October 23, 2011

"Homesickness: An American History"

In VDARE this week, I look at an unexpected topic by reviewing historian Susan J. Matt's thought-provoking book Homesickness. Matt is working in the subfield of "history of emotions," which was invented by French historians around 1940 and is proving an excellent field for female scholars. Her previous book, Keeping Up with the Joneses, was on how envy of the material possessions of others went from being considered a vice in the 19th Century to being thought "good for the economy" in the 20th Century. Here she defends homesickness, a common feeling stigmatized today as childish, but which in the Victorian Era was considered the mark of a sensitive, loyal, virtuous individual.
But Matt's most valuable contribution might be this point: that modern institutions try to bully Americans into becoming as fungible as individual humans can be.

This demand from big institutions for fungibility, for homogeneity, for interchangeability among the human raw materials they work with might explain much about all the contemporary propaganda from those institutions for equality and diversity. There are paradoxes within paradoxes here.

Read the whole thing there.

138 comments:

Jehu said...

What is there to say to this but Amen? I wasn't expecting much from the title of this post but I think it's among your best works. We see this dynamic also reflected in the beating out of little girls of the innate desire to be a mother and have children. Frequently, when asked what they want to do when they grow up, a little girl who hasn't been coached on the question will answer honestly---she wants to be a Mom. It pains me to see such a little one shamed so, and I'll never tolerate any such nonsense inflicted on my own little ones. But yes, it might as well be a Corporate conspiracy--even though in practice it is almost certainly more a consensus.

Whiskey said...

Steve, it's not just money. As OWS shows, America since the 1960's at least has been the subject of a massive class warfare. Between the rich and privileged, mostly but not exclusively hereditary (Bill Ayers, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs representing the degrees of inheritance vs. self-made) ... and those who were "average."

Most of the anti-home, anti-homey-ness, anti-middle class, anti-ordinary White person, agenda has been "the revolt of the elites" seen in Europe as well as here (think the ultimate in national abnegation, the EU). It is a mixture of inherited (the Kennedys, Bill Ayers, the Rockefellers) great wealth and power, middling wealth and power made into more (Bill Gates), and self-made men (Jobs). All possessing either great talent or inherited position, are in revolt against democracy and middle-classness and the ideal of California 1970-1986. [Which I miss and mourn very much. California was a paradise then, a crummy Northern Mexico now.] Especially Victor Davis Hanson mourns it. In every other thing he writes.

Anonymous said...

Homesickness was stigmatized in Attic Greece as well. What was their term for it? Neuralgia?

It was rehabbed during the Byronic phase. Jaime Escalante is not really an example for or against it.

Allison said...

I live in St. Paul, MN, which has some of the only stable urban white neighborhoods left in the US. (They are bounded geographically by the Mississippi River on 3 sides and I-94 on the 4th.)

The neighborhoods include Highland Park, Macalester-Groveland, Merriam Park, Summit Hill. One in particular, Mac-Groveland, is astonishing for its inhabitants homesickness. The young families there live within a couple blocks of their parents' (and therefore, their childhood) home and a couple blocks of their grandparents' home. As college students, they sometimes head to places as far as WI-Madison, Iowa, or various places in Chicago. As young adults, they head to the coasts only occasionally and Chicago somewhat. But by the time they marry and intend to have children, they come home.

And they don't leave again.

For good reason: all of their family is still here. And so are their childhood memories. Their kids grow up playing with the children of the kids they themselves grew up playing with. They attend the same grammar schools and play on the same playgrounds and ice rinks, and going to the same lake in the summertime.

Life here is good, and the homesickness keeps them here. The related issue, though, is the complacency born in this fulfilling of homesickness. Creating any sense of urgency that the economy needs fixing, or that new industries are needed to move in, or new zoning laws, or improved education, etc. is nearly impossible.

People aren't driven without some needs being unmet. Homesickness is that unmet need for all sorts of people. They aren't driven here in St. Paul.

Anonymous said...

Do you miss the neighborhood where you grew up in the 1980s, which has since "tipped" demographically? Well, not much can be done about that. But feel free to relive the good old days back home by buying on DVD all three Transformers movies based on the 1980s toy robots that turn into cars (don't ask).

Homesickness is seen as low class and culturally unsophisticated. Our society deplores people emotionally attached to their old neighborhoods. If they are black or Latino, they are laughingly put down as "homeboys." If they are white, they are angrily denounced as "racists" or "nativists." If you are a refugee from demographic change on the West Side of Chicago or in Southern California, well, you better keep your mouth shut.


I have never experienced any bullying or shaming about my profound homesickness for California. What I experience is a void. People just don't react, don't respond, it's like I haven't said anything. There is no bullying, there is only lack of comprehension from the hollow men.

Whiskey said...

BUT ... IMHO this anti-middle class Davos Man internationalism succeeded because it spoke deeply to the desire for aristocracy, pseudo-royalty, and embedded in respectable middle class and working class White women.

Realistically, an Average White male found places like California in 1983 about as close to Paradise as could be found. There would be no desire to change it. You could not do better, life was almost a John Hughes movie.

But for women, you **COULD** do better. You could Eat Pray Love your way around the world, or invite the world right here! No boring dinners and cheap chalupas for everyone! Diversity everywhere! Plus the elites back it so it must be fashionable! A more stratified place held out the dual promise of a lot more female-friendly paperwork jobs, and if not an entire prince, at least part of him. Better than that boring male paradise! This is why the revolt of the elites succeeded, relatively few made money off it (though the WSJ article on the "beta" as in variance rich shows how big bets and big winning/failure now characterize much of them) but rather there have always been plenty of votes.

If you can't understand why someone votes/chooses the way they do, you probably have not looked at what they see as the reason. Anti-immigration pols like Tancredo routinely fail, and guys like McCain (who is a piece of work for sure) win.

EXCELLENT insight into the fertility of Mexican girls vs. Blacks and Whites in the US. Amazing insight really!

Christopher said...

Actually, my ninth grade math teacher was apparently inspired by Escalante. He wore the same kind of glasses, and had the same kind of briefcase. He showed us Stand and Deliver the last day of class, which if I remember correctly, was also the year he retired. Granted, this wasn't the mean streets of LA, but the largest English high school in Quebec, located in the non-Lower Class suburbs of the South Shore, but still ...

nostalgie de la boue said...

Yikes, I thought for a minute David Brooks hacked your VDARE user and was gonna start blogging us to death on Restoration Hardware (didn't Slate/Atlantic/Bloomberg/Huffington just do an investigation on whatever happened to those sexy stewardess uniforms?) In fact fungible organization men was the big-time theme of 1999 American "philosophical" film "Fight Club" and I'll predict the snowflakes will be decrying it (the fungi) for centuries to come. Hopefully some smart folks conduct more analysis of the statistical proclivity of newly arrived women to have babies, since that'd have some minor bearing on the current status of the US's odd birthright policies a.k.a. "Epitome of the Greatness of Abe Lincoln Who Freed the Slaves" among left-liberal alumni-newsletter circles!

Andrea said...

I'd like to know where being homesick is thought of anything but a virtue, because I'd like to move there. I always thought I was a weirdo because I hated my hometown and spent my entire childhood wishing we would move. And no, now that I've finally made it to another part of the country, I don't want to go back.

hbd chick said...

there's no place like home.

(i mean that!)

agnostic said...

Homesickness was permissible in the '80s, before the recent shift toward detached meta-irony. (Whit Stillman's Barcelona was an exception from the '90s, but did not find mainstream success.)

For grown-ups there was St. Elmo's Fire and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (the best example). For kids there was The Goonies. And for both there was Big.

It even showed up in Family Ties when the usually ambitious Alex decides to go to college nearby and continue living with his family.

Fitzgerald shows homesickness for Minnesota in his short stories, mostly from the '20s and early '30s.

What's in common is that they were both from the second half of a rising-crime period, which bonds people closer together.

You see that in architecture too. Art Deco of the '20s and early '30s sought to localize their buildings, weave them into and even explicitly refer to existing traditions. The Postmodern trend of the later '70s and '80s did so too.

It was only during falling-crime times that the International Style smothered the attachment to place, to little popular objection (the Tom Wolfe book didn't come until 1981). Since the '90s we've seen a return of that mindset, also a falling-crime period.

agnostic said...

Periods when local attachment is popular are also those when exoticism and Orientalism are popular, showing that "provincialism" is really part of a larger interest in maintaining diversity.

The '20s and early '30s saw an Egyptology craze, Eastern mysticism, and far-off adventure movies, the last great one being King Kong.

That fell off a cliff during the '30s and through the '50s. The beginning of The Man Who Knew Too Much takes place in Marrakesh, but it comes off as more of an insulated tourist trap than a portal into a strange other dimension.

By the '80s Orientalism was back in vogue: the Star Wars movies, the Indiana Jones movies, Duran Duran videos, etc.

Since then, it's back to the lack of interest in what goes on in other places.

Reg Cæsar said...

Two of the most successful people to come out of the neighborhoods my neighbor Allison describes were Charles M. Schulz and Midge Decter. I don't know about Midge, but Charles made a killing off his conflicted homesickness.

He could easily have moved back home-- and bought several blocks of Summit Avenue-- but chose to live out his life in balmy Santa Rosa. Yet he insisted on building a hockey rink there.

