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Welcome to Pessimists Archive. I’m Jason Feifer. I had this idea a few months ago, which seemed really funny at the time, I wanted to ask Donald Trump’s supporters, when “again” is? You know, the “again” from this line of his.
Voice Clip (Don…: We will make America great again.
Jason Feifer: But now that Donald Trump is going to be president, my gag seems less funny, but it also feels far more important. And listen, I want to be clear here, Pessimists Archive is a show about technology and the unfounded fears we repeat about it. This is not about politics, I promise, not about politics. But to understand the fear of technology that phrase, “Make America great again”, is actually really useful. So, just consider it for a second. The “again” there is such a concise argument. “Again”, it says that many of the changes we’ve made today have ruined the better things we had yesterday. “Again”, hearkens back to a golden age, a time when our problems literally didn’t even exist. And that can be so appealing.
Alan Levinovitz: People want to believe, for example, that they are a part of the greatest nation. That redemption is around the corner. That a perfect nation, in which no suffering happens, is possible. And they also really, really want to think that there is an easy solution that there’s someone to blame and so on, and so forth. And nostalgia narratives offer all of that.
Jason Feifer: That’s Alan Levinovitz, an Assistant Professor of Religion at James Madison University, and his phrase there, “Nostalgia narrative”, is one that we’ll use throughout the episode because nostalgia narratives don’t just exist in politics. They reflect our anxieties about the changing world, and that means they’re at the core of our relationships to technology because technology is the very thing that makes the future look different from the past. I mean, forget Donald Trump. When Fortune Magazine writes that, “The internet is making us stupid”, and that’s basically a direct quote. It implied that there was a time, a time before the old information super highway, when we were all just collectively smarter. It was basically saying, make America smart again. There’s a grievance, an identifiable villain, and a quick solution. And this repeats itself over and over as we claim that the Walkman, the car, the television, the bicycle, the book, how the written word, came along and ruined us.
And, of course, it’s never that simple. The US election just made an enormous statement about the power of nostalgia narratives, which makes it an important time to look at what makes them so enduring. And we’re going to do that by really testing the narrative. We’re going to start with today and ask, “When do people think that the good old days were?” And then we’re going to go back to that time and we’re going to ask, “Did those people think that they were living in a golden age? No? Okay. When did they think the good old days were?” And we’re going to do that all the way back until when people talked like this.
Voice Clip (Old…: [foreign language].
Jason Feifer: And then we’re going to go back even further because if you are on the hunt for the good old days, I am telling you, you have to go back a long way. So, let’s start with today. As you know, here are the words, “Make America great again.” And when does, “Again”, refer to? As it turns out, I was beaten to the punch, I didn’t have to go asking this question. The Daily Show had sent some reporters to a Trump rally to do it.
Voice Clip (The…: What year was America great?
Voice Clip (Interviewee): When it was founded?
Voice Clip (The…: Except for the slavery stuff.
Voice Clip (Interviewee): Except for the slavery stuff.
Jason Feifer: The Trump supporters in that clip had no consensus. Their answers were all over the place, but the nonprofit organization, PRRI, recently did a survey and found that 51% of Americans believe our way of life is worse than it was in the 1950s. So, let’s go back there and ask our big question. Did people of post-war America think they were living in a golden age?
Doug McAdam: Turns out who… Depends on who you ask, I suppose.
Jason Feifer: This is Doug McAdam.
Doug McAdam: My name is Doug McAdam. I’m a Professor of Sociology and Political Science at Stanford University, author of a bunch of books, but the most recently, one called, Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Post-War America.
Jason Feifer: So, let me set the scene as Doug tells it, America in the post-war era was rattled by, and stop me if this sounds familiar, politics and technology. Politically, America was terrified of the Soviet Union, and technologically, well, America was also terrified of the Soviet Union and the threat of nuclear war. But a lot of people were also fearful of domestic innovations, like the television, which threatened to turn the American population into mindless zombies.
