Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Decade Nostalgia

The Economist ran a poll asking people (divided by age and political affiliation) what decade they would most like to travel back in time to.

Noah Millman has a couple interesting observations about the results. I would assume that the popularity of the '20s among young people is mostly aesthetic. Also, it struck me as interesting that those old enough to have been adults throughout the 1990s view it least favorably, while those who were under 5 in 1990 view the period most favorably, followed by those who were 6-20 in 1990.

Personally... Well, actually, I don't have a strong opinions about decades. Best of times and worst times and all that. Though I notice that the current focus of my historical attention (the teens) is everyone's least favorite decade. There's some fairness to that, though if it has to do with the Great War people should arguably dislike the '40s even more.

11 comments:

bearing said...

I think there's a romantic aspect to pop-culture portrayals of the WWII years (think Casablanca) that we don't have in portrayals of WWI years.

Darwin said...

That, and there's the whole idea of the "greatest generation" and the "good war".

I think what that can mask is that even if the purpose of a war is immensely worthwhile, that doesn't make the experience of living through it any better.

Kristin said...

Ah, the 1950s. A great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Josiah Neeley said...

I thought Matt Yglesias' comments on the 1940s were apt:

Some salient facts about the 1940s: There was a big war. One participant in that war had an active policy of targeting enemy civilian population centers for wholesale destruction as a battlefield tactic. Initially they did this with large-scale bombing raids designed to set as many houses ablaze as possible. Eventually they developed nuclear weapons in order to massacre enemy civilians in a more pilot-intensive way. The country in question was allied with a vicious dictator whose political strategies included mass rape, large-scale civilian deportations, and the occasional deliberate engineering of famine conditions. And those were the good guys! We're all very happy they won!

Jenny said...

I find it interesting that people around our age do not seem to be attached to a particular decade. The other age cohorts had at least one peak decade. I wonder why this is?

Darwin said...

I have to admit, the Yglesias quote rubs me strongly the wrong way, in that it mostly comes off as glib and superior, but he does stumble upon the fact that World War Two was pretty bad, so I guess he gets a lollypop for that or something.

Caroline said...

As someone in the 6-20 range during the 90s, it's just nostalgia. For some reason my generation is already nostalgic even though we're (mostly) under 30. I think it mostly has to do with 9/11- I was in 9th grade, so that was really the end of childhood innocence for a lot of us.

kharking said...

I think that people in my generation (30-40) aren't very well educated on the issues that went into WWI or the down sides of WWII. It's easier to see WWI as pointless when you don't know why it was fought or involved so many nations and easier to be more positive about the necessity of WWII in light of the better known horrors it was hoping to end.
Otherwise I'm with Darwin--unique ups and downs for each decade.

Josiah Neeley said...

Darwin,

Yglesias rubs a lot of people the wrong way, though I personally think he's brilliant.

Darwin said...

He's one of those people I see people I read (Douthat, McArdle) respond to, but never really saw anything interesting enough from to read myself. In what area would you consider him to be brilliant?

I take it that 20th century history is not his brief, so I suppose it's unfair to judge him on being glib there (other than noting an tendency for glibness.)

Josiah Neeley said...

I think that Yglesias' analysis is pretty sharp generally, better than your average pundit, and far far better than your average left of center pundit. How many liberals, for example, would write posts defending the lack of safety regulation at Bengali factories?

Obviously not everyone agrees. There seems to be something about him that inspires a strongly negative reaction in a lot of people (McArdle, I've noticed, inspires the same sort of reaction, though among a different set of people).