Nostalgia

May 2, 2010 at 8:04 am | Posted in Philosophy, Society | Leave a comment
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Last night, my husband and I, and several friends, went to a club about 45 minutes away from home, for dinner and a show. The dinner was the usual bistro meal, adequate but nothing special. The show was absolutely great. It involved a quartet of (not-too-young) men who pay tribute to three groups from yesteryear. They call themselves “The Three Bs”.

The show was in three parts, and the group dressed to match the particular “B” they were imitating in each part: the Bee Gees; the Beach Boys; and the Beatles. So, what’s special about all that? Well, firstly, they were very good. Their singing, stage presence and enthusiasm really had the crowd involved. The dance floor in front of the tables was continually full of enthusiastic dancers, whose ages ranged from about eighteen to their sixties (I was one of the older ones actually on the floor). The seated audience covered the same lower age range, but a higher upper range; some people would have been near eighty. I suppose the biggest thing that struck me was how much this show, and its audience, illustrates the huge surge in nostalgia as the Baby Boomers age.

So, what is nostalgia?

Nostalgia: n, a longing and desire for home, family and friends, or the past. (The Macquarie Dictionary, 2nd revision, The Macquarie Library, Sydney, NSW, 1982.)

Nostalgia has always been a part of the human makeup, but why does it appear that this post-World War II generation is particularly noted for its nostalgia – in fact, so much so, that the emphasis is now seen to be on the second part of the definition, “a longing and desire for the past”, rather than on “the home and family”? I think there are a couple of major reasons for that, though there are probably others too 

The first reason is that, in general, Baby Boomers had an easy life when they were growing up. The nineteen-fifties were a time of high employment and financial security. For the first time, children didn’t have to – indeed they couldn’t – go out to work at a very early age. Families could afford to buy their own homes, a car, labour saving devices. Children had access to levels of education their parents could only dream of. They were now more likely to be “white-collar”, rather than “blue-collar” workers.

The second reason is the huge changes that have occurred in technology and society in general in the post-war period, but especially in the last twenty years. Many of these changes came as Baby Boomers were reaching their forties, and have continued through their fifties and up to their sixties. They would, in earlier times, expect to be settled in their employment, having raised their children, and be looking forward to retirement. Economic and social changes, caused by technology and changing attitudes, now mean that many feel nervous rather than secure. Change has happened too quickly; no other generation until theirs had ever been faced with such enormous and continual change.

It is no wonder many Baby Boomers wish to return to the days when there was a sense of freedom and opportunity – along with a sense of security, when confidence was strong and the world was their oyster.

© Linda Visman 2nd May 2010

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