Pet Hate No.456: Nostalgia

Over Christmas I spent rather a lot of time cooking and baking a variety of things, from pizzas dripping with far too much mozzarella (a debatable term), to some of Nigella’s chocolate and pistachio fudge. The latter was partly a gesture of solidarity, because I admire her style and stoicism, and also a gesture to my own depleting serotonin levels. Also, crucially, Christmas involved a lot of revision, and I was running out of delicious things to eat with a cappuccino at half four every day.

The kitchen can be a hollow, lonely place when you have nothing but the sound of a fan oven preheating to its ‘searing magma’ setting for company, so I plugged in a DAB radio and left it pre-tuned to middle-aged station of choice, Radio 2.

I no longer have any qualms about dishing Radio 2 out to that specific group of listeners, no matter how dismissive it may sound. I listen to Radio 4 quite a lot, positioning me approximately 40 years junior to its average listener, so I’ve never really believed that those kinds of demographics have any worth because there are always exceptions in quite large numbers. But according to some bloke in his 60s, who was granted airtime on Radio 2 over Christmas, that anyone under the age of twenty five doesn’t know what a vinyl record even looks like, never mind what it is. He’s clearly never been to the hipster district of any British city. If he had, he’d know that the vinyl trade is very much alive and kicking, especially amongst 20-odd year old men with beards, and women with pastel hair.

All of this got me thinking about something other than porcini and garlic stuffing for a minute and I immediately changed the station to Radio 1.

“Fine.” I thought. “If you think I’m a moron who’s never been to the back of a big HMV, then so be it. I’ll listen to David Guetta, I don’t care. I don’t need a radio station to tell me I’m young and ignorant, I’m trying to beautifully season some potatoes here, I don’t need that shite.” I was instantly furious that I’d been so point blank alienated by a disembodied voice in my kitchen. Of course we know what a fucking record is. We’ve seen films. Some of us even own them. Mine have Barbra Streisand on them, so stick it up your arse.

Nostalgia is so painfully boring. Whinging, relentless nostalgia can leave the dinner party table now. The ‘I don’t understand modern musics’, the ‘I only have a Nokia, I much prefer its’, and the ‘What’s Twitters?’ can piss off before the cheese course, please. Grumbling superiority complexes are certainly not welcome at my dining table. They may remember a time before Twitter and 24-hour rolling news bulletins, but that doesn’t mean they don’t rely on these things, use them, and enjoy them, just as much as someone who’s never known any different. They can pretend that they’re above it, or that they’re ignorant to it, or that they don’t secretly glance at E4 every now and again, but I know different. We’re all obsessed with stuff that was invented in, and defines, this world we’re living in. We’d be mad not to be. Would you turn around to Alexander Graham Bell and say ‘No ta, Alex. I’ll just continue doing what I’ve always done, despite the fact that you’re presenting me with this revolutionary and awe-inspiring new technology’? I didn’t think so.

Every time I see an article in a broadsheet claiming that young people are ‘addicted to technology’, with statistics hurled all over the place, I picture the newsdesk that produced it in a high rise in central London; row after row of adults born in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, with screens in front of them, next to them and waiting for them at home, claiming that it’s solely my generation that’s obsessed. I bet they weren’t surveyed. Functioning, tax paying adults with jobs aren’t the ones who are quizzed on their screen time, it’s the fourteen year old boy who obviously wants this really amazing shiny stuff that he sees advertised everywhere. As do we all.

‘Modern music’ is not universally terrible either. It’s only called that by people who don’t want to understand it, and whose only experience of it is 20 seconds of a Pitbull song heard through someone else’s car window at a set of traffic lights. To people who aren’t up themselves, it’s just ‘music’, and it always will be. You only have to watch a Top of the Pops from the 1970s to see that music doesn’t change much. There was just as much shit then as there is now, and there were just as many decent songwriters as well. There was miming and novelty tracks and deliberately sexualised dancers, and there’s still a market for all of that now apparently, so what really changes? Frankly, if you can be nostalgic about Pan’s People, then you need help.

And the internet is not inherently a bad thing, nor does it have to be scary. It’s like anything that involves people doing things and communicating; some of it’s glorious, some of it’s illegal, and there are always a few racists hanging around. If someone can look at the whole of the internet, with its kickstarters, its sociability, its support networks, its blogs, its constant advancements and its cat pictures, and just grumble about having to give a corporation their email address again, then they’re a misanthrope who will never, ever be happy. The only sinister thing about the internet, other than dubious sexual content, is the fact that URLs are blocked by certain governments and people are persecuted for writing shit blogs like me, simply because they live in a place where that kind of thing is feared and resented. The large majority of it’s wonderful, you only have to type ‘cat roomba duck’ in the YouTube search bar to know that.

And to all those who think public transport used to be far friendlier before the advent of the smartphone, I’d like to introduce you to the newspaper, a thing generally enjoyed best when consumed alone, whilst ignoring other people. And I like to think the reservations British people have regarding communicating with strangers have been our national dish since the beginning of time. I have images of cavemen quietly but politely ignoring the slightly crazy caveman in the neighbourhood who smells of piss, that kind of thing keeps me going.

And to the people who think ‘the young’ have no respect or ambition anymore, kindly step off your high horse and look back at every other generation. Teddy boys, Mods, Skinheads; all of them vilified by older generations, all of them much the same as young people in every generation. Even the trousers are kind of the same, for Christ’s sake. We just have Jagerbombs now, that’s the only difference.

Maybe it’s easy for me to say. I grew up in the 90s and very few good things came out of the 90s, other than season one of Sex and the City. I’m just so unbelievably bored of this sense of superiority that circles nostalgia constantly, it’s far too black and white and it’s unbelievably tedious. I love hearing about when my grandma used to go to the cinema and there were double features and news bulletins, and I love seeing my granddad’s photos from the RAF, but someone sitting at my dining table sneering at the idea of selfies like their generation was somehow superior, is not welcome to my brie thank you very much.

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