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Nationalism (The Lost Generation #AtoZChallenge)

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Most young people in the 1920s did feel lost, whether they had experienced war or not. They floated in a world they didn’t know how to navigate. Not a few responded to the allure of the returning hero’s myth. 

Disillusionment is a very complex concept and a very complex feeling when you need to navigate it, as the Lost Generation had to do. 
Some of these youths decided the best thing to do was give themselves to pleasure and success – if they could get it – and forget everything else, living the best hedonistic life they could get. 
Some other youths found purpose in the criticising the old regime, the old ideas and the old values that had brought them into the horrors and destruction of war, a criticism that often came from intellectuals and artists. 
However, some others listened to the chant of nationalism, hoping to find an answer to the void left by the war. 

Nationalism is male

Pinterest pin. The title reads, "The Lost Generation—Nationalism." The black-and-white picture shows a statue of an athlete with a perfect body raising his hand in salute while an eagle rests on his shoulder.

The generation that emerged from the Great War, often called the Lost Generation and sometimes the Generation of the Trenches, had one main characteristic: its youth. In the 1920s, the people who belong to it were mostly in their twenties, sometimes in their thirties, and never out of their forties.
They were angry about how the war had turned out to be – even more so in Germany, the great defeat of the conflict. They felt lost and confused by the new, incomprehensible world. They felt deeply the loss of the old values but could not replace them with new ones. Having come of age during the war, they were action men used to settle things by fighting. 

In the aftermath of WWI, many of these young people found purpose in different movements that all preached ‘revolution’, the rise of a new world, a new spring, all things that only a new generation could bring about. 
A new generation of men. Whether it revolved around a communist, nationalistic, or fascist idea, these movements took the fighting hero, the returning soldier who had fought and suffered for his nation, as the hero of the movement. He was the one who had the strength and the will to make a change. In the baptism of fire of the Great War, he was the young man who had become an adult and could now guide his nation through a new spring. 

It is not difficult to see why many young people fell for this rhetoric. 
Lost as they felt, they found answers in these movements’ ideals, which told them the war wasn’t the problem, it was the answer. That attitude to action and fighting was what would give them and their entire nation a chance at a new future. 
All these movements—but fascism in particular—sang the young soldiers, the athletes, the men of action who didn’t lose themselves in abstraction and too much thinking as the main actors of the revolution that would lead the world to a new era. 

In this context, women were pushed to the side. 
When they made significant social advancements, they threatened male self-esteem, which the war had already heavily damaged. Therefore, all these movements—except communism, at least initially—had a very strong male-orientated allure. Women were there to follow and support; the man was the one meant to lead. 

In many respects, this attitude seems to go against everything the Lost Generation represented. But it did provide an answer to their loss, in a way, and many took that answer up, as it seemed to turn their vulnerability into power. 

Nationalism (The Lost Generation #AtoZChallenge) – Most young people in the 1920s felt lost, floating in a world they didn't know how to navigate. Not a few responded to the allure of the returning hero's myth #history #1920s Share on X

Enzo Travero, A ferro e fuoco. La guerra civile europea (1914-1945), Il Mulino, Bologna, 2008 (Fire and Blood: The European Civil War, 1914-1945, Verso Publishers, 2016)


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