Doug McAdam: It was depict, described at the time, probably by liberal social science types as an age of extraordinary stifling conformity. And people talked about how mindless the students on campus, I’m talking about college campuses, were. So there was a lot of commentary about the deadening conformity of post-war America.
Jason Feifer: Yes, some people were prospering in ways they hadn’t before, but that’s not our question here. We’re looking for a time when people felt that they were getting it right. So, I asked McAdam, “When did the people of the 1950s think the golden age was?” he said, “There’s no one answer.” So, might’ve said the 1930s, some the 1920s. So, let’s rewind back to a time before the depression, because, certainly, nobody was longing for that. And so, picture it, it’s 1923, a futuristic vision of a flying helicopter car hybrid thing is on the cover of Science and Invention Magazine. Ford hasn’t purchased an advertisement in six years because who needs advertising when the Model T is so popular. And you’ve just purchased your first automobile and toss the kids the keys. That’s fine, because it’ll be another two years before the Dean of Princeton University will declare that, quote, “The general effect of the automobile was to make the present generation look lightly at the moral code and to decrease the value of the home.” And another six years until people start blaming robots for the great depression.
So, you know? Nothing to worry about yet. You kick back on some very round ornate piece of furniture, open up your copy of the New York Times and retro.
Voice Clip (New…: American life is moving too fast. Speed called fatal to ideas and real progress.
Jason Feifer: That’s the headline of a piece from The Times on October 21st, 1923. It starts with a quote from Charles Evans Hughes, the Secretary of State at the time, and let me put my old man voice back on here, quote, “It is the day of the fleeting vision. Concentration, thoroughness, the quiet reflection that ripens judgment are more difficult than ever”, end quote. The paper said that, “Men recognized as authorities in the various fields that touch upon the problem”, that’s a direct quote, all agreed with this assessment.
Then the article went on to ask, and all these questions literally are from the piece, “Are we moving too fast? Too fast for health and too fast for thought? Should we? And how can we slow down? Can an age of hustle produce a civilization equal to that of an age of serenity? Can pep produce world ideas?”, end quote. A modern day listener might think, “Wait, haven’t I read that in The Times before?” And yes, you have. Except in June 12th, 2016, it was called The End of Reflection by Teddy Wayne, quote, “In a world in which a phone or computer is rarely more than arm’s length away”, he writes, quote, “Are we eliminating introspection at times that may have formerly been conducive to it?”, end quote. And on and on we go.
So, it’s official, the 1920s, no golden age. The characters in Downton Abbey who lived in the 20s, all sat around wistfully recalling the late 1800s, back before refrigerators [inaudible] all invaded their homes. So, let’s back up there. America has built the transcontinental railroad, the frontier is conquered, cities are blossoming and industry is booming, and America is great. Except, there was this… Well… Disease that everyone seemed to have. Something truly frightening called neurasthenia.
David G. Schust…: Chronic headaches, that could be neurasthenia. Insomnia could be neurasthenia. Constipation can be neurasthenia. Chronic diarrhea could be neurasthenia. Impotence could be neurasthenia. Amenorrhea could be neurasthenia. Low spirits could be neurasthenia.
Jason Feifer: This is David G… Oh, you’re not done.
David G. Schust…: Constant anxiety could be neurasthenia. Chronic pain in the backs and in the muscles could be neurasthenia. Basically, any type of condition that made life somewhat unpleasant was attributed to neurasthenia.
Jason Feifer: Anyway, this is David G. Schuster, author of a book called Neurasthenic Nation. The neurasthenia diagnosis basically went like this, at the turn of the century, people believed that nervous energy kept us physically and mentally vibrant, but as life became busier, faster, and noisier, with the growth of cities and the expansion of the railroad, there was a pervasive fear that all our newly busy lives were sapping us of our nervous energy. And when this happened, we got sick. We had neurasthenia. Which is to say, neurasthenia was a nostalgia narrative transformed into a disease. So, I asked David, what was actually happening to these people? Because if someone went to the doctor with chronic headaches and constipation, neurasthenia wasn’t their problem, but something was, right?
