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Sunday, August 19, 2007

history as fantasy

Spent half a day at the library yesterday, contemplating the thought that different groups fight for the 'correct' interpretation of history. Like some Christian groups have their own interpretation of evolution, historians struggle with different views on more recent history. If we say that at the moment the fifties are once again our frame of reference, what part of that decade do we mean?

Fifties, part 1..?

In Holland we now discuss the fifties as a decade of clear values and a society in peace with itself. I already wrote that in doing so we tend to selectively forget the cold war, the loss of Indonesia and the fear of economic downturn that brought, as well as the migration towards the bigger cities, not to mention the youth movements like 'nozem' and existentialism and the hard treatment of some groups (castration of gays wasn't unheard of).

Conservative parties always seem to be able to get the strongest grip on 'our' history. The book I read mentioned the American situation, where presidents like Reagan monopolized the American history to their advantage. The only one able to break through this conservative historic hegemony was Bill Clinton.

Fifties, part 2..?

They analyzed his use of the Kennedy legacy and his very public running campaign theme 'Elvis', playing out Clinton's love for the 'fifties' Elvis, 'because that was a time of hope and optimism, full of energy and pride'. A slight bend of history: not clear values and strict living standards, but optimism and the feeling that everything is possible. Same fifties, totally different implication. And Bush Senior just couldn't answer to this new 'history': his 'fifties' views suddenly were old-fashioned and irrelevant. To which Clinton played his trump card: he started calling his contender Ol'Bush. Granddaddy Bush lost..

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