“Nostalgia” is frequently associated today with “racism”, “sexism”, and “homophobia”. Among our betters, it has become a sort of general put-down for popular attachments. As in the case of “tolerance,” “openness,” and “acceptance of change,” the point of the expression at bottom is “do what you’re told and like it.”
Such expressions are our rulers’ way of telling us that we know nothing and our connections and reactions mean nothing, so the only way forward is to accept what they tell us, enthusiastically and without question. They are guiding us to an ever more glorious future, and if we don’t see it there’s something wrong with us.
In fact, nostalgia is the pain of attachment to something once enjoyed but now lost, especially to human connections that once touched us, and things closely connected to what we are or once were. As such, it is the inevitable outcome of love, attachment, and the mutability of earthly things. “Sunt lacrimae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt.” To deny that, not only with regard to the fall of Troy but with regard to the minor things usually associated with nostalgia, is to deny being human.
The denial of humanity is, of course, the point of advanced modernity. Still, life is lived forward even if understood backwards. The point of recognizing the authority of tradition is not sentiment and feeling but reality and good sense: we need the past to know where we are, where we are to go, and where hope is to be found. Which is, of course, the reason those who have their own answers to those questions would like to break our attachment to it. To lose the past is to become building materials for our rulers’ schemes rather than the agents of our own lives. No wonder it is now officially considered a liberation.