Paul at The Aesthetic Elevator posts about the danger of nostalgia, at least as far as it relates to economic theories, and - as the kids say - I'm down wi' dat.
But I think nostalgia can also be a powerful force for good. We just have to keep our heads.
Start to talk about family life being stronger a hundred years ago and you are likely to hear objections about "turning back the clock", and "living in the past", but does simply acknowledging that "X" was better a century ago mean embracing all the errors of that period in toto? If it does, then on what basis can we ever make historical comparisons to present models? Can we not object to failed modern experiments and return to some greater semblance of sanity in one area without simply giving the heave-ho to all our modern benefits?
Take the family, for instance. Most everyone, I think, has the sense that family life is in dissolution and that families need strengthening. I propose that we adopt an older model of family life by returning to smaller homes and simpler living so that one income might reasonably support the family, and one parent can, if they choose, make a full time job of managing the home. What a concept.
We can do this without choking off opportunity, without being sexist, and without the soul-killing, cookie-cutter conformity of the fifties (which is exaggerated to begin with, but never mind...). We do have a chance to go back and do things the right way, if we want. What is to prevent us? We have this same luxury of choice regarding things like art, music and architecture, as well. What if many of these older forms were just more human than the manufactured and mass-produced culture we have now?
Why not take what worked in past ages, and leave - by conscious choice - what didn't work? If we want to go back to, say (for the sake of argument), a nineteenth-century model of the family, no one can force us to go back to the racism of the nineteenth century, or the child labor of the nineteenth century... and yet, that seems to be the fear behind "You can't turn back the clock!" or "You would take us back to the dark ages!".
But this is an empty objection, simply because we couldn't go back to the Dark Ages (the darkness of which is exaggerated, but never mind...) even if we wanted to... and we don't want to.
We are free people. We can choose how we will live, and if we close off the past as a source of wisdom and ideas, then we are doomed to stay on our little modern hamster wheel. The worst kind of ignorance is this willful ignorance of the past that we see in modern men, this unqualified worship of mere "progress".
"My attitude toward progress has passed from antagonism to boredom. I have long ceased to argue with people who prefer Thursday to Wednesday because it is Thursday."
- G.K. Chesterton