Behind the link, at the bottom of this piece , is a beautiful piece by Ralf Bodelier about a walking tour he makes through Central Europe and the reflections that his observations trigger in him. First of all, what I like about his argument is that the appreciation for the original, rustic country life – its nostalgia – did not arise from a rejection of modernity. We owe the nostalgia, the freedom to get caught up in nostalgia, precisely to the modern, the technology, which has freed us from all kinds of manual labor so that we have the means and the time to take a long walk at our leisure to explore the slow to observe the pace of life in Arcadian Europe.
Jeremy Rifkin argues in his book The European Dream that this good life in the human dimension is the essence of what Europe is because it contrasts sharply with the hectic pace of life in America – and also in Asian countries such as China.
“In the distance I hear the whistle of a train. Judit’s old mother comes out. She rinses out two aprons, hangs them up and shuffles to the vegetable garden with a basket under her arm. She will be hunched over her vegetables until sunset. I feel calm, languid and rural. I notice myself being absorbed in a cloud of nostalgia.
Isn’t this real life?”
“But while the spring and summer months are spent working in the garden, part of the autumn is spent on harvesting and slaughtering, boning and freezing the pig. And who has not yet taken care of five , to have six trees felled, cut into pieces, split and stored, is in the cold in January. It is an existence that revolves around physical needs, about safety and community in small circles. There seems to be little room for self-realization or self-transcendence, to use Abraham Maslow’s terms again.”
Then Bodelier quotes Hans Rosling’s TED Talk, ‘the magic of the washing machine’: The arrival of a washing machine took the work out of Rosling’s mother so she had time to go to the library with him ‘and so began my career as a professor’, says Rosling.
Technology doesn’t just make us consumer addicts. She also liberated us from all kinds of time-consuming efforts, but we have forgotten that.
Bodelier: ”Nostalgia often goes together with a bad memory.”