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Nostalgia is a Luxury3 August 2011 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
‘You can’t live on nostalgia,’ someone told my publisher last Saturday on Portobello Market. They were talking about The Travel Bookshop, which is for sale. Yes indeed, Hugh Grant’s shop in the film Notting Hill.
Such a remark makes you think. For example, royal families make a good living out of nostalgia. Actually, royal families are set in nostalgia.
Modern young women throw themselves at young princes, and such a young girl is prepared to give up everything for a traditional wedding. Suddenly her whole life revolves around her husband. We, of course, would never do this – we’re terribly modern – but it is delightful to watch. It reminds us of our parents or grandparents.
And then there is a prince who lives and breathes nostalgia. I am, of course, talking about Prince Charles, someone who already has a nostalgic trade but promotes nostalgic architecture as well.
In the mid nineties he founded Poundbury, a model village in Dorset, consisting of new houses built in various historical styles. These types of neighbourhood pop up everywhere in Europe.
The only problem is that living in a house built according to traditional methods is quite expensive. Not everyone can afford to live in nostalgia.
It’s the same with organic meat: it tastes like meat used to taste. It is also nicer for the animals. However, if we all began eating organic meat on the same scale as we currently eat meat, we would quickly run out of space. It doesn’t bear thinking about: 11 million Dutch free-range pigs! Besides, it is simply too expensive; not everyone can eat nostalgia.
We shall welcome the seven billionth human being in October. (We reach eight billion in 2025.) It is likely that number seven billion will be born in a place with no time for nostalgia.
Western politics shows signs of returning to the past, to a time when ‘everything was still OK’. But number seven billion is on its way. Ultimately, closing the borders is not an option; quite the reverse, we actually need immigrants. You can’t govern with nostalgia.
There is also replacement nostalgia; I am thinking of the preservation of the rainforest. We have lost our original forests but we would like to maintain those far away. Because preserving large parts of virgin forest is also in our interest. However, we need to find a solution for poor farmers who cut the trees in search of new farmland. Nostalgia costs money.
Another example: a dwindling number of people attend church. On the other hand, many people still want to get married or have a funeral service in a church. It could be because of nostalgic feelings.
I recently heard that, in the Netherlands, another convent closes each month and each week a church ceases to function. You cannot marry or be buried in nostalgia, only in a living church.
President Obama can keep shouting that America is the greatest country on earth, but he has to put this into practice. Maybe he should have a chat with the man who said, ‘You can’t live on nostalgia.’
Nostalgia is a luxury. They’d better sell The Travel Bookshop to a rich American, or even better to a Russian oligarch, if only because I adore the word oligarch. In any case, to someone who is looking to keep his beautiful daughter busy. If so, I am prepared to marry her at a lavish wedding feast. It would be great to be able to say, ‘My father-in-law is an oligarch.’
As you will understand, luckily nostalgia reigns only within my dreams. However, on Saturday 13 August I will sign my books on Portobello Market. That’s wonderful too.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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