David G. Schust…: I think people, I mean… I think some people might’ve identified as neurasthenic because they were unhappy with some aspect of their life. And that, that unhappiness was manifesting in discomfort, whether it be pulling their hair out, whether it be impotence, and they create a narrative as to what’s wrong with their life, and neurasthenia gives them a word to describe that narrative. It’s not necessarily their fault, but rather, they are kind of a feather floating on larger breezes of modernity. And so, in that way, it absolves them of any type of guilt of their own poor health.
Jason Feifer: When I heard David say this, I nearly leaped out of my chair to go grab a magazine. And well, I got to right here and I just want to read a few lines, find it here, ah, “If the internet killed you…”, I used to joke, “Then I would be the first to find out. Years later, the joke was running thin. In the last year of my blogging life, my health began to give out, four bronchial infections in 12 months had become progressively harder to kick, my doctor dispensing one more course of antibiotics, finally laid it on the line. Did you really survive HIV to die of the web?” This, in case you don’t recognize it, is Andrew Sullivan’s September cover story in New York Magazine. The cover said, “Put down your phone.” And the story Sullivan tells is one of a total internet fueled breakdown.
He was working constantly, his blog, an ever hungrier beast that needed to be fed, and the nonstop chore, broke down his body and his personal relationships. But the parallels to neurasthenia are just fascinating. Here, you had a man clearly working too hard, whose health was suffering as a result. And upon finally reaching a breaking point, he absolved himself of guilt by blaming the technology. And to get away from the technology, he went to a meditation retreat center, which is where a lot of the story actually takes place, he calls it the ultimate detox. And well, you’ll never guess what the lasting legacy of neurasthenia is. Go on, guess. Okay. Give up?
David G. Schust…: There was a market being made for people’s pessimism, people’s concern about all these changes. A market was that you could sell them medicine, you can sell them devices, you can sell them vacations, and they’re a lucrative healthcare market, or at least you can say, a therapeutic care market, arose in America that’s still around today.
Jason Feifer: So, here’s the context, in the late 1800s, tuberculosis was the most lethal disease in America. And for a while, people thought it was inherited, which made it feel noble. So, a network of western resorts popped up to pamper people as they died. But, then we discovered that tuberculosis was actually a bacteria you can catch, which made it seem gross and dirty, not noble. So, these resorts, and the whole marketplace, that had developed to serve tuberculosis patients switched their marketing materials. They started catering to the neurasthenic, the overworked businessman and society woman. And that is where America’s leisure economy comes from. And it’s where Andrew Sullivan’s meditation retreat came from. So, we are done with the late 1800s. What did the people of that time think the golden age was?. Says Schuster, “The time before the civil war.” So, that’s where we’re going to go next, where we find a rather similar sounding complaint.
Harry Watson: The Republic that the framers had created back in the 1770s, and 80s, and 90s, had decayed and that, somehow, we’d strayed away from the wall of the founders, and that we ought to get back to it.
Jason Feifer: This is Harry Watson, a Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. And even then, mere decades after the constitution was signed, a large portion of America felt we’d already strayed from what our founding fathers intended. But here’s what makes this moment so amazing. Some of the founding fathers were still alive. They were there saying no, no, no, no, no, you guys have it wrong. Like James Madison, he spoke up. So, wait a second. Let me, let me make sure that I understood that correctly. Are you saying that there?… People would say, “We have to get back to what the founding fathers intended.” And a founding father, who was still alive, was like, “Actually, you were not properly representing what it was that I intended.”
Harry Watson: Yes.
Jason Feifer: That’s crazy.
Harry Watson: Well, human.
Jason Feifer: There’s so much contained in this moment, you know? It really shows how people can hold two totally different versions of truth in their head at the same time. There’s true, and what feels true, and neither invalidates the other. This, I think, is how we kept talking about the TV and the Walkman, and today, the iPhones, and how they’re harmful to us, even as we continue to buy and love them. True and what feels true, we want both. So, okay. Antebellum America was romanticizing revolutionary America. And who were the revolutionaries romanticizing? Well, certainly, the British Empire wasn’t going to get the nomination.
