Monday, June 12, 2006

Nostalgia IS what it used to be.

“If you weren’t born when and where you were, where would you have liked to have been?” In the late night discussions that followed I imagined myself taking part in the student protests in 1968 Paris, when the majority believed that it was worth trying to change things and were prepared to risk their degrees and futures to do it. You can picture my pleasure when such idle dreaming found its way to the top of the charts last week through Sandi Thom’s first single ‘I want to be a Punk Rocker’.

The song taps into the richest seams of nostalgia – yearning for a lost innocence and a rose tinted affection for previous fads and trends. However Thom’s nostalgia goes a step deeper. She yearns for a time when an individual’s actions counted and there was the freedom to imagine that a completely different and better society was possible. The implication of the song now is that we’re stuck with what we’ve got and that fighting against the capitalist and mass media dominated system is futile. We were born too late and our generation can’t be change makers.

Thom may well be speaking for a generation unhappily caught up in the corporate machine of work to live and live to work, but her defeatist attitude is wrong and self perpetuating. Firstly all those punkrockers and hippies of the 1960s and 1970s are now in their 40s and 50s and running the country. You only have to look at the background of current Labour ministers to see that the leftie protest generation made it into power – Jack Straw, Harriet Harman and Charles Clark to name but a few. This generation did make huge strides campaigning for gender and race equality and against apartheid. They also campaigned against the imperialism of Vietnam and the proliferation of Nuclear weapons. It’s great to look back on the 1960s and 1970s with a touch of nostalgia, but it’s important to remember that the idealism of the 1960s contributed to and then got swallowed up by the consumer society and family breakdowns of the 1980s and 90s.

Our generation does care – it cares about making poverty history and the Iraq war and is the first generation to grow up with the environmental movement. It cares about stable families and long lasting friendships. However it doesn’t have the confidence that it’s possible to do anything about it. Adrift in a world of individualism it doesn’t know the power of and doesn’t think it has the time for sustained grass roots organised mass action. As a result people only offer shallow commitment to ‘Make Poverty History’ hoping it will do something, but not really believing that it can. This can change. We too will become the generation that runs the country, but in the mean time we desperately need to find, grow and equip leaders and change makers so that we can show that we weren’t born too late and that radical change for the better is always possible.

No comments:

Post a Comment