F Scott Fitzgerald spent about half his childhood in Buffalo and Syracuse, so his connection to St Paul was more tenuous to begin with. No surprise he never came back.

Prince sticks around. But I was stunned when Ani DiFranco, one of the few other loyal celeb homebodies, abandoned her hometown for the Big Easy. And someone once commented here that Springsteen spends most of his time in SoCal.

Steve Sailer said...

The luckiest fate is to be raised in a place that is turning into the world hub of whatever business you are best suited for: e.g., Steve Jobs, who was adopted by a couple in Mountain View, CA in the heart of what then became Silicon Valley.

Steve Sailer said...

Reg:

Thanks for the "Peanuts" background. Somebody could write a psychology textbook based on Charlie Brown cartoons.

wren said...

This article caused me to think. Thank you, Steve.

I am from California, and not at all homesick.

I am envious of folks who grew up in an area with a traditional sense of place.

Anonymous said...

Immigrants and Jews are less likely to feel at home anywhere in the US and hence don't prefer State U. So the bright ones apply to Harvard, etc. disproportionally. Also, this results in "cocooning" for them, a sort of homesickness, perhaps.
Robert Hume

Anonymous said...

Steve - I like your writing but I hate it when people use nouns as adjectives.

"Women scholars"? Please not you too Steve!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jehu in the top comment. Fungibility, not equality or diversity: that's the real goal. Brilliant essay, Steve.

I also found Agnostic's comments fascinating; those parallel oscillations in cultural orientations are something I'd never thought about before.

I'm a long-term expat (grew up in IA; have lived over two decades in Hong Kong) so my feelings about 'home' are complicated.

I love my hometown, but if you had asked me when I was just 7 or 8 years old if I would live there when I was a grown-up, I would have answered 'No' without hesitation. I can't really explain why that is, but as much as I miss the place sometimes, I also know I was not meant to live there, at least not yet. Maybe I'll join Mr Escalante on the Home Train when I hit 70 . . . .

Steve Sailer said...

"I hate it when people use nouns as adjectives."

Hey, I always liked how Alexander Haig talked!.

Okay, I'll fix it.

james said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Steve, the plural of Jones is Joneses. How difficult is that?

outlier said...

Well perhaps Jaime returned due to elevation. What was that recent Sailer post re: altitude sickness? Reverse of that.

He was reputed to be a well-liked personage around Pasadena City College and I recall reading about his taking 4 credits while working 5 jobs, or something. His pupils went on to very nice colleges but otherwise his impact is indiscernible, like the sculptor who does the town statue which every one knows but nobody really cares about. For the record I'm from Glendale and plan never to go back. Hated it the whole time, 17 years or so.

dearieme said...

Two points:

(i) "Over the last generation, middle managers and their families have, with some success, quietly rebelled against corporate cultures demanding incessant relocation." It occurs to me that this is yet another reason why so many young Britons move to London. There you can repeatedly change jobs without a need to move house - and, since the same incentives apply to all the rest of your age group, there's a good chance that many of your friends from school and university will pitch up too.

(ii) There's a second "homesickness" I've seen: an emotional attachment to the city where you went to University.

Let's! said...

It was OK to be homesick in 1949...sing it Bing...

"I love those dear hearts and gentle people
Who live in my home town
Because those dear hearts and gentle people
Will never ever let you down
They read the good book from Fri' till Monday
That's how the weekend goes
I've got a dream house I'll build there one day
With picket fence and ramblin' rose
I feel so welcome each time that I return
That my happy heart keeps laughin' like a clown"

Big Bill said...

Breathes there the man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within him burn'd
As home his footsteps he hath turn'd
From wandering on a foreign strand?
Walter Scott

Some reformers may urge that in the ages distant future, patriotism, like the habit of monogamous marriage, will become a needless and obsolete virtue; but just at present the man who loves other countries as much as he does his own is quite as noxious a member of society as the man who loves other women as much as he loves his wife. Love of country is an elemental virtue, like love of home.
Theodore Roosevelt

The Dude said...

"(ii) There's a second "homesickness" I've seen: an emotional attachment to the city where you went to University."

One's emotions get "stuck" to a particular place. First love, close friend, crushing breakup, social triumph, wild party, so many of those happen in college.

I was unable to separate (emotionally) from the great love of my youth until I left my college town and moved east.

Every college street, every rosy summer sunset, every cold January ice skating on a frozen lake, every visit to the farmer's market, all conspired to keep me enthralled. I had to leave.

In one of his novels Walker Percy described walking along a railroad track as an adult, smelling the creosote railroad ties and the flowering weeds along the tracks and being instantly transported back to his youth, as though no time had passed in the interim.

Scents and sights imprinted on your heart can transport you decades back and they can keep you grounded (and trapped) as well.

Bostonian said...

Graduating from Harvard about 20 years ago, I see in the yearbook that alumni are clustered in big cities such as Boston, NYC, San Francisco. Reading the obituaries of men who graduated in earlier decades, I see that they often returned to their home town after graduating, built their careers, and raised their families there. Colleges, especially the "elite" ones, may play a role in "nationalizing" people.

Andrea Ostrov Letania said...

'Fungible' should go viral.

NLF said...

"In modern America, a longing for the familiar places and people we are separated from is routinely castigated as an immature character flaw barely tolerable in children at summer camp, much less in adults."

I never came across such hostility. Of course, if someone talks about it all the time, it can be grating. But same goes for excessive wanderlust or excessive anything.
Bruce Springsteen's mega-hit BORN IN THE USA had songs like 'My Home Town'. John Mellencamp hit it big with 'Small Town'. And Don Henley with 'End of the Innocence'--to be sure, it is dystalgic than nostalgic but it is about the loss of something that once had meaning.
Everyone still loves the Beatles' 'In My Life', 'Penny Lane', 'Strawberry Fields Forever'. Or Beach Boys' 'That's Not Me'. Or Redding's 'Dock of the Bay', which though not about nostalgia per se, is about a man lost in San Fran and wishing for more familiar places.
And there's 'Going Back' by Carole King, superbly done by the Byrds.

On TV, among the biggest hits were Happy Days(where a father figure was prominent), All in the Family(though ARchie is supposed to be a bigot, he's a lovable guy), Sanford(father) and Son, Good Times(black family sticking together), Cosby Show, Brady Bunch, Frasier(where a cosmopolitan guy still lives with dad--or dad lives with him and imparts lessons on his to his pompous son.)
There's King of the Hill, which is a very old fashioned show.

NLF said...

It's a Wonderful Life is a classic that all Americans love.
GODFATHER, a huge classic, is about a guy returning to his roots and his love for his father.
We all love Wizard of Oz: there's no place like home.
CHRISTMAS STORY became an instant classic. (Who remembers the other movie the guy made: Porkys?)
There was also FINDING NEMO. UP was also a huge hit(about an old man looking back to rosier times).
TRON LEGACY iS about a son reconnecting with his father.
Tons of contemporary fiction is about returning home(to find some dark secret but also to reconnect with old haunts).
CINEMA PARADISO was a big 'art house' hit.
Even in hip movies, the theme of home and family come into play.
COOL HAND LUKE'S most touching scene is when Luke hears about his mother's death and sings a song.
In BONNIE AND CLYDE, Bonnie freaks out and must see her mother for one last time.
In IN COLD BLOOD, when robert blake looks back and says he both loves and hates his father, it's one helluva powerful scene.
In literature, Leon Wieseltier's KADDISH is deeply moving(though I don't like the guy).
Plays like TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL continue to be big hits. And Libs have CIVIL RIGHTS NOSTALGIA--longing for time when issues were clearer and Negroes hadn't gone nuts yet--through stuff like DRIVING MISS DAISY(though I call it Driving Me Crazy).
Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth are still very popular. As are the films of Spielberg. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is a Rockwellian war movie. It seems Spielberg and Lucas understand both the element of wanderlust and nostalgia in man. AMERICAN GRAFFITI is about nostalgia for Lucas's youth, but everyone wants to get out of that small dinky town. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS is about both homesickness and wanderlust. Roy wants to go into space; the woman wants her son to come back. But wanderlust can be a kind of homesickness too. There is physical home and psychological home. For some people, home is their adventure. Paradoxically, they feel at home only on the move,and they feel imprisoned when stuck in one place.

Reagan's thing was the ideal of small town. (Ironically, Reagan had a bad life in his youth. Reagan, Clinton, and Obama all share the 'bad father' experience. I think Buchanan is different, more rooted, cuz he had a strong father he deeply loved and respected.) Obama's DREAMS was appealing for its 'searching for my roots or real home' narrative. Unable to find it, Obama settles in America and finds a new home. It's a twist on the older Kunta Kinte trying to run again but, looking at his baby and thinking of his wife, figuring America is his home.

Jerry said...

The book sounds amazingly intelligent, spot-on.

A quibble--Nabokov "the supreme English language novelist of the third quarter of the 20th Century"? He is an interesting stylist, he reminds one of Updike: a lot of surface, but no moral center. Saul Bellow--whose books are informed by nostalgia, particularly Humboldt's Gift, his best--would be a better choice. Nabokov and Updike are intelligent, but Bellow is serious.
(And lest we forget, it was Bellow who got his friend Allan Bloom to write the most penetrating critique of American post-war society and its ideas.)

SFG said...

"I'd like to know where being homesick is thought of anything but a virtue, because I'd like to move there. I always thought I was a weirdo because I hated my hometown and spent my entire childhood wishing we would move. And no, now that I've finally made it to another part of the country, I don't want to go back."