Harry Watson: Jefferson, at that time, before the revolution started to talk about the ancient Saxon constitution of England as being far superior to anything that existed in his lifetime, has been far superior than anything that existed in his lifetime, and beoman the fact that we couldn’t get back there, [inaudible] didn’t seem to be able to get back here. Benjamin Franklin said similar things.
Jason Feifer: Which means it’s time to leave America, and with it, our modern era. But before we do, I want to pause and address two questions. Number one, we are admittedly doing a very Eurocentric tour of history here, but what about non-European cultures? Did they also have a nostalgia narrative? And number two, to get philosophical for a moment, does any of this matter? Why are we to be concerned about nostalgia narratives at all? So, let’s take them in order. Number one, there is, of course, no way to answer this across every culture, but I wanted to look at the one that Europeans shoved aside.
I emailed Walter Fleming, the head of Native American Studies at Montana State University. He says it’s impossible to generalize because there were so many pre-contact native cultures, but in general, no, they didn’t think about past golden ages. Their cultures were often rooted in a sense of destiny and very focused on the here and now. The Hopi prophecies, for example, describe the construction and destruction of three previous worlds. We now live in the fourth world, which is just coming to an end, but you know, there’s no use looking backwards. It’s all just part of a cycle. But once Europeans did make contact, that all changed. For example, in the 1890s, a new religious movement called Ghost Dance became popular among native groups. It was based around reviving the old days. The old days, of course, were before we arrived. And number two, is the nostalgia narrative harmful? Here again, I turn to Alan Levinovitz.
Alan Levinovitz: They offer an easy solution. They offer assurance that paradise is possible because it already happened in the past. They identify clear villains in the causing of suffering. And, of course, demagogues, who want to gain power quickly, exploit those kinds of narratives.
Jason Feifer: Levinovitz has no shortage of bad actors to point to. Hitler was a good old days guy. So was Pol Pot. But he also warrants it nostalgic and create something more mundane, but equally terrifying, bad policy. It drives us away from technologies and advancements that actually make our lives better and healthier. And it’s important to note that although we associate nostalgia today with Donald Trump, nostalgia is a totally nonpartisan feeling. Take, for example, the typically left battle against GMOs, or fluoride in the water, or in the Florida Keys right now using genetically modified mosquitoes to tamp down under the mosquito population and fight the spread of disease, or the many new things that the Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein, was campaigning against.
Jill Stein: Thank you.
Jason Feifer: And what about the wireless?
Jill Stein: Yes. Right. I mean, we should not be subjecting kids’ brains, especially to that. And we don’t follow that issue in this country, but in Europe where they do, they have good precautions around wireless, maybe not good enough, because it’s very hard to study this stuff. We make guinea pigs out of whole populations and then we discover how many die.
Jason Feifer: This stuff runs into opposition, largely because it’s new and unfamiliar. Even if mainstream science deems it’s safe. So, all of us, on all points along the political spectrum should be asking, if we make policy based on maintaining how things used to be, are we unnecessarily harming our future selves? And with that in mind, let’s pick up where we left off in our historical quest. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were longing for the days of the Anglo-Saxons 700 years before their own time. And you might be thinking, “Hey, wait a second. That skips over the whole Renaissance thing. Wasn’t that a pretty great golden age?” Oh, oo, it was not.
Sarah Ross: The Renaissance is also the era of the plague, which hit not only in the mid 14th century, as most people know, but kept coming back every 20 years throughout the whole Renaissance era to about 1700. So…
Jason Feifer: I didn’t know that.
Sarah Ross: Yeah.
Jason Feifer: So, the Renaissance was just constant death?
Sarah Ross: Pretty much constant death. Yeah. For one reason to another and gruesome war, pretty much all the time. There might’ve been like a 10 minute period in which there was peace, [crosstalk].
