The Coming Home Syndrome strikes sometimes. Those who remember Tony Capstick’s parody of the 1970s Hovis bread advertisement on British television will recognize the Coming Home Syndrome, it’s the memory playing tricks, not recording things quite as they were. Tony Capstick’s rejection of the sentimentalization of a grim past includes,
Do you know, when I were a lad you could get a tram down into t’town, buy three new suits an’ an overcoat, four pair o’ good boots, go an’ see George Formby at t’Palace Theatre, get blind drunk, ‘ave some steak an’ chips, bunch o’ bananas an’ three stone o’ monkey nuts an’ still ‘ave change out of a farthing.
Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the Coming Home Syndrome; if it makes people happy, where’s the harm in remembering things not quite as they were? What’s wrong with the “good old days”?
Maybe the problem arises not with the story telling, but with people being so caught up with the story that they want to return to the past – like the reappearance of the Communists and the emergence of neo-Nazi groups. Can anyone really wish for a return to countries under the likes of Stalin or Hitler? It’s the Coming Home Syndrome carried to its logical extreme – our countries were strong and powerful in these times, therefore our memories must be good ones, never mind the misery or suffering or the countless deaths.
The proposal to establish a Truth Commission here in Ireland similar to the commission that worked in South Africa seems a positive move, but each person will expect any such commission to support their version of the “truth”. Different groups’ memories will be very different and there will be a very real danger of the Coming Home Syndrome striking.
Furthermore, how effective was the South African commission? The arrival of a stream of South Africans in Europe suggests that peace and reconciliation were perhaps not so readily achieved.
Maybe we just need to move on as a 21st Century European society and leave how much you could get for a farthing to the fireside and the bar stools.