Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yester Year Was Not Great For Most People

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky. 

Do you know what one of my pet hates is?

Nostalgia. I've come to really really despise it especially as it keeps being served up in front of me by everyone from various older relatives, no small shortage of politicians and a significant segment of the media, all reminiscing of simpler times, better times, times when "common sense" ruled and you didn't have to lock your door (because you had nothing worth stealing *snark*) and everyone knew everyone else and was decent to each other.

And it hacks me off.

Not, I have to say, the misty eyed, googly "awww remember that picnic and we had our first kiss awwww" schmoopy rose tinted personal nostalgia. It may provoke my gag reflex but it doesn't annoy me (cynical? Moi?)

But "oh things were better then, a better time, a better era, a better age!"

Yeah, that annoys me.

Sometimes it's so patently ridiculous that I could laugh. When my grandmother was more lucid she, along with my remaining great aunts and uncles, often spoke of how much more wonderful it was in the 40s - when they were huddled in Andersen shelters and got to wake up to see half the city destroyed...

But a lot of it is so very privileged it makes my eyes roll out of their sockets.

Because when people talk about how much better and more wonderful things were in the 40s or, 50s (or gods' forbid, when their rosy yesteryear is even further back in history), they're not just indulging in some heavily edited and rose tinted memories - but they're editing out a hell of a lot of badness and a hell of a lot of progress (though not nearly enough sometimes). Were things better then? For straight, white, affluent, able bodied, neuro-typical, cis-gendered men it was probably easier in many ways - simpler. Less complicated, more certain, less grey areas, less doubts. Less of these wretchedly different people around demanding respect and regard.

And, damn your eyes, you could call them whatever you want without all this pc-ness!

And it's why nostalgia annoys me so much. Because back in the glory days of yester year the idea of it being "better" or a more "moral" or "good" or "righteous" or "common sensical" era is somewhat laughable when you think of marginalised people - if it weren't so damned offensive.

50 years ago? 60 years ago? 70? A woman or a GBLTQ person or a person of colour or a plethora of other marginalised people did not have it better - and it sure as hell wasn't more "righteous." In an era of segregation, in an era where women were expected to be happy housewives or else, in an era where GBLTQ people risked prison for existing - it was NOT a more righteous era. It was not "better then."

And to even suggest we have gone through some kind of "moral decline" since these days? To suggest things have become more corrupt? More degraded? Less good, less righteous? Not even a specific issue - or when they do raise s specific issue it's inevi6tably one that will make my eyes roll.

That is not only mind boggling, but it's so often offensive. And, I think, it's terribly, horrendously privileged.

Were some things better then? Of course. And there are definitely specifics you can argue or raise that are worthy of discussion

But the blanket idea that all things were better then, more pure, more good, more moral - it raises my hackles like little else. I kinda like existing, I don't really enjoy fond musings of an era where that was illegal.

And I imagine many other marginalised bodies aren't that impressed either.