Jason Feifer: This is Sarah Ross, an Associate Professor of History at Boston College. But despite a regularly schedule of plagues, the Renaissance did actually contain something that America could use a little more of. Remember back when the people of pre civil war America were like, “Let’s do what the founding fathers intended”, even though the founding fathers were like, “We didn’t intend this.” Well, the Renaissance thinkers overtly wrestled with this tension too, but in even more interesting way. They worshiped the classical thinkers, owning books of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy was a social cachet in the Renaissance. You could literally marry up in class because you’d studied them. And many of the Renaissance writers spent time really studying their idols. Petrarch, for example, he idolized the ancient Roman writer, Cicero. And Petrarch went digging into monasteries to find Cicero’s old manuscripts. What he found instead were a lot of Cicero’s private letters, which revealed Cicero to be, well, very different from his public persona. Cicero was a political hack and Petrarch did not take this discovery well.
Sarah Ross: I mean, he literally writes letters to Cicero saying, “You jackass, I Idol…” I mean, I paraphrase [inaudible], “I idolized you. I thought you were the perfect philosopher and statesman. And now, I discover that you’re just a jerk like everyone else, you don’t practice what you preach.”
Jason Feifer: The Renaissance, as it turns out, is full of people writing letters to, and just arguing with dead scholars. I like this because, weird as it is, it feels so healthy. We should all be doing more wrestling with the complexities of the past. That yes, there were great things to learn from, but that doesn’t make it a wholesale better time. We should acknowledge what’s right and wrong about both the past and the present. So, let’s now make our way, finally, to those Anglo-Saxons, that term, by the way, is what we use today to refer to a group of Germanic tribes who lived on the island of Britain from roughly the years, 500 to 1066. And was this, in fact, a golden age, as Thomas Jefferson believed? There was a one-word answer to that. And here it is, Vikings.
Andrew Rabin: So, you’re living in this world in which these brutal pagan invaders are constantly destroying your crops, killing your family, wrecking the religious institutions to define your life. And so, there is this strong nostalgia for an age before the Vikings came.
Jason Feifer: That’s Andrew Rabin, a Professor of English at the University of Louisville. The Anglo-Saxons were basically nonstop being attacked by the Vikings. And that made nostalgia central to their worldview. Their poems often contained what’s called an Ubi sunt passage, which is basically when the narrator would start talking about like, make the 10th century great again. And here’s what that sounded like in old English.
Voice Clip (Old…: [foreign language].
Jason Feifer: That is really the greatest party trick of all time.
Voice Clip (Old…: Thank you very much. It’s a beautiful language.
Jason Feifer: That’s from a 10th century poem called, The Wanderer. And here’s what it says, “Where has the horse gone? Where is the rider? Where is the giver of gold? Where are the seats of the feast? Where are the joys of the hall? Alas for the bright cup, alas for the mailed warrior, alas for the splendor of the prince. Alas for the iPhone that ruins our concentration.” Well, I made that last part up. By the way, the Vikings? This was their golden age. Ding, ding, ding. According to Benjamin Hudson, a Professor of History and Medieval Studies at Penn State, the Vikings of this time left no writings expressing nostalgia for days of yore. However, after the classical Viking age ended, there was totally nostalgia for it. Apparently, Norwegian King, Magnus III, or Magnus Barefoot, started putting together a Norse empire, basically because he longed for the good old days of rape and pillage. But where to next?
The Anglo-Saxons hadn’t targeted a specific period of time in their writings. And we don’t know much about them before the Vikings started arriving. So, let’s instead follow the dreams of the Renaissance who were obsessed with the Romans. And what did the Romans think about their time? Tacitus would seem to offer us an answer because he’s a Roman historian who also like to editorialize. He tells the tale of the Roman Empire from its beginning in 509 BC, to his time and about 100 BC. And he’s just not impressed with his modern day.
Alex Dressler: So, he’s constantly saying, “I’m sorry for telling you about yet more murders that the autocratic emperors have committed against their own subjects, and more rapes, and more sexual perversion, and more records of excessive dining, eating, and sumptuary practices.”
