Populism, Myth, and the Fictional Good Ol’ Days

Owen Billo

Some kind of populist myth is mentioned in all of the articles this week, but most prominently in the Bull article. When Bull discusses the role of memory in populist discourse, it is that memory is being hijacked by myth to promote a “people” and their supposed “good ol’ days.” Those good ol’ days are a fiction constructed by the myth, but people’s memories are easily corrupted so they start to remember the past differently. Once people believe in a fictionalized past, it is easy for someone to say “x took that away from you” and the antagonism of populism begins.

In the Molnar article, the above sentiment is reflected in a partially medieval aesthetic reminiscent of the obsession with the medieval world that we read about earlier. One German man says of the Turkish immigrants something like “they had kicked out the Turks at Vienna in 1683 and should not be letting them in now.” The Kalb article about Eastern Europe shows a more interesting myth in that the good ol’ days are not as clear, but there is still the “x took that away from you” sentiment. After the collapse of the USSR, people in Eastern Europe had hope, but that hope was crushed by the failures of mass privatization, which they associated with liberalization. This resulted in the myth that “liberalism took your hope away from you.” The Mamonova/Franquesa/Brooks article shows the most clear ‘good ol’ days’ sentiment in discussing the rural-urban divide, where for rural-dwellers the time before urban migration was better but the amount to which it was better has been exaggerated. The result is a resentment towards ‘urban elites’ for luring their population away. Resentment also appears to be a common theme.

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