At one point in the distant past, I was a graduate student struggling to understand the concept of postmodernism. Apparently, one of the features of postmodernism is a repudiation of nostalgia. When I was in school, I totally didn’t get this. What was wrong with nostalgia? I thought. I feel nostalgic on a fairly frequent basis.
Then I understood nostalgia on a political scale–a longing for a past (which probably never existed) that got to exclude, well, anyone that you can comfortably imagine.
Folks, if you, too, ever sat in a class and thought, “Nostalgia? What’s the big deal?” let me share with you a little piece of excrement that was sent in by one of our eagle-eyed readers (h/t to Female Talk for the link). It’s a piece by one Peter Thiel, a man who is wholly unremarkable to me except for the fact that he is the founder of PayPal. In his article, he bemoans the current state of the world, and says that things really started to go to hell in a handbasket in the 1920s, ’cause that’s when women started to get the vote, and there was a “vast increase in welfare beneficiaries.” Ugh.
But probably the most interesting part of the post is where he starts fantasizing about cyberspace, outer space and something called “seasteading” (yeah, we’re talking oceans instead of prairies) as zones where libertarians (read: people who look and think like Peter Thiel) can roam around, lasso some virtual cattle and experience real freedom. Or democracy. Or whatever. He intones:
Did I just wake up inside a copy of Atlas Shrugged?
This is precisely the kind of nostalgia that is so very dangerous. It’s a colonialist longing for spaces and zones where the concerns of pioneers and money come first (rather than, say, the original, first inhabitants, like fish or moonscapes). It’s inherently anti-democratic. And it’s really repulsive.