Artsy types hate small towns for their conformity and congregate in big cities, where they make movies and books about how bad small town are, pissing off small town people even more. I'd like Steve to do a bit on this: I think it's related to the relative artistic weakness of the conservative movement he's described.

You know, there was an article in the NYT about how 'opening up' society to excluded groups has led to an increase in inequality. Seems to me to be the same thing; if the middle class is busy running from the NAMs, they can't unite against their corporate masters.

What do you think, Steve?

Anonymous said...

I think there was homesickness as a genuine malady in Old America where a lot of people--especially in small towns and countryside--really grew up knowing little else but 'my hometown'. They didn't have cars(to travel to other places), radios, tvs, or even movie houses. Though American, they'd never seen or heard the most of America but their little home.
So, when they went to the Army or the big city, it was like a culture shock. They felt like foreigners in another country.
I think immigrants from more modern countries adjust much better to America--they'd seen it in movies and know something about it and experience urban life--than immigrants who'd lived in rural isolation. As a kid, I remember reading news articles such as this. Sudden death syndrome among Laotians in America. Not only were a village people suddenly dropped into urban America, but there wasn't much of a Laotian community to accept them or help them. And American city life can be pretty wild.

It's possible that in the past, prior to mass media, before everyone had cars to criss cross on the interstate highways, many Americans still felt closely linked to 'home'.
But today, even people in small towns grow up with TV, telephone, internet. Besides, if you wanna talk with mom or dad, you just pick up the phone and dial the number. Before most people had phones, some hick GI might have felt mighty lonely among city slickers and strangers. With mass technology, 'home' has been portable-ized. It's easy to connect to 'home' through all sorts of gadgets. And air travel can get you from NY to LA in several hrs. I knew a friend who used to fly home on just about every weekend.
And thanks to highway, we can go just about anywhere--even return home in no time. I've driven nearly 1000 miles in a single day.
There was a time when 'home' was far away and nearly inaccessible when you moved away. So, it became 'mythic'. But today, it's easily accessible if you really wanna go back. (This is even true between nations now.)
It's like you stop thinking of something you can have all the time. The song WOULDN'T IT BE NICE is full of passion cuz it's about having something yet to be, yet out of reach.
When people once felt permanently exiled from 'home', 'home' had special meaning. Though Nabokov was mature and urbane, he felt pain about Russia cuz it was under communism and he couldn't return. But if Nabokov had left Russia today, he'd know he could go back and forth easily. No problem.
There's a Yugoslavian movie called HEY BABU RIBA which I saw around 87. I thought I'd never see it again and thought about it over and over, day after day. I guess I was movie-sick about it. But once it was available on video, I could see it anytime. I no longer thought about it. Interestingly enough, the movie is about nostalgia(not so much for homeland but memories of youth when 'home' had special meaning cuz of a special girl.)Those were communist days, so exiles couldn't easily return home.

Anonymous said...

I think longing for 'home' depends on the nature of home. A Jewish kid once told me her grandparents never ever look back to Russia cuz all they remembered were bitterness and bigotry.
And many blacks who moved North(and found good factory jobs) only said good riddance to the Redneck South. When I moved from integrated city to the suburbs, I did miss certain things about the city, but I was only too happy to say, 'bye bye Negroes'.

Anonymous said...

"But feel free to relive the good old days back home by buying on DVD all three Transformers movies based on the 1980s toy robots that turn into cars (don't ask)."

This pretty funny and ridiculous, but memory-via-pop-culture can be rich and rewarding. If one's youth was all about TRANSFORMERS, I pity the fool.
But imagine one's youth memories being intertwined with songs like 'Don't Worry Baby', 'Yesterday', 'Ruby Tuesday'. Suppose one remembers one's youth through films such as THE GODFATHER, FRENCH CONNECTION, TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA, or SOMETHING WILD. Culture adds angles, depths, shadings, and perspectives to one's emotions.
Suppose a girl loves a guy but doesn't know how to express that feeling. But she hears love songs and those songs inform--or speak for her--how she feels about him.
Or suppose some working class guy has feelings about home but can't really articulate it. Suppose he hears 'The River' by Springsteen and his feelings crystallize into meaning.
Poets and artists, in a way, speak for us, through us, and with us. After all, the Trojan War was recounted through the 'entertainment' narrative of The Iliad for generations of Greeks. Poets mythify experience and longing. And nostalgia, by its very nature, is mythic.

Anonymous said...

I think the kind of people who feel the most nostalgia are those who feel they once had something(or should have had something) but lost it. Tarkovsky lived in exile in the final yrs of his life, but he felt profoundly as a Russian and he felt Russia belong to him and he belonged to Russia. Though people in power booted him out, he still felt Russia was his home.

But Jews never felt Russia was their home. And blacks never felt the South belonged to them. So, they felt less nostalgia--or none at all--when they left.

Anonymous said...

It could be Mexican women in the US have more kids cuz the government here gives them more free stuff(especially if they have kids) than the government back home.

Anonymous said...

It's also a matter of personality. Some people like to look back. Some like to look forward. It's there in SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION. A man takes his family to the NW. He returns to Kansas but his sons remain and thrive as pioneers.

Anonymous said...

Fungible. When I was a child, all the boys in school wanted to be Fonzie-ble.

Free as a fungi or rooted like a plant. But plants give off seeds that travel. Like dandelion seeds.

I think guys like Gates and Buffett have the best of both worlds. They are rooted at home but also travel all around the world constantly.

Geoff said...

By the way, I just passed through Ogden, Utah and it's not so remote. It appears to be a rather prosperous suburb of Salt Lake City.

John Mansfield said...

This sounds like a book that would completely baffle Tyler Cowen before he quit reading. Even he, though, once wrote briefly about his enjoyment of his New Jersy boyhood home before making clear that he would never live there now.

StephenT said...

Agree that this is one of your best.
Back in my years of doing jobs Americans won't do alongside illegal aliens from Mexico, I noted how comforted many were by the fact that they could jump back over the border anytime homesickness overcame them. I sometimes felt that it was the ease of getting OUT of the US, not in, on any whim which drew them here. They rhapsodized about how good it was to return to Mexico where nothing has changed, where everything's the same as when they were kids, where the infrastructure of all their childhood memories is still intact. Many Americans comfort themselves with the false notion that, as the American southwest is being permanently altered and Mexicanized, Mexico is changing, too, and becoming more American-like. But this expunging of one's native culture and memory that we are experiencing is entirely unilateral. Mexico for the most part remains the same as it always was and is a potent antidote to homesickness (and repository of ethnic solidarity) for Mexican nationals in this country. They know they always have a place to return to that still resembles home. But where does a nostalgic native Californian (or, soon, Texan) go to find some remnant of that place they remember from their childhood? Mexicans have the waiting arms of old Mexico to run to -- where can WE go when we get homesick?

Anonymous said...

"Human emotions probably don't change much over time, but the words we use to describe them certainly cycle, whipped by fads and social forces."

But they do change a lot through one's lifetime. I think a person is most likely to 'want to go back' in his young adult yrs and old age. About young adult yrs, I know. About old age, I'm guessing.
When I was in late teens and 20s, I wanted to return to old familiar places and old special places. Places I used to live and places I visited in my childhood. In 8th grade, my school took a trip to Washington DC, a truly wonderful memory. Eventually, I visited the old haunts and checked out DC again, but what I felt was essentially. 'so, THIS is it?' It was special in my mind, not in material fact. As they say, 'you can't go home again'. Except for the Art Museum, DC seemed pompous and bloated. In 8th grade, I thought it was awesome.
And seeing my old places of residence minus the haze of golden memory--seeing them for what they were--, what did I see? Just homes and streets. Big deal. I don't have much wish to return.

Much of it's psychological. There was a place my friends and I vacationed at when I was 19. Things went pretty crazy but it was fun. I wanted to go back many yrs later, but my friends lost the directions and I forgot where that spot--some area in a national forest--was. Via tools like Google Earth, I hoped to locate it. I thought about it obsessively. I returned to the general region and drove around but could not find the spot. Then I returned the next yr and tried to find it again. Again, to no avail. But just when I gave up, I find myself on a road that took me to place where I felt... deja vu. And there it was! One of the happiest days of my life. But it was special cuz I found something I thought I'd never find again. My head was in the clouds.
But when I returned again this yr, the feeling was gone. It wasn't as special cuz I now knew where it was. I could go back anytime I wanted. Nice place but no longer as mythic as it once had been.
By finding it, I lost it.

Same thing with people in a way. If you meet an old friend you haven't seen in a long time, it's special. But after a week or two, she's just another person.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes, looking back is special when you still look forward. In college, you're young and have a whole life in front of you. There is a kind of anxious optimism. Since you feel you're headed for something special, the narrative of your life has greater meaning: not just what you're looking forward to but where you came from. Also, a person who is 20 is still emotionally attached to childhood. 10 yrs ago, he was only 10. Though an adult, his memory of childhood is still fresh.

But when one settles into life, and life turns out to be humdrum, one no longer feels as though one's moving forward. One feels stuck, all the while gradually growing old. Memory of youth is less special cuz it's more distant and also because all its promises/hopes didn't come true.

