, to greater ideals, to greater values, and beliefs, while revolting against otherwise improper and degrading institutions. Yet if they can’t be called upon to move beyond their own replay of events, and remixed ideas, then society is doomed to sit in a stagnant septic state. One might as well as plaster rococo wallpaper, bring in Victorian literature, install art nouveau windows, egg chairs, hang a disco ball and apply the neoclassical fixtures, to set the scene for a pastiche of the ages, in which one can always be a part of the party they were sure they were cheated of. Or instead, they can create the time in which future generations will be envy of, and enjoy the small patch of sand in the deserts of time allocated to them and make something of it. It is the duty of youth, to change the cultural direction of today into something more interesting, inspiring and compelling.
Thank-you For Reading Gentle Reader
And As Always
Stay Well Read