Seems Like Old Times

Philanthropy is often about solving problems. Which sounds future-oriented: make a better tomorrow.

But sometimes the problem is loss: a way of life, a community, is falling apart, and needs preservation.

Is there a nostalgic mode of philanthropy?

Historic preservation, cultural continuity – is this inherently conservative? Or is there something progressive in fighting the worst tendencies of the day? We’ve become accustomed, in the current political discourse, to think of fighting the future (demographic change, diversification, growing immigration) as hearkening back to a distant past (the 50s). But what if there’s a way of fighting the future, of seeking to conserve, that’s about preserving elements of the current social contract that deserve to endure? (Like, I dunno, Medicare.)

Everything old is new again, but some things that were new deserve to become old – and constant.

Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen’s well-reviewed new movie, is about a struggling author whose first novel is about a man who runs a nostalgia shop. The arc is that the writer has to learn to live in the present – by understanding that every age has a time about which it’s nostalgic, so there’s no point living in the past. But is that the lesson? Or is it that there are elements of the past that are worth preserving, even against the tide of the constantly new.

What’s different about the current moment is we have more power to preserve than ever. Our Facebook accounts, our cameraphones – this blog – capture moments, feelings, thoughts, that were once ephemeral. I wonder if the artists of this new medium will be the nostalgists, the ones who find a way to extract the solid core from the swirl of data and hold on to it, even for a little while….


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3 Responses to “Seems Like Old Times”

  1. The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" » Blog Archive » Start Me Up Says:

    […] asked the other day whether there’s a nostalgic mode of philanthropy, and I’m beginning to think that there […]

  2. The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" » Blog Archive » Where Everybody Knows Your Name Says:

    […] written about a nostalgic mode of philanthropy. What I’m describing is a nostalgic mode of commerce. […]

  3. The Blog Briefly Known as "Democratizing Philanthropy?" » Blog Archive » Three Times One Minus One Says:

    […] there a nostalgic mode of […]

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