Suppose a kid spent his youth wanting to be a rock star. At 20, he would link his youth to his future: his dreams as young person playing out and being fulfilled in adulthood. But if as an adult, he didn't amount to much, his youth is just a reminder of how stupid and naive he'd been.
Or, consider a young woman who watches SEX AND THE CITY and wants a fun glamorous life in the big city, and etc. But in adulthood, life isn't what she saw on TV or hoped it would be. Her memory of her youthful dreams seem rather embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

"I'm homesick for the old California and I'm not from America. I want Brian Wilson's California. T-Birds and Surfer Girls."

I'll bet Deadheads long for the Dead Nation. Gone are the days when the ox plowed the ground.

Anonymous said...

"Steve - I like your writing but I hate it when people use nouns as adjectives."

Some nouns serve as adjectives. Like 'muscle man' though I supposed 'muscled man' is more correct.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks for the "Peanuts" background. Somebody could write a psychology textbook based on Charlie Brown cartoons."

Snooooopy, Snooooopy, Snoopy Snoopy come home. I cried watching that as a child.

jaded said...

The wish for fungibility is key here. Those of us who live in those more dynamic parts of the country where encouraging diversity has become a religion suffer the most, I suspect.

I realized years ago that the terrain of my youth had been shredded beyond recognition and find myself feeling oddly more at home in parts of the country with a landscape that resembles the home of my youth than in this place transformed many times over by "progress".

Though I'm not at retirement age, I've begun to wonder how the elderly are choosing retirement homes. Are they clinging to individual dwellings that are the last vestige of their lives as 30 somethings or are they, like me, finding that slower growing parts of the country have ever more appeal.

There's almost a feud between those with utopian dreams (economic or political) and the nostalgic types who want, maybe need, more continuity between the past and the present.

rob said...

I wonder where the rootless cosmopolitans fit into this. The "Apollonians" maybe just climbed to the top and are instituting their preferences without thinking about it. But they've also shown pretty strong dislike of localist, rural whites. Maybe there's some jealousness/resentment of people who have a home(land).

Anonymous said...

Keeping Up with the Jones[sic/Joneses]

Anonymous said...

"For grown-ups there was St. Elmo's Fire and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (the best example). For kids there was The Goonies. And for both there was Big."

I think it's more complicated. There is a duality at work in the American mind. Longing for home and the thrill of adventure(as in the Odyssey). PLANES TRAINS AUTOMOBILE is a perfect example. The movie wouldn't be fun if the guy smoothly got home and enjoyed the family dinner. It's the wild crazy adventure through which he got see the OTHER AMERICA as rich urban professional like him usually doesn't see.
Same thing in MIDNIGHT RUN. Deniro wants the money so he can buy a coffee shop and settle down. At one point, he even says he still holds onto the watch his ex-wife gave him cuz he still has this crazy dream of being with her again. So, there is a longing for stability, for 'home'. But the other attraction of the movie is the two guys trekking all across America in a wild adventure.
Similar duality in SOMETHING WILD. On the one hand, Jeff Daniels plays the rebellious free yuppie who decided to break all the rules. But it turns out his marriage didn't work out and he's trying to both escape from his own depression and connect to a new sense of 'home' or belonging.
MOTHMAN PROPHECIES also work on two level. A urbane journalist goes to some small town and looks for clues to solve some mystery. But the need to be in this strange town is psychologically linked to the loss of his wife, with whom he'd hoped to buy a home and settle down.

Rohan Swee said...

Fine essay. The drive to "fungibility" is in the end the most vicious of Davos Man's ambitions. (I would suggest it can be found lurking in the foundations of modern utilitarian moral philosophy, too.) Not that it's a conscious conspiracy, mind you, just a necessary and inevitable part of the project.

It is interesting, as in your "tranformers" example, how D-Man tries to re-channel, or at least wring out some last bit of value from, these beaten-down and attenuated natural emotions. Attachment to the dear and familiar must be excoriated when it is manifested by "nativists", but it's remarkable how often open border's types appeal to that same sentiment when tub-thumping against deportations, for the Dream Act, etc. Suddenly, what was a mere labor market populated by labor-widgets, when the widgets are certain kinds of people, suddenly becomes a "community" and the "only home they've ever known" when populated by certain other kinds of labor widgets.

It's all very mysterious. As you say, paradoxes within paradoxes. In the past we were taught that one of the great evils of slavery was the inhuman uprooting of people from their homes and cultures, and the breaking of their natural sustaining kinship bonds. It was my mistaken understanding that these were intrinsically bad things, axiomatically so, but apparently their badness is contingent (see labor-widget example, above), but exactly how, I can't quite figure out.

Rohan Swee said...

Homesickness was stigmatized in Attic Greece as well. What was their term for it? Neuralgia?

Yes, I remember all those accounts of Attic Greeks sitting around with their Homer, and laughing and sneering at Odysseus's "neuralgia".

Carol said...

"I'm from Glendale and plan never to go back. Hated it the whole time, 17 years or so."

I spent my early years in Eagle Rock and missed it terribly when my mother said it was "depressing" and moved us out to the San Gabriel Valley burbs.

In the 50s ER was about the most perfect place in the world, IMO. Only after moving did I start to resent the other shortcomings of Socal.

Anonymous said...

"I hate it when people use nouns as adjectives."

Why?

It is just a feature of Germanic languages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjectival_noun

Anonymous said...

Maybe via the internet and other such technologies, people in the future will be able to be both in one place and everywhere(and may not have to move around so much to work for different companies). After all, Asian-Indians in India work for US companies.
Maybe colleges will be cyber-academia in the future. Lectures will be done online. Professors can stay put where they are and communicate with colleagues/students all electronically.

Arno said...

I grew up in California in the 1980s. I miss it. When I go home now (I still call it home), I feel like a stranger in my own neighborhood.

That beautiful part of the Bay Area experienced its "demographic tip" in the early 1990s. I remember the pain of watching the change taking place, and it is painful now to see the results of it.

I now live in Minnesota, where I am seeing the beginning of what happened to my hometown 20 years ago. It is a terrible thing to watch.

Anonymous said...

"These days, while it’s not as permissible as it once was for an adult to muse about, say, missing her parents..."

Really? I never heard of or seen such people. I can't even imagine people looking down on anyone who says, "I miss my mother who died last yr" or who expresses special warmth for mom or dad.
Mother's Day seems to be bigger than ever.
The real problem is many young people don't even their real parents--especially fathers--, especially in the 'inner city' community.

And among adults, the problem is less the possibility of being shunned for expressing love for parents than no interest in having kids/raising a family(until it's too late).

NLF said...

Blaming corporations for everything won't do. Sure, music industry fills young people with toxic values. But most corporations produce jobs people need and those jobs pay for families.
I would blame government more with stuff like welfare that gave incentives to women to have children out of wedlock and then moved entire populations all over through ugly public housing and section 8. That really disrupted communities.

Jeff said...

Steve has done an excellent job with this essay. It was very perceptive and thought-provoking.

I would add that human emotions cannot be completely repressed by those in charge. They may label homesickness as childish, and refuse to discuss it or acknowledge its existence, yet it is still there.

Similarly hatred of the authorities may be dismissed as craziness, or it can be labeled a pathology that should be treated in a government mental hospital. But that suppression does not make the hatred go away. I think instead it adds fuel to the fire and hastens the day when pent-up hatred erupts as violence.

Anonymous said...

modern institutions try to bully Americans into becoming as fungible as individual humans can be

This has been the overriding principle of American business-politics for over a century, probably more.

Even the president is fungible.

Reg Cæsar said...

Somebody could write a psychology textbook based on Charlie Brown cartoons.

Well, someone did write a theology textbook of sorts, The Gospel According to Peanuts. Written in 1965, it was bound to include plenty of psychology as well.

Udolpho.com said...

Less to do with "homesickness" then with the regression of adults into infantile habits and thinking. This also contributes to the increasing androgynization of recent generations, which will culminate in some totally effete and ineffective generation and at that point I think you'll see collapse. Androgyny is a mark of childhood and when you look at trends there is a worrying tendency to embrace childish behavior well into putative adulthood. Values become more childish--materialistic and self-focused--as well.

Anonymous said...

It seems like billions of people around the world are homesick for... America. Having heard about its riches and seen all the fabulous stuff in movies, they feel America is their real home or the real home of the cool, the hip, the happening, the free, and the hopeful.
Maybe Hollywood should make more movies that make America look bad. Fewer people will wanna come here.

Anonymous said...

It's the age of the internet. Home Tweet Home.

Anonymous said...

American home-ism is like baseball. You wanna hit the ball out of the park and make runs into the field.. but in the end, you wanna return home. And home run takes you both OUT THERE and brings you BACK HOME in one swoop.

Anonymous said...

With the housing bubble and all, aren't we suffering from McMansionsickness?

Anonymous said...

Didn't Jesse James get killed thinking about 'home sweet home'?

Anonymous said...

Suppose we extend self-gene theory to politics. Do you suppose political parties evolve mainly to survive and thrive than to serve any 'higher' purpose? Though political parties yammer about some lofty ideal or another, what motivates them is to stay in power.
Republican Party was the anti-slavery party and loathed by Southern whites. Democratic Party was the party of white southerners(and agrarian and hostile to urban interests).
Today, GOP is mainly a southern white redneck party(electorally at least) while Democratic party is that of blacks and urban white cosmopolitans.
I mean just how the hell did that happen? It was cuz both parties did whatever necessary to stay in power, even if it meant betraying or ditching nearly all of its once dearly held principles.

