Natsukashii Revisited: Trump and Beyond

On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. Within twenty-four hours, people marched on Washington, D.C., and in cities all over the world, to announce to President Trump, and the world, that we stand for human rights, diversity, inclusion, and progress.

We must, however, realize that these issues go beyond Donald Trump.

Within the race to fill the leadership role of the Conservative Party of Canada are individuals like Kellie Leitch, who wants newcomers to Canada tested for ‘Canadian values’–which she has been quoted as claiming are conservative values, though not everyone in Canada is conservative. And Shark Tank judge Kevin O’Leary is now running; he has been quoted as saying he wants to, among other things, make unions illegal, saying, “Unions themselves are borne of evil.” He has also been quoted as saying it’s “fantastic” that a small percentage of people are wealthier than the poorest people, saying, “It gives them (the poor) motivation to look up to the one percent.” Very promising potential future leaders of Canada, indeed.

Trump, Leitch, and O’Leary are part of a recent trend towards leaders and political candidates wanting to turn the clock back to a time that never really existed, a time where everybody supposedly ‘knew their place.’ The presence of these folks, and others like them, is a reflection of the desire of a portion of the general population to live in a world without political correctness or left-leaning social justice, and the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States is a manifestation of the current attitude that ‘political correctness’ has gone too far and things need to go back to the way they supposedly were. In short, the people who willingly buy what the likes of President Trump, Leitch, and O’Leary are selling cling to, and benefit from, the status quo, even if it doesn’t work for everyone.

President Trump is also a manifestation, and a symbol, of a larger culture of entitlement, a culture which fosters, among other things, vitriol against left-leaning social-justice advocacy and activism and a desire to uphold the status quo simply because a small portion of the human population benefits from it. This culture of entitlement encourages kyriarchy–white supremacy, xenophobia, classism, patriarchy, jingoism, heteronormativity, cissexism, ableism, etc.–and bigotry.

I’m fully aware this problem goes beyond North America. All over the world, there are people who are afraid of change and will fight tooth and nail against it, because they think the status quo is better, or they think some period in the past was a better time, and the world needs to return to that time, even if it never existed in reality. President Trump, Leitch, and O’Leary cater to these people, and play on their fears to get votes and whatever else they want, and the election of Trump as the 45th President of the United States is very encouraging to them. However, if this trend of electing people with a serious case of natsukashii into positions of leadership continues, the world and all of its inhabitants will suffer.

‘Golden Age’=Natsukashii

What an age we live in.

That thought coursed through my brain as I was walking in Coal Harbour last week, digital camera in hand, snapping pictures. Then, as now, I’m glad I live in age when I have access to such a technological marvel, as well as other products of scientific and technological advancement, such as my computer, smartphone, mp3 player, printer, and digital alarm clock (though I’m thinking right now said alarm clock is a tad outdated). Other results of scientific advancement I’m glad I have access to fall under the medical category–I’m referring to MRIs, CAT scans, various vaccines, and the overall knowledge today’s medical professionals possess and can use to treat and help take care of people.

Also, in this day and age, there are a few social advancements: women and people of colour can vote and work for (somewhat) decent pay, and aren’t seen as the property of white men; people in many parts of the world are more supportive of LGBTQ folk and their human rights than they were even twenty years ago; the majority of people are demanding that those in power be held accountable for the decisions they make…I could probably go on here, but, for lack of anything else coming to mind right now, I’ll stop there.  I know we have a long way to go in all of these areas, but we’ve advanced since the beginning of civil society.

Which begs the question of why so many people yearn for a return to, or of, the past–or, to use their phraseology, ‘the good old days.’

So many periods in history–the Renaissance, the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England, the Victorian era, the 1950s–are often dubbed, or considered, ‘golden ages.’ Perhaps they were indeed golden ages in the times they occurred, and/or the people who lived in those times thought they were. But the world has changed since those eras, and societies with it. At this juncture in human history, I seriously doubt anyone wants to go back to a time when inventions such as washers and dryers for laundry, dishwashers (the machines), cars, airplanes, etc., didn’t exist, and weren’t even ideas, or when women and people of colour were subjected to various restrictions, and anyone who was not heterosexual had to hide it, for fear of harsh and brutal treatment. Yet I’ve heard and read about people who say the times we now live in are so bad, and whatever period of the past they favour and praise was better.

But was it really?

Any talk of any period of the past as ‘the golden age,’ or the ‘good old days,’ or as somehow better than the current time period, is, I postulate, an effect of what the Japanese call natsukashii, a term meaning a nostalgic yearning for a time that never really existed. I believe people who talk about any period of the past as being better than now ignore the worst parts of whichever periods they favour, and buy into whatever fairy tales they’ve bought into regarding those periods, based only on the parts they like. And I believe people who harbour this tendency do so because they are afraid of change.

The thing is, change is constant.

We’ve come a long way since the Stone Age, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, the Victorian era, the 1950s, and so on. I’m not denying some good can be found in those eras–but, in my humble opinion, there were more burdens, inconveniences, and downright horrors in those eras than anything good, and the people who lived in those eras did the best they could with the resources they had, and could get their hands on. We’ve improved on these eras in terms of resources, tools, and ideas. I, for one, am happy and grateful to live in this era, when I have access to so many resources, don’t have to worry about dying from any completely preventable ailments, and have many other advantages that were no doubt unimaginable in the past. As far as I’m concerned, I may not be living in a so-called ‘golden age,’ but the era I’m living in is, warts and all, pretty damn good.