Holding on to yesterdays

FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras - The Freeman

The COVID-19 pandemic with the consequent lockdowns that restricted socializing, the environmental disasters, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine have so stressed so many people that a wave of nostalgia enveloped the social/main media and other conversations all over the world. It started in the later part of 2020, increased in 2021, and still persisted in 2022 even as restrictions on social events and movements have eased up. This phenomena cut across all social classes, but the middle and upper class have more time to indulge on it, as the lower classes, busy with earning a living, had less time to reminisce on the past.

It also cut across all generations, with the baby boomers remembering more fond memories, but even the Gen-X and people in their 30’s are recalling the good old days before the pandemic, the socio-political problems and the wars of today.

A wit described “Nostalgia” as when the past is perfect and the present is tense. Clinically/academically, nostalgia is defined as the wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition. The more popular definition is that it is that longing feeling for the past when things seemed better, easier, and more fun.

This is elucidated in the two popular songs that have been going around social media in the past years, “Yesterday” by the Beatles and “Yesterday When I Was Young” by various artists. The lyrics and the tune of these songs long for the happier past and the wish for it to be back again. The Beatles open up with, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.” Then the other song starts, “Yesterday, when I was young the taste of life was sweet as rain upon my tongue.” Definitely nostalgic.

Nostalgic feelings are not peculiar to any generation or even certain times. Individuals or groups experience nostalgia. It just becomes more pronounced and widespread when triggered by tragedies and/or earth-shaking socio-political events. The advent of IT technologies and social medial just make it happen broader and faster as it reaches more people quickly.

During peaceful times, economic recession/depression are major triggers. In the 1950’s and the 1960’s there were wars and social ills in many parts of the world, but since there were fewer people then and these problems were not sent to us in real time and with video and other graphics, we were less nostalgic. Remembering or recalling memories, we also tend to be very selective. We actually filter out the unpleasant memories and delve only on those that make us happy. It takes more effort to recall the bad times in our lives.

Comparing the realities of the present situation with the past situations, there are pluses and minuses in both times. Definitely, the advances in science and technology, especially in medical science have made our lives better and longer. The modern conveniences we are now enjoying are so much better than in the earlier years.

But these have also made our lives more complicated and stressful with the faster pace and multiple relationships they entail. The slower, less-stressful lives we recall we traded for easier and faster communications and travel and material goods. These effects are not uniformly experienced in all social classes but proportionately, with the upper class probably more stressed as they aspire for more possessions and leisure. This is only fair, as the more materialistic should be more stressed.

There is nothing wrong with nostalgia or reminiscing as these are natural ways of coping with present problems and easing stress. However, it should not be a reason to avoid or confront/resolve the present problems. The past is part of our ammunition to address the present and prepare for the future.

There is one aspect of the past that we should be nostalgic about, and that is the quality of our governments, politics, and politicians in the world and in the Philippines. Governance is not improving and democracy is under attack in many countries. We might really have had better, less corrupt, more principled government officials and politicians years ago. These are and will be the tragedies, as there is no way of going back to yesterday.


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