Anonymous said...

Is homesickness located in the consciousness or subconsciousness? Could one be subconsciously homesick without consciously knowing it? Or, could one consciously believe one's problems to be 'homesickness' when it's something else?
Do you suppose some people consciously embrace wanderlust to subconsciously feel homesick? It's like some people exercise and make themselves hungry just to enjoy their next meal. Food just tastes better when one's starving. Water tastes like honey to a thirsty person. And I hear repressed Catholics have better sex. I dunno.

PS. Is the concept of 'consciousness' fundamentally flawed? Is it like geocentrism? Man initially thought Earth was the center of the universe and all revolved around it. This was natural since mankind came into existence on Earth and man saw stars, moon, and sun circling Earth. But, in fact, the reality is heliocentric, with Earth being a small planet encircling the giant sun(which encircles the galactic core). But man couldn't figure this out for the longest time since geocentrism felt so right.
Same could be true with the concept of consciousness. It is through conscious thinking that we become aware of reality. So, we seem to think consciousness is the center of the mind. After all, we use the term 'sub-conscious', as if 'consciousness' is central while other realities of the mind are relational/peripheral to that basic center.

But, just like Earth actually revolves around the sun, consciousness is the outer-ring of the core reality of the mind. So, there should be a word for that deeper reality, and consciousness should be defined as a peripheral or surface manifestation of that reality. It seems the problem of philosophy is it began with consciousness, and as such, led to a kind of conscious-centrism. Freud knew better but even his use of terminology made it seem as though consciousness was the center of mind-reality. When one adds sub- or un- to consciousness, it suggests that sub- or un-consciousness is an aspect of consciousness when it may well be consciousness is the outer manifestation of a deeper fundamental mind-reality.
So, it is consciousness that should be formulated in a word with a prefix, something meaning outer-coremind.

Then, there is the matter of religion. Is homesickness related to spiritualism? Greek myths--religions of their time--have stories of returning or founding a home. Jews have the myth of God-given Promised Land. There is also the Exile from Eden, the original home. In some religions, sacred home is a fixed place. Muslims have Mecca. Muslims have two homes. Private homes and the collective spiritual home that all Muslims should visit in their lifetime in the Hajj.

Anonymous said...

Christians don't have such a home--specific geographical home. But Christians feel part of a Home in Heaven through prayer. And if they're good, they earn the key to Heaven to be with God and Jesus forever. Perhaps one reasons why Christian West was so adventurous was their Heaven-as-Home faith made them feel at home anywhere in the world. Thus, they felt less homesick than those with a fixed sacred geographical sense of home. A Japanese guy outside Japan would have felt lost. But a Christian even in a foreign land feels one with God--spiritually at home through prayer. Also, via conversion of heathens, he even makes foreign lands more like home.

Buddhism is a strange case. It is a religion of completely departing from what we know as home--physical reality and emotional attachment. Yet, Buddhism says Nirvana is the return to the real truth, the real source of all being. So attaining Nirvana is to truly go home. The world we see around is just an illusion, a false home.
Buddhism is also odd cuz it's the one religion where faith is not important--at least in certain sects of Buddhism. There is no guarantee or certainty that one will gain Nirvana. Christianity says if you accept Jesus, have faith in the Creed, and do good, you go to Heaven. But Buddhism says even the gods are an illusion. Even religion is an illusion. So, even faith is a false hope. It is a religion that tries to go beyond religion. And Nirvana is something you know you've found only when you get there. Though there are advice on how to best get there, there are no certainties or guarantees. It's a strange journey one has to make and just see what happens. That kind of home I can do without.

Anonymous said...

Catholic Church Calls for One-World Government

http://conservativetimes.org/?p=10218


Cf: Charles C. Mann’s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

Aaron in Israel said...

Perhaps the people who run the giant organizations don't actually value equality and diversity. Perhaps that's just the cover story and what they want from us is fungibility.

Yeah, the usual. We are honest and true. Our enemies are all a bunch of liars.

Anonymous said...

Real nice nostalgia song.

Embittered Nostalgic Midwesterner said...

Homnesickness? It depends on whose American History you are talking about.

For the large and growing amount of recent immigrants, rootless coastal elites, and cultural outsiders - externally imposed (Asian) or internally projected(Jewish) - there is little about America to be homesick about.

Coincidentally, the centers of power (NY-finance, LA-culture, SF-technology) are famously rootless polyglot here-and-now places. No wonder such an obvious idea as "homesickness" strikes so many as thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

Herman Cain is useful for white liberals. WLs are often accused of sucking up to all blacks, being a bunch of sappy white uncle toms who support blacks just because blacks are blacks. But by opposing Herman Cain, white liberals can pretend that they are about principles. After all, they're opposing a black guy because they disagree with him on policy and ideology--though, to be sure, part of the disagreement is Cain doesn't act like the noble-victim Negro that white libs prefer.

Charlotte said...

"MOTHMAN PROPHECIES also work on two level. A urbane journalist goes to some small town and looks for clues to solve some mystery. But the need to be in this strange town is psychologically linked to the loss of his wife, with whom he'd hoped to buy a home and settle down."

That's what you get out of Mothman Prophecies? Oh well. That's Hollywood.
In the John Keel book--I mean John Keel's book, you could only be homesick for Planet Earth as you thought it was.

Anonymous said...

Newest HBD term: MAMB

Give it a thumbs up:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=MAMB&defid=6154673

Anonymous said...

The Kinks' Village Green may be rock's best representation of this:

Out in the country,
Far from all the soot and noise of the city,
There's a village green.
It's been a long time
Since I last set eyes on the church with the steeple
Down by the village green.
'Twas there I met a girl called Daisy
And kissed her by the old oak tree.
Although I loved my Daisy, I sought fame,
And so I left the village green.

I miss the village green,
And all the simple people.
I miss the village green,
The church, the clock, the steeple.
I miss the morning dew, fresh air and Sunday school.

And now all the houses
Are rare antiquities.
American tourists flock to see the village green.
They snap their photographs and say "Gawl darn it,
Isn't it a pretty scene?"
And Daisy's married Tom the grocer boy,
And now he owns a grocery.

I miss the village green,
And all the simple people.
I miss the village green,
The church, the clock, the steeple.
I miss the morning dew, fresh air and Sunday school.

And I will return there,
And I'll see Daisy,
And we'll sip tea, laugh,
And talk about the village green.
We will laugh and talk about the village green.

Anonymous said...

True enough, but, sometimes you can't go home again. I rode by the Jobs family garage countless times on the way to school in the 1980s and 1990s. It was a typical nice middle-class neighborhood. Now, only the top 1% can afford to live there. This works out well for the stock-option winners, and for Baby Boomers who can sell their homes and buy palatial retirement digs in Nevada or Utah, but not so well for Affordable Family Formation, or homesick youth.




Steve wrote:

"The luckiest fate is to be raised in a place that is turning into the world hub of whatever business you are best suited for: e.g., Steve Jobs, who was adopted by a couple in Mountain View, CA in the heart of what then became Silicon Valley."

Anonymous said...

You're really at the top of your game. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Really good article (and book too, it sounds like), but it really needed something about social media.

Is blogging and facebook a form of resisting the fungibility, an aid to it, or just a second-best accommodation.

For me, blogging and stuff like this lets me live in my hometown but still get some of the discussion that my local setting doesn't offer. But it also pulls me away from my local setting.

-Osvaldo M.

Udolpho.com said...

"Is the concept of 'consciousness' fundamentally flawed?"

this is the right question to be asking imo

Anonymous said...

"but just at present the man who loves other countries as much as he does his own is quite as noxious a member of society as the man who loves other women as much as he loves his wife. Love of country is an elemental virtue, like love of home'

Too bad the US has been given away. It doesn't even feel like I belong in many parts of the country.

Anonymous said...

"A quibble--Nabokov "the supreme English language novelist of the third quarter of the 20th Century"? He is an interesting stylist, he reminds one of Updike: a lot of surface, but no moral center."

Interesting, I read a quote from Nabokov that said the only reason to read a novel is for pleasure. You shouldn't learn anything.

Anonymous said...

"Blaming corporations for everything won't do."

I think it was John Dewey who said Govt is the shadow cast by big business over society. The govt answers to corporations most of the time. The businesses want immigrants,they get them.

But the govt is to blame for welfare and Section 8 and AA. I don't think the corporations asked for that.

Anonymous said...

Immigrants and Jews are less likely to feel at home anywhere in the US and hence don't prefer State U. So the bright ones apply to Harvard, etc. disproportionally. Also, this results in "cocooning" for them, a sort of homesickness, perhaps.

I suppose this applies to nerds as well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think what the Right is feeling is homesickness but something more like home-invasive-ness. The funny paradox is EASIER OUR ACCESS TO HOME, EASIER WE LOSE HOME. It sounds ridiculous, but think of Rome. A Roman outside Rome could easily go back to Rome cuz all roads led to Rome. But that also meant all NON-Romans could also use those roads to enter(and later sack)Rome. Similarly, all roads lead to 'home'.
With modern communication/transportation, we can all easily go back home. Before airplanes or modern ships, immigrants who came to America really came to stay. It was an epic journey coming here, and it would have been another epic journey going back. Today, a POlish-American can get on a plane and fly back to Poland in several hrs. The problem is... so can everyone else. European-Americans can go back to Europe to visit and see the old world--their 'home' civilization--with ease. Airplanes, cars, roads, hotels, etc. So easy and convenient. But so can hoardes of non-Europeans.
So, it's not like we're losing home due to lack of access. It's due to too easy an access. So yes, all of humanity has become fungible and floaty all over.

