Posts Tagged ‘emotion’

Cashing Out

March 8, 2014 Leave a comment

A fascinating discussion on transactions takes place in this EconTalk podcast from 2007. In it Viviana Zelizer discusses the confounded relationship we have with ‘intimacy’ and ‘money’. She observes that society sees these as distinct cultural norms and strives to keep them separate.

How does money taint experience? Are there moments when a cash equivalent is simply rude?  Attend a dinner party and choose to give your host a $20 bill “I know you wanted wine, but this is so much better.” Say a neighbor learns of another community member being ill. Coming to her door, she offers chicken soup and says, “I hope this kills the sickness.” Does the neighbor offer cash?” When does rudeness make its entrance? 

Money makes things murky. We pay for food from the grocery but never at family holidays. Is the fastest way to ruin Thanksgiving the act of leaving $10 on the table. “This isn’t a restaurant”, this hose might say. And yet both restaurant and family meals involve the consumption of food. In both situations another space is used. Wherein lies the difference?

Relationships are key. In family dinners the introduction of money symbolizes a misunderstanding of the transaction. Money is not working here: the family meal is one in which emotion is transacted. “I care for you so this is free.” Our grocer does not “care for us” in this sense: their business is dependent on our money to continue in its function.

What role does money play in human life? With currency we exchange one thing for another. The bottle of water is a dollar. Exchange your dollar for the water and the transaction takes place. Economies function on these most basic actions. And yet, despite this seemingly simplistic action we manage to complicate the issue. Perhaps it is because these transactions are so cold and simple that introducing them into intimate relationships spell trouble. The payment of cash is one without emotion. I want it so I give it. What function does money play? Often its a symbol of indifference that, divorced of our emotion, works to get to what we want without the murky work of feelings.

Militant Nostalgia

June 9, 2011 Leave a comment

For many the process of aging extends beyond the biologic transition and ventures forth into the domain of cultural protectionism. Rarely does a person age gently, folding gently into one’s later decades with gray hair, weaker bones and a reduction of appetite. There is no motion to “go gentle into that good night.” Instead, a certain agitated sense of nostalgia takes hold and the task of defending the way of life present in one’s youth becomes critically important. This desire and task is what I call “militant nostalgia”

This unique blend of nostalgia is not unique. In fact, I would argue that all individuals possess it inside their hearts and need only the situation to unleash it. Such travails down memory lane with zest are likewise not limited in expression. Just as all individuals hold “militant nostalgia” within their hearts, the broad swath of communication technology lies riddled with the pock marks of its constant expression. If a gentleman feels the world was better when he was young he will certainly make a point of expressing it.

“Militant nostalgia” has two major features. The first is the rose-tinted view of the past. The individual will look backward and perceive a world where the problems of today did not exist. Life appears more focused there and a common conclusion one can achieve is that this simplified existence kept the craziness and horrors of today’s world at bay. One needs only to consider the individual’s perspective in this situation to see the delusion at work. A child’s perspective is being utilized to compare the perspective of the adult.

Beyond this delusion of limited perspective the “militant” ingredient in this form of nostalgia enters as both defense mechanism and line of offensive attack. With ease and speed, the purveyor of “militant nostalgia” will draw swarthy links to everything currently wrong with today’s world with the ways that today is not like yesterday. It is a major stretch, similar to saying one’s cheeseburger tasted better yesterday when it was a hot dog- we’re far beyond apples to oranges errors of comparison in this situation.

Despite the errors in judgment and the all-around fuzzy reasoning, there is nothing wrong with militant nostalgia. It is yet another testament to the limitations of human understanding. It is perfectly normal for us to expect the today we do not know to mimic the past we knew even less. We are humans and creatures whose inherent selfishness and limited perspectives are beyond our capability to transcend. We should recognize these limitations as a primary fact of reality.

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