According to The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is nostalgia more harmful than helpful?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that Hamid's work shows a fundamental danger present in nostalgia. Nostalgia is what causes the denial of voice and prevents a full actualization of humanity.  Erica as a person and America as a nation are shown to both embrace nostalgia.  In the process both of them reflect the fundamental danger present in nostalgia.  

Erica's embrace in nostalgia is more harmful than helpful.  It is a plunge into something that is not real. Her love of Chris is rooted in something far from reality.  Erica embraces nostalgia precisely as a way to avoid looking at the complicated and intricate nature of reality.  In this, one can see nostalgia as a force that does not help, but rather hurts her own development.  This embrace of nostalgia silences Changez's voice as well as her own.  At the same time, when America is plunged into the spiritual chaos of the September 11 attacks, Changez perceives America embracing a nostalgic perspective precisely to avoid the conditions with which it was presented.  The nostalgia America embraces is a reversion to the America of World War II.  It is a configuration of self that silences voices to satisfy an impossible standard.  Nostalgia is shown to be a destructive voice in both cases.

For Hamid, nostalgia proves to be fundamentally destructive because it does not authenticate individual experience.  Instead, nostalgia is shown to be harmful because it takes away from individual voice and narrative.  Nostalgia is a condition in which individuals conform to an external standard where happiness is imposed and not authentically cultivated.  Nostalgia is shown to be destructive force because happiness is not sustainable. It is here in which nostalgia is shown to be more a harmful force than a beneficial one.

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