Anonymous said...

There is homesickness but also something that might be called
sick(of)homeness. For young people, high school is like a second home--friends, dances, clubs, etc. When we graduate, it's like exile from this 'youth home', which is why many people wonder, 'what is happening with so-and-so? Where are they now?'
So, there's the thing called 'homecoming' and school reunions though, to be sure, I never went back. But via stuff like facebook, old schoolmates are hooking up again, and that mythic luster is gone. We find out everyone has just gotten older. (I must say it kinda made feel good cuz I remained slim and trim while so many people turned into lardass fatties.)

When I was very young, I still recall long distance calls were pricey and air travel was expensive. So, there was distance between my mom and her family(in another state). But now, they can all communicate second-by-second on facebook and such stuff, so there is no mythic aura around the idea of 'home'.
Home has become the 'cyber bridge' that links us together.

I'm not even sure there's gonna be anything like individuality. Before there was internet and cellphones, one had one's thoughts and emotions and held them as one's own. Later, he or she might share 'my' thoughts or feelings with others. But with instant communication, it's like every tic and tac of thought and emotion is being uploaded and shared with friends(or strangers on facebook)at breakneck speed. It belongs to 'everyone' even before it takes shape as one's own thought or feeling.
I'm glad I came of age before the internet and cellphones.

ironrailsironweights said...

Whatever nostalgia Charles Schulz had for his childhood neighborhood in St. Paul did not carry over into his work. While he never showed the setting of Peanuts in much detail, it clearly wasn't an urban neighborhood, appearing instead to be a fairly low-density suburb.

Peter

as said...

Great article.

MQ said...

Great post thanks (inspired by what sounds like a brilliant book).

Anonymous said...

From The Waltons to Sam Waltons.

Samson J. said...

"The luckiest fate is to be raised in a place that is turning into the world hub of whatever business you are best suited for: e.g., Steve Jobs, who was adopted by a couple in Mountain View, CA in the heart of what then became Silicon Valley."

Unless you hate bustling cities and long for rural tranquility.

Really, I'm mystified by some of the comments. I have never, ever heard of anybody being dismissed as "childish" for being homesick. It's *normal* to have a deep emotional attachment to the region in which one grew up!

Maybe the expectation that a person be geographically mobile is one of those subtle Canadian-American differences, and that's why I don't get it. Certainly in the part of Canada where I was raised you're basically a weirdo if you move away from home and *don't* have a longing to go back.

slumber_j said...

Funny that TITLES IN ALL CAPS Anonymous refers to Midnight Run. The scene in which the Di Niro and Grodin characters visit the home of Di Niro's ex-wife and also encounter his now-awkward-adolescent daughter has always struck me as a particularly painful evocation of a certain kind of homesickness (here made even more poignant by estrangement):


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_C__u5ufI0

Five Daarstens said...

Steve:

One of your best posts. I too have a longing for my home town that I have only gotten over in recent years.

Anonymous said...

Steve, Reg Caesar, ironrailsironweights and others too, you might like these books.

Bantam said...

"There is no such beauty
As where you belong"


Stephen Paulus

Anonymous said...

I thought that a trait of my generation -- b. 1960s -- was rootlessness. My father was a physicist who worked for a corporation that moved him every two years. We lived on the East coast, Silicon Valley and places in between. I LOVED moving. I'd press my nose to the window of the station wagon as we left the old neighborhood and imagine what I could be and do in the new place. It was great. New things ... new people ... new experiences ... I wouldn't have traded it for the world.

Now, don't ask me where I'm from, because I can't answer that question. Bi-coastal? American mutt?

Anonymous said...

Obviously, Steve is no longer writing these posts. I haven't really decided if this is an improvement.

RIP, Sailer. can't say it was good knowing you. In fact it was probably an altogether bad experience.

Now that you're gone, Eh.

Steve Sailer said...

Cool, I've got my own "Paul is dead" conspiracy theorist.

But then that raises the question of who Steve really was? How do we know he was Steve, anyway? If Steve is dead now, who died recently who might have been the real Steve? John McCarthy? Moomar Kazzafi? Steve Jobs? All three?

Maya said...

"Now, don't ask me where I'm from, because I can't answer that question. Bi-coastal? American mutt?"

Could it be that you simply love your country and feel lucky to have esperienced it from many different sides? In school (I've experienced public school as either a student or a teacher in 4 different countries) we read novels and learn stories from different types of regions and about different types of people in our country. I've always felt some sort of an ownership of all those American experiences by association. Even though I'd, probably, be extremely unhappy on a farm, "Little House on a Prairie" makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. I lived and worked abroad for 3 years right after college. At that time, I considered myself very liberal. I also didn't like rap, hiphop and most current forms of black entertainment. Yet, when somebody spoke badly about African Americans or (much more often) felt the need to let me know that they hate Bush (whome I also hated) and those ignorant republican Americans, I felt extremely offended. I made it a point to not act apologetic about anything America-related with someone who dared to speak badly about it to my face, without provocation, and to point out how little the person addressing me knew about America and how invalid their opinion was. Even though I had little to do with either, the AMERICAN blacks and the AMERICAN republicans were MINE, as far as interacting with the non-Americans was concerned. I think it's easy to feel ownership of the whole symbolically united country as a very young person, and especially so as a child. I wonder if you'd have felt more home sick if your family moved to Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

Svigor said...

But that also meant all NON-Romans could also use those roads to enter(and later sack)Rome.

Indeed. I've been reading about the migration period lately and it seems pretty obvious to me that success destroyed Rome. There's more to it than that, since the eastern empire thrived for another 600 years and its capital didn't fall for another 400. But basically, I don't see what all the fuss is about; the Germanics got the memo and went to the money.

Kylie said...

Thanks for one of your very best posts and thanks to all who commented.

The concept of home resonates with me more deeply than anything else. When I come home after even a short absence, I'm overcome with gratitude. I don't feel at home everywhere in America, though, only in the region in which I was born and raised. It's the land itself--its contours and trees and wildlife--not any city or building or childhood memory that means so much to me.
Country Roads by John Denver

Anonymous said...

"Cool, I've got my own "Paul is dead" conspiracy theorist."

Wait, I thought Steve is really the Gay Girl in Damascus or Amy Chua.
Given how Gaddafi ended, he really was the gay girl in Sirte.

Anonymous said...

"I LOVED moving."

It all depends. Maybe you have a wanderlust personality and moved to cool places.
Traveling I liked, moving not so much cuz my family generally moved to one cruddy place after another when I was young. I did a lot of different things but not very happy stuff.

Anonymous said...

Guys wanna conquer the world and return to home(wife and kids). It's like the comic strip Hagar the Horrible. Always comes back home to his woman. And Calvin and Hobbes are always on some adventure but also have the security of home.

If one has a home, movement becomes centrifugal and meaningful; it revolves around something. But without such centrifugal force(emotional, economic, cultural, psychological, etc), one becomes lost. It's like the Earth moves but around the Sun. Without the pull of the sun, Earth would just be a planet adrift in space. When I was young, I loved family outings but I also loved coming back home after too much fun/exhaustion.

The short story/movie THE SWIMMER(Burt Lancaster)is one of the most beguiling on this subject. The man 'swims' toward home, but there are so many barriers. And in the end, there is no home. Having lost it, he recreated it in his mind as a myth.

Anonymous said...

Centrifugal or cosmofungible.

Anonymous said...

"I think it was John Dewey who said Govt is the shadow cast by big business over society. The govt answers to corporations most of the time. The businesses want immigrants,they get them."

There is some truth to that, but there is no single entity called CORPORATE POWER. There are many many corporations--whereas there is only one federal government--,and they compete with one another. Microsoft and Oracle are not friends. Interests of Food industry and Medical Industry are not the same. And Coca Cola and Pepsi are major rivals. Many do have common interests, but economic power under capitalism is never as concentrated as political power in federal government.

Also, what would an American prefer? An America with or without its top 200 corporations?
Would a German prefer a Germany with or without its top 100 corporations? What would the Japanese economy be without its top 50 corporations(or even its top 10 corporations)?

Hey homey, do you know me? said...

Best cure for homesickness is homemakeness, and this home can be made anywhere, even far away from one's original home. In a way, all American immigrants have done just that.
There is home-as-where-the-place-is and home-as-where-the-heart-is.
A man all alone in a city of 1,000,000 can feel he has no home.
But a man in a town of only 500 but with wife and children can feel he's home. I remember seeing a PBS docu about this guy who went to live all alone in Alaska. He thought he'd be home in the wild, but he began to nuts. But he met up with some Eskimo woman and had a child. Though he was with just two other people, he felt at home.

Think of the final scene in BICYCLE THIEVES. Ricci is without a job and without a home to call his own. But he has a home when he clasps his son's hand. That is home. He belongs to his son and vice versa. Every person can make this home; it's called family.

