Today, while reading about Swinging London in 1960s and looking at pictures like this, I started feeling… nostalgic. That wouldn’t be odd if I wasn’t born in 1987 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, without ever visiting London. Yet, I think I felt real nostalgia, for something that I objectively never experienced. Still, reading about cultural scene of that period, the way of life, the fashion etc, I felt this is something that’s supposed to exist, maybe even supposed to be a part of one’s personal experience, yet, it doesn’t anymore, and as a personal experience of mine it never did. Even if it never did, I felt sort of emptiness, as if there’s a place for it in my mental landscape, a place that was never filled, so there is this void. And I think I am not alone in my feelings. I’ve met so many people of my generation that feel the same about periods of time, or places they never experienced.
I think there’s no need for any mystical explanations, such as past lives, etc. Everything is pretty explainable by regular logic. Certain past periods are so deeply ingrained in our current culture, that we somehow feel them as ours even though we never directly experienced them. Yet we were indirectly exposed to them through songs, stories, films to the extent large enough that we can miss them. But why do we miss them, sometimes so much? I think my generation is one of the first generations which really do feel this way. Previous generations were usually either indifferent to the past, or they wanted to break all ties with it. They felt the sentiment that the old is bad, and that it needs to be replaced with the new. My generation, on the other hand, feels that the old was maybe bad in some aspects, such as lower standards of living, less safety, worse technology, less human rights, but that the old periods also had something that our current period seems to lack completely, and it’s the meaning and perhaps also the drive to do something, to change something, or simply the drive to live fully and in a meaningful way. Maybe this real drive and this feeling of meaning in the past periods was the reason why music from these periods is usually better. The artists really believed in what they do, and they thought that it’s important. So they created with passion.
Today, on the other hand, it’s much more common for artists to feel cynical about their own works and to consider it just another one in the endless list of works that will be forgotten soon, and which has some value for the author only if it can make them some money. Another reason why works from older periods were maybe better is the different perception of the future that people had in that time. People believed in better future, and in some really humanistic future, that people can actively influence and change. Today we usually have experts that make predictions about future that are mostly based on science, technology or economics, sometimes unsettling predictions, yet people mostly don’t care. As if the world has become too big and too complex for people to influence it. Instead many long for the past, even if it’s never experienced past. What’s other way to explain comments on Youtube in which 13-year-olds comment songs from the 1960s saying it’s way better than today’s music?
Alternatively, some focus on present, but the dominant ways of dealing with present are either strong individualism, influenced by capitalism and consumerism, which can be seen in ever growing fields which combine personal growth strategies with money making strategies, or ironical and cynical worldview, which is present, for example, in hipster subculture. There are still people who want to make impact and who act with passion and not only for their own betterment, but their numbers seem to be falling, and probably not because people are becoming worse or more egoistic, but simply because many people don’t really believe it matters.