The Provocation of Nostalgia


This is yet another one of my pieces that has a sort of double sided or split-personality about it....I'm not sure what I mean by that other than I interpret it differently on different days. Maybe it's just a difficult image to de-construct.

Okay! – so provocation is a word that has somewhat sharp or aggressive connotations in the way we tend to use it: in the sense that to provoke someone or something is like prodding or stirring them up into a wild or angry state.....basically an attack. But situations or 'things' also provoke laughter, empathy and all sorts of other emotions, so here I'm using the word to describe a trigger mechanism that focuses the mind on nostalgia.

For myself there are all sorts of sensory triggers that provoke nostalgia in me – good and bad, e.g. the smell of a two-stroke engine (even from a lawn-mower) reminds me of my old “Mod” days riding my Lambretta scooter or the smell of certain old books takes me back to my school days and I can reminisce on both good and bad aspects of that time. The point being that these are all flashes of my own personal history – The Provocation of Nostalgia - basically harmless - but when it strikes it is totally out of my control.

There is also the type of collective nostalgia that we get when memories are recalled in any group of family or friends having a get-together. We love telling stories of “the old days”, even when we might not recall everything totally accurately but when we're only doing it for pleasure it's not so important to be critical of every detail – although even at this level it can cause disagreements.

In fact we are so nostalgic that we even create it in almost any way you can think of – even involving groups of people in something they've personally never even experienced. This is what we see when a group of “Millennials” dress up for a 60's disco night, or when groups of enthusiasts re-enact the “Battle of Hastings”....this all helps to keep our collective memory intact. So nostalgia is a very important and powerful facility that we have.

BUT – here's what I mean by the flip-side - what if our propensity for nostalgia could be used in a more sinister way? What if contrived, created memories were promulgated in a group of people? What if this group – once grown in size and/or by longevity – starts to believe some historically imagined “fairy-tale” and begins to proclaim it the historical truth? Once this becomes established - over time - then it's a very small step to provoke and invoke the power of this collective belief (nostalgia) in the group, whenever it is needed.

I sometimes watch news stories referring to certain groups in the public eye: they use phrases like “how we did it in the old days”, “not the principles our movement was founded on” or the most preposterous one “we need to turn the clock back”. Now a single lifetime is nothing in the great scheme of history but I am now old enough to remember some of the issues of recent decades which are referred to and I certainly don't recall the same memories. I am certainly not saying that my memories are the correct account; what I simply mean is that I can see The Provocation of Nostalgia can be a force as powerful as any religion, philosophy or political power........

Hang on! there's a thought. Where did they come from?


.......... "The Provocation of Nostalgia" - detail.....................ll