Young people without families feel at home in big cities cuz modern world is the home of the young/hip/cool. If you're in college or freshly out of college, it's like the clubs, restaurants, streets, and etc all belong to you. It's fun as long as you're young. You feel at home in hiptopia.
But once you grow older and feel rather silly trying to remain 'young', you begin to feel out of place. The only cure is to make your own home through family.

Anonymous said...

SWPoLis.

Kylie said...

"Best cure for homesickness is homemakeness, and this home can be made anywhere, even far away from one's original home."

No. Apparently you have never experienced true homesickness.

I love my family and the home we live in, the life we have made in it. But that is quite separate from the deep, abiding attachment I feel to the area--the land--in which I was born and raised. I belong to it heart, body, soul, mind and spirit and being away from it, even when with my family, even temporariy, is painful to me.

Anonymous said...

"I love my family and the home we live in, the life we have made in it."

True, but if you HAD to move to another place, what are you gonna do? Just feel homesick forever? No, you gotta start anew and in time, you might come to accept the new place as home. (It's like the Beach Boys song 'Waiting for the Day'. The girl dumped by her boyfriend still longs for him but eventually comes to love someone else.) And for your kids growing up in this new place, it will be their HOME. And by sharing their attachment to that place, you also grow closer to that place. You get see and hear through their eyes and place. What is a new home to you is the first home to them. Same goes for culture. Rap music, for me, is what invaded and destroyed the pop culture I sued to know. But for kids who came of age in the 90s and 2000s, it was their mother's milk.

I think this is why children are important to immigrant parents. Immigrants may have come to US for jobs, opportunity, and freedom, but they may not really feel close to American culture, language, and etc. But when they see their children grow up as Americans, they too care share in some of that belongingness that they themselves cannot really feel directly. Their children become an emotional and cultural bridge to America. It's like Vito Corleone still feels primarily as a Sicilian. He had hoped Michael would join the mainstream and serve as the bridge between the family and mainstream America.

To be sure, things are somewhat different today. One can become almost fully Americanized even before setting foot in America. If you're an educated urban dweller in Mexico City, Lebanon, or Hong Kong and if you learn English and watch MTV and eat fast food, then coming and living in NY or LA isn't gonna all that much of a culture shock.
I noticed this with an Assyrian family that came to US following the Gulf War--they got booted out of Kuwait for siding with Iraqis. The kids spoke almost perfect American English and seemed to fit in all too naturally with American culture. As US becomes most globalist, rest of the world becomes more Americanized.

ironrailsironweights said...

It's the land itself--its contours and trees and wildlife--not any city or building or childhood memory that means so much to me.
Country Roads by John Denver


John Denver may have had a strong sense of home, but his knowledge of geography left much to be desired.

Peter

Jeff said...

In connection with trying to make the American sheeple more fungible, I remembered that I saw a photo of a sign at Occupy Wall Street demonstration: "We are not your human resources."

To which, I suppose the corporation replies, "Yes you are, and I find that you are very fungible."

NLF said...

Maybe the most famous movie about homesickness is none other than CITIZEN KANE. A young boy is sent away from his home to make it in the big world. But he never really forgets his old home and ma. In a way, his ambition to own the world and win the love of the people is to recreate on a large scale the home he lost. Yet the world of Rosebud is gone for good.

In CITIZEN KANE, a poor boy inherits a fortune and leaves home to become a rich man.
MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is about a boy born into a rich family and deeply possessive of his mother--so possessive that he ruins her chance of happiness. He's so attached to home that he hates outsiders and change itself; he even hates automobiles. He wants everything to remain as it is. If Charles Kane was about homesickness, the Amberson guy is about homestickness--he's so stuck to home he can't imagine living anywhere else. And it's like he wants his mom to live forever and be with him.

It's interesting that both were made by Welles, who was happy traveling around the world. He left home early and never looked back. In fact, his father took him to China and etc. Though happy being a man of the world, maybe he harbored a wish to return 'home'. CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT has Prince Hal drop Falstaff and 'return home' to fulfill his destiny as prince.

NLF said...

"In connection with trying to make the American sheeple more fungible..."

I thinketh the globo-elites are trying to mold us. So, doesn't that make us moldy?

James Kabala said...

"Androgyny is a mark of childhood"

Really? My impression is that childhood is a time when sex differences are very strongly felt. Of course it is a time before sexual desire and before fatherhood and motherhood, but that in some ways increases rather than decreases the sense of differentiation - boys and girls traditionally want nothing to do with each other. (Do kids still talk about cooties? That was already a fading tradition in my day (1980s), probably more so now.)

Anonymous said...

Hitchcock was an interesting director on the theme of home.

In many of his movies, the two most powerful emotions are that between man and woman AND that between parent and child.

Parent-and-child bond is about keeping home intact, but it can also be destructive. The parent can either be overly possessive or the child can be overly dependent. It might even develop into a weird sexual complex.

The man-and-woman bond undermines the idea of home. A man or woman must grow away from original home and make a new home with someone else. Person must lose one home to found another home. If all goes well, no problem. But things can get complicated.
Sometimes, man-and-woman bond can come between parent-and-child bond.

Norman Bates is a super mama's boy; so much so that he became his mother after he killed her. He killed her cuz her affections went to another man. A part of Norman is normal. He lusts after Janet Leigh--as a normal guy should--, but he also sees her as a threat between his bond between him and his ma.

In MARNIE, the woman is a cosmopolitan thief who changes her identity and pulls all sorts of tricks, but it turns out she has a strong attachment to mama and home. Winning her mother's approval and affection is the most important thing to her. And she sees Sean Connery as a threatening force that comes between her and her ma.

In BIRDS, Tippi Hedrin falls for a guy who still lives at home. She wants to tear the guy from his mother and sister. The mother sees the Tippi as a threat to her family order. The birds are essentially Tippi's psychic-sexual energy to wipe out all competition for the possession of the man. It's sexual energy out of the pandora's box, or out of the bird cage.

Anonymous said...

"Androgyny is a mark of childhood"

"Really? My impression is that childhood is a time when sex differences are very strongly felt."

But as a kid, I wondered why Ken doll had no dick.

Anonymous said...

"Do kids still talk about cooties?"

I remember this in the 70s when I was in city elementary school. Black kids tagging whomever didn't have their fingers crossed and saying, 'ooh ooh you got the coooootie!'

I think kids are too much into booty to care about cootie.

Kylie said...

"John Denver may have had a strong sense of home, but his knowledge of geography left much to be desired."

John Ford was the same. The Searchers opens with the words "Texas 1868" and shows what is clearly Monument Valley in Utah.

Neither one let geography get in the way of telling a good story or conveying a strong sense of home.

Kylie said...

@ NFL, what a good summary of Citizne Kane.

I don't quite agree with your comment on The Magnificent Ambersons, though.

You say, "MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS is about a boy born into a rich family and deeply possessive of his mother--so possessive that he ruins her chance of happiness. He's so attached to home that he hates outsiders and change itself; he even hates automobiles. He wants everything to remain as it is."

George Minafer hates change but not because he's so possessive of his mother. It's the family name of Amberson and the prestige it has in their city that he wants to remain exactly the same. When the film opens, the Ambersons are the most important family in their town, with the most wealth and biggest mansion. Even one of the streets was named Amberson Avenue, IIRC. This family pride is what obsesses George. By the end of the film, he's stricken when after losing everything, he sees a book about their city and notices the family name of Amberson is not even included. The Ambersons are not only gone but forgotten. Only he is left--and left with nothing.

I think Citizen Kane was primarily about place as home and The Magnificent Ambersons was primarily about place as status, though there is overlap in both films.

Anonymous said...

"The birds are essentially Tippi's psychic-sexual energy to wipe out all competition for the possession of the man."

Normally I ignore your psychotic babble. However, it's usually the threatened parent who is losing a child who uses weapons of some sort to halt time (or have an incestuous relationship, if you must use a freudian lens). Since Tippi is on mom's home turf, more than likely the birds are mom's minions out to protect her from having to face reality: she's getting old, her son's in the prime of his life and about to be husband and father.

Similarly, I speculate that we'll be seeing lots of those narcissistic baby boomers having a hard time relinquishing their hold on their children as well as on their children's jobs. It's hard for people to relinquish their power and preeminence. Just try to take your mom or dad's DL away when they're no longer competent to drive and you'll see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

"...boys and girls traditionally want nothing to do with each other. "

In my experience, the cootie phase is a creepy awareness of sexual differences right before kids hit puberty. Before this period, they interact freely and innocently; after, there's usually a certain amount of flirtation involved.

Anonymous said...

Country music culture is interesting and contradictory when it comes to home. Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn never wanted to go back and settle back down in their cruddy old towns. They wanted to be BIG STARS in the big world. But so many of their songs about home, simple virtues of rustic life, and standing by their man.
(Tammy dumped her first hubby for her career.)

And do we really want Holly Golightly to go back home with Buddy Epson in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S and become Lulu May again? On the other hand, we don't want her to go off to Brazil either.

Anonymous said...

, it clearly wasn't an urban neighborhood, appearing instead to be a fairly low-density suburb.
Norman Rockwell loved country settings, as did Disney (The real guy) both were raised primarily in cities but did not like them and had 'ideal summers' on a farm.

Anonymous said...

"Normally I ignore your psychotic babble. However, it's usually the threatened parent who is losing a child who uses weapons of some sort to halt time (or have an incestuous relationship, if you must use a freudian lens)."

