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Posts Tagged ‘Popular Culture’

Who postponed the future? Why the power of nostalgia can hurt us all

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 30th 2019

Last week I attended a talk about one of the seminal bands of late 1970s Britain – Joy Division – where the author and cultural commentator Jon Savage discussed at an event run by Monorail, a wonderful independent record shop in the centre of Glasgow, the band, their music, originality and enduring influence.

It was a mesmerising talk about the power of music, importance of place and of Britain – both in the late 1970s and now. In one observation, Savage spoke of Joy Division as representing (in 1979-80) what could only be described as ‘music of the future’. By this he meant that it was firmly located in its social and political realities – the grimness of 1970s Britain and post-war Manchester, but that it transcended this, aspiring to a timelessness and sense of prophecy.

Such a rich talk before a receptive, if ageing, audience got me thinking about areas beyond music. There is the power of the past, why the UK and most other developed countries increasingly seem shaped by what has gone before, and what this climate of nostalgia says about our societies in the here and now, and the consequences for the future.

It is important to understand that there are at least two types of nostalgia. Svetlana Boym in her 2002 book ‘The Future of Nostalgia’ identified two that she called restorative and reflective. The former ‘puts emphasis on nostos (rebuilding home) and proposes to rebuild the lost home and patch up the memory gaps’ – a kind of homesickness for the past. The latter ‘dwells in algia (aching), in longing and loss, the imperfect process of rememberance’; and unlike the former has the insight to know that we cannot go back. Read the rest of this entry »

The Future has been Postponed: Making Sense of the Age of Nostalgia

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 9th 2018

Nostalgia is everywhere. The past seems all around us – alive, noisy, ever-present, and more relevant and dynamic than the voices of today and the concerns of tomorrow.

Take a couple of examples. The British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn seems to define its moral compass through a host of reference points from its past – from Keir Hardie to 1945. Then there is the regressive radicalism and conservatism of Brexit. And less seriously, there is how popular culture increasingly re-presents and repackages its past to the detriment of the present. Something is going on and should we be concerned with it?

Each of these examples tells us in a number of ways about the state of the present. First, the British Labour Party has, for much of its history, been shaped by its understanding and remembrance of the past. This includes past struggles, victories and defeats which have been experienced by the party, trade union movement and working classes. Read the rest of this entry »

Ideals for Living: The need for guides on how to live a better life

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 2nd 2018

How many times do you hear people say that these are ‘grim times’? It has become commonplace – but a bit of perspective and history is needed. These aren’t after all as grim times in the UK, or the West, as they were in the 1980s in terms of economic dislocation and the Cold War, and nor are they anywhere as dark and foreboding times as the 1930s and the march of fascism and world war.

They are certainly times of confusion and as such many people are looking for guides, signposts and recommendations on how to live a better life. They also explain the search for simplicity and for reducing some of the most complex areas to easy to read and understand lists.

Infamously, list-ism reached beyond satire with the so-called ‘Ed Stone’ in the 2015 UK general election. Labour’s six central pledges were carved in stone to show how seriously they took them, in what quickly became a tombstone for Ed Miliband’s leadership and for Labour’s electoral fortunes.

On a different scale are the various manifestos of modern life. Some are self-promotion and vanity exercises such as Hong Kong businessman Sir David Tang, while some are send-ups of the whole industry, such as Scottish writer Bill Duncan’s ‘self-hate’ book on Calvinism, and others more serious and substantial. In the latter camp is the writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and her ‘Dear Ijeawele: A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions’, just published in paperback. Read the rest of this entry »

MY FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2016

December 19th 2016

The political upheavals of 2016 will be captured for many years to come through books and publishing. I enjoyed my wide reading over the year, while still feeling that events and crises were racing ahead of publishers and writers.

I revelled in researching and writing my own book – Scotland the Bold – on the country, its politics, culture and ideas and prospects for change. Writing at book length always gives you permission and discipline to read widely – and beyond narrow subject categorisation – which is a joy. Anyway, without further to do, here are my highlights of the year …..

SCOTLAND

Chris Leslie, Disappearing Glasgow: A Photographic Journey, Freight Books.

A stunning book. One of social history, failed hopes and lives and communities which lived and disappeared often without any record – other than Chris Leslie and his photographs.

Madeleine Bunting, Love of Country: A Hebridean Journey, Granta Books.

A moving tale of remembering, recovering and reclaiming, while finding yourself and love in the Hebrides. Gives a whole new understanding to Scotland’s North West frontier.

Simon Barrow and Mike Small (eds), Scotland 2021, Bella Caledonia/Ekklesia.

Ambitious collection on Scotland after the 2016 election and SNP victory, Brexit and possibilities of independence, social change and a different politics. Read the rest of this entry »

MY YEAR IN MUSIC 2016

December 16th 2016

2016 will be certainly be remembered as a year and for more important things than music. But it was also a year of musical genius and of great losses – which words are not adequate to describe. Without further to do my musical highs:

MY BEST ALBUMS

  1. David Bowie – Black Star

A magnificent goodbye. Bowie’s best album since the early 1980s. Not easy listening and with added pathos.

  1. Nino Katamadze and Insight – Yellow

A Georgian Goldfrapp – only more melodic without losing the experimental edge. Latest in a series of themed albums: ‘Black’, ‘White’, ‘Blue’. Love them all.

  1. Solange – A Seat at the Table

Solange finally delivers the big album and promise after years of changing and shifting styles.

  1. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

A beautiful sounding album of soul reflections. So good and smooth that on first listening you miss its depth. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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