Recently there’s been some internet discussion about what, exactly, Tea Partiers are nostalgic for, when they harken back to the good old days of the fifties and early sixties. The question appears relevant, because in terms of economic policy, the period was way more egalitarian and high-tax, two of the anathemae of the Tea Party movement. Big government liberalism in the US was, intellectually, basically unchallenged. The 1950’s and early 60’s was also when the total destruction of the world looked most imminent (at least in history up to the present), so it can’t be that they’re missing the foreign-policy peace of mind. Well, what is it, then? A bunch of people think it’s white privilege, ’cause the Tea Partiers are white. I’m with Kevin Drum, though, on the whole question. Is this really a big mystery? Tea Partiers are old and conservative. Old people are nostalgic for their youth. The essence of a conservative viewpoint is to regard the past as being superior to the present in general (standing athwart history yelling stop and all that). No duh the 50’s were better than now according to conservatives. This is commonsensical to the point of banality, so why am I even bothering to type shit about it?
Because I want to say that people who carry “What have you done to my country?” signs are actually pretty similar to another set of people: the people who think polit-correctness is a huge problem with the world. Polit-correctness is something nobody enjoys (though plenty people enjoy the fact that people aren’t constantly talking ethnic slurs at them, for instance) so lots of people say that “polit-correctness has run amok”. Neither of these groups of people are wrong, per se: the country has changed, and there is indeed some clumsy, overbearing polit-correctness. But what these groups have in common is that they see a world grown more complicated (not because the world was not complicated before, but because in earlier times they enjoyed its complex nature, or because they were too young or naive or uninformed and unaware of its complications, or because the world was more insular, and so its complexities more local) and they don’t like it. But you can’t say “Well, I want everything to just be simple”, because that sounds ridiculous as a complaint. So when you hear “what have you done to my country?” or “polit-correctness run amok!” I don’t spring to attribute this to racism, but I don’t take it at face value, either.
And now, this point that an older generation uses some synechdochical complaint (polit-correctness) for a universal dissatisfaction with change, made with jokes, by Stewart Lee.