Nostaligic Britain - Why We Should Look Forward Not Back
The recent furore surrounding blue passports in Britain was ludicrous and hilarious in equal measures.
Those on the side of Brexit, Grumbler-in-Chief Nigel Farage most prominently, heralded Theresa May’s decision as the first victory for an independent Britain. On the other side, reports suggesting the scheme would cost £500million were branded as fake news, whilst the European Union politely reminded Mrs May that the UK always had the power to change the colour of their passports if they wanted. It was a rather farcical end to a year that offered an abundance of embarrassments for the government.
One area that didn’t seem to get a look in amongst the joyous yelps from the Brexiteers and the dodgy stats from the Remainers was the simple fact that a huge amount of the population have never had a blue passport, and that for them the burgundy passport was the correct UK passport colour. Now, don’t get me wrong, from what I can gather the majority of those under the age of 30 could not care less what hue an official document is, but it is yet another example of the nostalgia of the old trampling the identity of the young.
The entire Brexit debate in 2016 revolved around Caution vs Nostalgia. Those campaigning to leave built their argument around taking Britain back to the halcyon days when Britain had total control of their own affairs, leading the way in industrial innovation and productivity. They evoked the blitz spirit, stiff upper lip, Only Fools and Horses on the TV every night. The problem was that this vision was entirely cherry-picked from history; a sort of greatest hits of our plucky little island. It was evoking memories of a country that never existed.
Britain as an industrial leader is no longer possible, the huge swing from manufacturing to financial services as the percentage of GDP under Thatcher saw to that. Britain as an economic powerhouse is not possible, either, unless the empire is restored, which would of course mean illegally invading independent countries in a manner that may not go down so well at the UN. Even if we somehow managed to restore the commonwealth, that would mean an end to the border control that is so desired by the Brexit supporters. In fact it is the post-war period that most acknowledge as the last time that Britain was truly great. This also happened to be when Britain was at it’s most socialist, with the greatest level of cooperation with our European neighbours, and the building of the NHS and welfare state, all things many Brexiteers despise.
In short, the nostalgia act was a fallacy, and it was a shame that those running the Remain campaign did not champion progress and the laying of a foundation for the next generation to inherit a healthy, accommodating Britain as a good reason to vote to stay. What they did instead was reiterate the risks and hazards that would hinder an independent Britain. What does that mean to the desperate when compared to the idea of taking the country back to the good old days?
Young people rejected the nostalgic notion not just because they had no memories of the alleged time, but also because they live in the modern world. Views that many in their parents’ generation would interpret as ‘progressive’, Gay marriage, liberal drug policy, women’s rights, open borders, these are not viewed as controversial, they are the cost of doing business in the modern world. Yet their worldview is again being trumped by bizarre nostalgia trips. The Royal Yacht, blue passports, closed borders, a return to imperial measurements, these are a flat-out rejection of modern values in favour of the good-ol’-days misconception.
The same can be said for culture. Hollywood and the television arena may have had some original thoughts in the last decade, but they have been in short supply. According to the older generation no TV will ever be funnier than Mr Bean or Only Fools and Horses, no movies will ever be better than Star Wars or Indian Jones, no music will ever be better than The Beatles or The Stones, so why even try? Executives from the same generation then hand over huge chunks of their budget to reboot the TV shows, or commission pale imitations of them, order dozens of new Star Wars movies and, perhaps most bafflingly, keep giving money to Paul McCartney to make another phoned-in 40 minutes of music about ‘having a good time’.
All of this results in young people inheriting their parents’ cultural identity, instead of forging their own. Young artists are giving up at an increasingly younger age as the same old people are always commissioned ahead of them. Yes, there are more ways than ever to get your art out their, but without the benefit of reliable monitisation, or a decent advertisement budget, we are likely losing hundreds of people who could have been the voice of their generation to PR jobs and hollow disillusion.
The most frustrating thing about this is how little the older generations seem to notice what they’re doing. The reasons for this I don’t know, perhaps Bruce Gibney is right and the so-called baby boomers are a generation of sociopaths. What is abundantly clear is that, as long as they have the reigns of power in both politics and culture, what they want is paramount and what the young want will be ignored.
Nostalgia is supposed to be a past time, a guilty pleasure, like putting on an old record or hosting a limited run of a cult favourite at the local cinema. It should not dictate public policy or dominate popular culture. It is supposed to give you a warm fuzzy feeling and take you back to a snapshot of your childhood, not fill you with nausea and apprehension about how it might shape your future. For the sake of the identity of our young people, and the future that they will have to navigate, nostalgia should be made a thing of the past.