No, I'm right and you're wrong, so just shaddap.

Anonymous said...

The two top movies on the 2002 Sight and Sound poll of best movies are CITIZEN KANE and VERTIGO. One's about homesickness and the other is about lovesickness. But both emotions are similar. Characters in both long for something/someone that's gone for good: Childhood home and some beautiful woman.
And yet, both Rosebud and Madeline are bogus myths. Kane's childhood was actually quite cruddy surrounded by poverty and a drunken abusive father. Kane's memory made it into something it was not. And 'Madeline' is doubly fake: the woman fooled Scotty and she is still alive.
Both movies wittingly or not comment on the mythology of movies. As something 'more real than real', we've come to prefer myth over reality, almost to the point of seeing myth for reality.

There's some of that in Leone's films too. Why would a kid who grew up in Italy--and has never been to America until much later--feel nostalgia for the American West and NY gangsters? His nostalgia should have been for where he grew up. But he was bored by humdrum reality around him and found his 'home' in the movies. With Hollywood movies as his imaginary home, he longed for the cowboys and gangsters and made mythic nostalgic movies about them.
Truffaut also hated his home life. He found his truer home in the movies.
And at home, Spielberg didn't really feel at home. He found his real home on TV than in the home itself(and the neighborhood full of goy kids). Home was homedrum. Disney movies on TV carried him away to his 'real home'.

Movies and TV are thus like time machine portals to another time and place that is both outside time and time-specific. For example, West is both a bygone place and an eternal place(one where we can return anytimes through movies). I think many Americans developed their sense of being-home-at-America through the mythology of movies and popular culture. An immigrant who lived his whole life in NY city watched John Wayne movies and felt a connection to Pioneer America. JAZZ SINGER is about a Jews who comes to feel American by singing Negro songs.

Also, any movie--whatever its subject or theme--can have nostalgic value for the fact that one saw it in one's youth. For those who saw ANIMAL HOUSE in 1979, re-watching it is like entering a time machine(though the movie itself has nothing to do with nostalgia).
Incidentally, one of the biggest hits in France was AMELIE, a movie about nostalgia; its heroine tries to help people reconnect to their golden past. The French Left attacked it for its nostalgia-mongering--for a time when France was more white.

Btw, the S&S top 10 list also include TOKYO STORY, GODFATHER, and SUNRISE, all movies where the theme of home is central. I guess all them liberal critics deep down inside have a hankering for home themselves. SEARCHERS is also a big favorite among critics, and it's about two men trying to bring a white girl back home.

Anonymous said...

What happens when outsiders know more about one's 'home' than one does?

This occurred to me when I was speaking to some young German tourists in a cafe. They were talking about American pop culture--TV shows and music and etc--, and I didn't know what the hell they were talking about(though I spent all my life in this country). I don't watch TV and don't listen to most contemp music. They knew more about American 'culture' than I did. I kinda tried to fake my knowledge of recent culture by naming some hiphop stars(whose names I gleaned from news items) and saying I didn't care too much for them, but they caught me real good. I said, 'Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye, Slim Shady.... yeah, they're okay but it's just not my stuff...'
The guy said, 'wait, Eminem and Slim Shady, they are the same person'. Oops. I didn't know that.
I'm American but I know very little of what happens to be current American culture--not least cuz most of it's shit.

Then, there is the case of outsiders knowing INTELLECTUALLY more about one's home, people, etc. Jews read a lot and have good memory. An urban Jew in the North who has no affinity for the American South, Christianity, Confederacy, and etc may actually know more about those things than a white Southerner who wants to preserve them. Oftentimes, liberal intellectual Jews win the argument cuz they know MORE about the history and culture of the people who are trying to defend it. So, if a neo-Confederate says he wants to defend his heritage for so-and-so facts and reasons, the Jewish liberal will say, 'but the real history was actually such-and-such, and therefore, your argument is based on false premise and your sacred memory is all based on lies'.
Even if liberal Jews have no affection for the home of goyim, they may know more about it factually and intellectually and thus win the argument as to how things really were and gain the legtimacy of how things really should be remembered and shaped for the sake of deciding the future of the goy people.
Jews are smart not only in guarding the narrative of their own history and home but in takign over and dominating the narrative of 'home' of non-Jewish peoples.

Laban said...

dearieme - "It occurs to me that this is yet another reason why so many young Britons move to London. There you can repeatedly change jobs without a need to move house - and, since the same incentives apply to all the rest of your age group, there's a good chance that many of your friends from school and university will pitch up too."

Yes, but what happens when Ben and Chloe have children ?

Kylie said...

"Btw, the S&S top 10 list also include TOKYO STORY, GODFATHER, and SUNRISE, all movies where the theme of home is central."

I'd say the theme of family, rather than home, is central to these films. in Sunrise, the couple's marital problems start at home on their farm and they don't renew their love until they're away from home in the city. In Tokyo Story, the ageing parents go from one adult child's home to the next. There is room in the actual homes of these children for their parents to visit but the children don't make room in their hearts for the parents who raised them. And surely in The Godfather, the central message is that of family above all. Michael is instantly accepted when he goes to Italy because he's family.

"I guess all them liberal critics deep down inside have a hankering for home themselves."

Yeah, they're a bunch of hypocrites. So what else is new?

"SEARCHERS is also a big favorite among critics, and it's about two men trying to bring a white girl back home."

The Searchers is a favorite among discerning critics who can see past the purported "racism" of the film. But it is not about two men trying to bring a white girl back home. Ethan Edwards, who hates Comanche Indians for killing his mother, among other things, wants to find Debbie and kill her because he believes she's been tainted by contact with the Comanche. Marty accompanies him to try to prevent the murder. I think the film is more about identity in the context of family: What do you have to be and do to merit inclusion in a family?

Anonymous said...

"So, if a neo-Confederate says he wants to defend his heritage for so-and-so facts and reasons, the Jewish liberal will say, 'but the real history was actually such-and-such, and therefore, your argument is based on false premise and your sacred memory is all based on lies'. "

This is so completely untrue. Liberal Jews aren't at all concerned with factual history. It's all just creation of narratives of victimhood so they can rally more troops for the Marxist cause.

You obviously don't know much about history or critical theory.

Anonymous said...

"I'd say the theme of family, rather than home, is central to these films. in Sunrise, the couple's marital problems start at home on their farm and they don't renew their love until they're away from home in the city. In Tokyo Story, the ageing parents go from one adult child's home to the next. There is room in the actual homes of these children for their parents to visit but the children don't make room in their hearts for the parents who raised them. And surely in The Godfather, the central message is that of family above all. Michael is instantly accepted when he goes to Italy because he's family."

That sounds about right(and your point on Searchers too, though I think Ethan is really conflicted in the search. Initially, it is to save her and later to kill her. But even killing her is like 'bringing her back home'. Since she has been defiled by savages, she can only be purified and redeemed through death), but I was talking home more of as a metaphor than a specific entity. A psychological sense of placement and displacement.

Interestingly enough, Jonathan Rosenbaum compiled two books called 'Moving Places' and 'Placing Movies'.

Anonymous said...

"This is so completely untrue. Liberal Jews aren't at all concerned with factual history. It's all just creation of narratives of victimhood so they can rally more troops for the Marxist cause."

History is so rich and complex that there's are tons of facts. It all depends on 'which facts'. Since Jews have encyclopedic minds that can memorize and organize tremendous amount of facts, they usually win the argument. Not because they are necessarily correct but because they regurgitate more selective facts to make their case.

There is an element of this in psychology too. If Jewish historians say to goyim, "I know more about your history and culture than you do", Jewish psychologists said, "I know more about your mind and emotions than you do." Thus, a psychologist can gain power over his patient. Think of Eugene Landy and Brian Wilson. Wilson was his virtual mind-prisoner for over a decade.

Kylie said...

"I think Ethan is really conflicted in the search. Initially, it is to save her and later to kill her."

But that's not really a conflict. When he thinks she can be rescued quickly (before, as he says, "she's of an age to..."), he wants to find her and bring her back alive. But once she's been with the Indians long enough that she's become the wife of one, he wants to kill her. For him, it's solely a question of whether or not she's been tainted by having relations with a Comanche.

"But even killing her is like 'bringing her back home'."

Good point and beautifully put.

" Since she has been defiled by savages, she can only be purified and redeemed through death), but I was talking home more of as a metaphor than a specific entity. A psychological sense of placement and displacement."

I'm not sure you can make that distinction in Westerns, particularly Ford's Westerns. Mrs. Jorgenson's remarks seem to blend the two, the specific place with the sense of belonging: "It just so happens we be Texicans. Texican is nothin' but a human man way out on a limb, this year and next. Maybe for a hundred more. But I don't think it'll be forever. Some day, this country's gonna be a fine good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come."

Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful and insightful reply. As you may have noticed, this movie is a favorite of mine. I don't ever feel more at home than when watching it--it is a kind of homecoming to me.

Anonymous said...

"Since Jews have encyclopedic minds that can memorize and organize tremendous amount of facts, they usually win the argument. Not because they are necessarily correct but because they regurgitate more selective facts to make their case. "

Not really. They focus on emotional impact, framing in essence. I've known some Jews who probably wouldn't want to have to live up to your glorified image of their mental processing (more mathematically inclined, I guess). Articulate and focused on moral implications, yes: encyclopedic brains, not so much.

What's with the smugness, btw?????????