Jason Feifer: This is Alex Dressler, an Assistant Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. And the perspective he tells of the Romans basically goes like this, the more money and power the Romans acquired and the more technologies they created like, hey, modern sewers, the more the Romans felt like their nation was getting indulgent and lazy. And so, their instinct was to look backwards to a time before they got what they wanted. They seemed inspired by the longing, by the aspiration, as Tacitus would have said.
Alex Dressler: You know, historians of earlier times could talk about war and expansion and great speeches, and… But you have to write what you’ve got, and this is what I’ve got.
Jason Feifer: It’s an interesting echo of today, actually. We’ll dismiss our own modern times because our lives are too easy. And look back at the harder days is more authentic. When we work with our hands and when we had to actually go to a bar and pick each other up, instead of using Tinder. The same goes with the Romans, they built an empire, they got what they wanted and they regretted it. And so, their solution is to look back to a time when the empire was smaller and they simply wanted it to be bigger. And when they wanted more money, but didn’t have it. They wanted. The wanting seems to matter the most.
So, where do we go from here? Dressler tells me that the Romans didn’t point to another civilization as their golden age, they were just obsessed with earlier Romans. So, I think for this quest of ours, it’s time to just go all the way back to the very beginning of writing. To the earliest possible records we can find of humans consciously recording themselves. Let’s go back to Mesopotamia. We’re talking about a culture that literally invented writing in about 3500 BCE. I talked to Eckart Frahm, a Professor of Assyriology at Yale University. And he says at the beginning of that writing, there’s really no talk of the past. But as centuries went by and records began piling up, and the people of that time began reading their own past, something really interesting happened.
Eckart Frahm: And as they move forward in time, the sentiment that you’re interested in and [inaudible] that there might’ve been times much better than the times people were living in, that sentiment seems to have become much stronger.
Jason Feifer: And there it is. As soon as we started telling our own story, we started looking backwards at it in fondness and longing. So, let’s recap. We just covered more than 5,000 years of history. And accepting the Vikings, who loved attacking others, and the native Americans, who believed in destiny. No matter the time period, no matter the level of suffering or accomplishment, we kept saying that something before us was great and that we had ruined it. We are so hard on ourselves, humanity. Why do we do this? The people I spoke to for this episode had a lot of theories to explain our tendency to romanticize the past. So, here are three of them. Number one, we use the past as evidence that we can achieve a better future. Even if we’re talking about a golden age that never existed, that fiction is useful because it says that we were great ones and we can do it again.
Number two, the past represents our birthright. If we say that our forefathers had something and it was lost, it means that it’s ours to regain. It means that we’re owed this. And that’s a powerful feeling, especially if you come from a culture that was once dominant, but no longer is. And number three, this idea that things were better before is at the very core of our foundational texts. I mean, Adam and Eve is a golden age story. And long before Christianity, even the Mesopotamians had their own version. In the late third century, BC, a Babylonian priest named Berosus wrote this story about the beginning of time when a monster with the body of a fish, but with a human head and feet, popped out of the water and started talking. Here, Frahm reads a little bit from that story.
Eckart Frahm: This monster spend its days with man, never eating anything, but teaching man the skills necessarily for writing, and for doing mathematics, and for all sorts of knowledge, how to build cities, [inaudible], and make laws. It taught man how do determine borders and divide land, also how to plant seeds and then to harvest their fruits and vegetables. In short, it taught man all those things conducive to a settled and civilized life. Since that time, nothing further has been discovered.
Jason Feifer: Nothing further had been discovered? Of course, that’s just not true. A lot had been discovered since like, what? The beginning of time? And the Mesopotamians were proof. They developed new types of agriculture and plows. They made huge leaps in astronomy and math. They had technology and that technology made their lives better. So, how could he say such a thing? I guess, look at today, when we say, make America great again, we discount the great things we’ve recently accomplished. They just don’t feel as important as whatever we’re grasping to return to. And that’s, well, that’s really frustrating to hear. I, and maybe, you want to yell at people who say things like this and say, “Look. Look at how illogical you’re being. You’re saying things that people have said for thousands of years and it doesn’t make any sense.”
And then, I talked to Alan Levinovitz, the guy that we’ve returned to a couple of times in this episode. I originally called him because he wrote a piece for Aeon about nostalgia narratives and it was harsh. He really took a logical sledgehammer to the concept, showing all the ways it’s wrong and bad, and people are foolish to even be thinking it, but something changed in him recently.
Alan Levinovitz: I used to think that the way to… The way to undermine narratives that distort is to just rub people’s faces in it, just show them, force them to confront their own irrationality. And I think I did that a little bit in the Aeon piece as well. And I’m no longer convinced that that’s a good way to go about it, because these narratives, especially the nostalgic narrative, they’re often born of great pain. And when you walk up to someone who is in great pain and you rip away from them, the key story that is keeping them from just dissolving into a puddle of suffering. That’s just that you’re messing with people.
Jason Feifer: How do you replace someone’s narrative without taking the narrative away?
Alan Levinovitz: You mean how do you do it without taking it away first?
Jason Feifer: Yeah.
Alan Levinovitz: I think you gently and tactfully allow them to take away their own narrative at a pace that will cause pain. I mean, the idea… I think, all revolutionaries are eager, right? I was eager in that Aeon piece, right? I’m fantasizing. Well, I just write like an incontrovertibly good essay. I’ll just rip nostalgia instantly away from everyone. But, of course, that doesn’t happen. Revolutions are violent and bloody. And often, when they are over, the revolutionaries have nothing to fill the vacuum that they’ve created. And so, we either have to be patient and work slowly at the parts of the narratives that are most pernicious and work gently and tactfully, and lovingly with the people who believe them. Or we have to be damn sure that when we rip that narrative away, we have something awesome to fill its place.
Jason Feifer: So, for one final time, let’s think about “Make America great again”, as a nonpolitical, just phrase. And the people who are most likely to say it. There actually has been a revolution in America and massive changes that left people behind in a vacuum that Levinovitz speaks of. And we have our work cut out for us to fill that vacuum often with new technologies and to convince people that the future is worth embracing over the past. It’s a hard story to tell, and it won’t be accomplished just by disproving the golden age. But if we can all be a little more aware of the stories we tell and why we tell them, then at least, that’s a start.
And that’s our episode. And hey, listen, I know that nobody listens to podcast credits, but you may want to stick with me here because I have three, count them, three exciting things to tell you. Number one, Pessimists Archive was created by Louis Anslow, who edited this episode. And Louis and Alan Levinovitz, who you heard throughout the show, are collaborating on their own podcast. It’s called Shift. And it is interviews with people who changed their minds on fundamental things. Such a good idea. You can find it wherever you find podcasts now.
And here’s exciting thing number two, we’re going to post bonus audio from this episode. Did you like me listened to that awesome old English reading and wonder how do we know what old English sounds like? I asked, and the answer is totally fascinating and we couldn’t fit it in this show. So, I wanted to offer it to you as a bonus. We’re going to put that on our website and on Twitter. Here’s how to go to both. The website is podcast dot pessimists, with an S, P-E-S-S-I-M-I-S-T-S dot co, CO. For the site and our Twitter is pessimists arc, A-R-C, at pessimists arc. And while you’re at it, visit the site to sign up for our mailing list, follow us on Twitter. And very important, please subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts and give us a review on iTunes.
And exciting thing number three, do you love this show and want to help us make it? Because we are just two people here doing this in our spare time. And these episodes are super time-consuming to make. So, we would love some production or editing help to speed things up. Get in touch and we can talk. My email address is Jason Feifer, J-A-S-O-N-F-E-I-F-E-R, at Gmail dot com. Special thanks this week to three friends who provided the technology that literally makes this podcast possible. Seth Porges gave me the microphone, Diana Levine and Matt Workman heard our last episode, asked if I had a pop screen, which very clearly I did not, and then they sent me one. That was so nice. Also, thanks to my wife, Jen Miller, who gave this script a needed polish. And she was the voice of the 1920s, New York Times headline you heard earlier in the show. So, thanks so much for listening. Again, I’m Jason Feifer and we will see you in the near future.