Peace and Prosperity of the late 80's and 90's
August 20, 2006 12:27 AM   Subscribe

I found myself warm and nostalgic today for the brief period between the end of the cold war and the war on terror. Do you think history will look at it as a very good time to be alive or is this just me being a nostalgic Gen x-er?
posted by Deep Dish to Society & Culture (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think you'll find general agreement that the Clinton years, which overlapped the dot-com boom, were pretty good for a lot of people. Ah, for the Democrats and Republicans to be too busy arguing over the president's genitalia to actually meddle in domestic policy again.
posted by kindall at 12:46 AM on August 20, 2006


(Or foreign policy, for that matter.)
posted by kindall at 12:46 AM on August 20, 2006


Yeh, I've thought about this same topic a lot myself, but I've come to the conclusion that historians will look down at and perhaps even feel pity for us and our leaders. And by us, I mean The Western Democracies.

Instead of taking a long, critical look at the world and the situation at that time, we were oblivious of reality, high fiving each other, celebrating "The End of History". What hubris. We could have been proactive, building on success, anticipating and working to increase communication and understanding, negating future problems and taking steps to head off conflict.

Instead look at the mess we've got.
posted by Mutant at 12:56 AM on August 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


The War on Terror is just rhetoric. Things are still good. And also, even the end of the Cold War was relatively good times in the West. There hasn't been bad times since the 1970s when inflation and the last oil price rise stalled things and the Vietnam War was killing people in large numbers.

Things are still pretty good. China's development means that millions of people's lives are being improved.

You're in Canada, some of your provinces are giving out prosperity checks it's such good times.

Are you really afraid of dying in an act of guerrilla warfware?

It was slightly better in the 1990s, but not that much. And in many places it wasn't nearly as good as it is now, for instance, India, China or Russia.

When there is a draft in Canada or there is a real depression then we can say things are bad but we are still living in good times, don't let Bush and his insanities get you down. Don't let nostalgia get the better of you too much. It's all good.
posted by sien at 1:22 AM on August 20, 2006


I think at least as a great time to be alive in America.
posted by shanevsevil at 1:33 AM on August 20, 2006


Yes I am in Canada. I live about a two hour drive from the US missile silos in North Dakota. I had no illusions about what would have happened to me had push come to shove during the cold war. I was very young and it made it hard for me to sleep at night when the tension went up a notch. My relation to the cold war were during its lasts gasps in the 80's.

I've lived in a few other parts of the world too, including Vietnam under communism - it wasn't that bad. The cold war politics don't interest me much nor do the US political parties - which to an outsider really aren't much different.

I am not afraid of dying in a Guerilla warfare, even though I once attended a summit which right-wing groups in South Africa tried to bomb. The fact is though, that no man is an island, and I can see the possibility for massive amounts of death overseas even though I live far away from anything that could be considered the "front lines" in the war on terror. I don't like to see it, and like the cold war I really have trouble figuring out what the payoff is for me, my family, and my neighbours.

I live in one of the more economically backward parts of Canada, but I am not poor.

I happened to be on my lunchbreak Friday when I saw a military funeral for a guy who was killed in Afghanistan. It occurred to me that I had never seen one before and it used to be young Soviet men dying there and its weird that we have switched roles - I think we are in an awkward spot when we are picking up where the "evil empire" left off.

I realize my thought process is scattered, and I am flipping ideologies freely - but this question would not have even come to mind 10 years ago.
posted by Deep Dish at 1:52 AM on August 20, 2006


The real Golden Age was the time between the invention of the contraceptive pill and the discovery of AIDS.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:58 AM on August 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


As long as you weren't sent to Vietnam....
posted by sien at 3:15 AM on August 20, 2006


America, in many ways, hit a nadir in the 70s. International politics were strained by the cold war. But we also suffered through a rash of problems on the home front that make our domestic issues today seem trivial.

Inner cities were plagued with urban blight, abandoned buildings, depressing porn theaters, and desperate poverty. Racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks were accepted with an amazing degree of alacrity. Kids in urban and remote rural areas would often go to bed hungry.

Today, most inner cities are back on their feet (though tottering sometimes). And hunger is no longer on the socioeconomic radar in the US, even among the extreme poor. Indeed, we've replaced hunger with the obesity epidemic. Not a perfect tradeoff, yes, but it's an indicator of how far we've come.

These are good times.
posted by Gordion Knott at 3:21 AM on August 20, 2006


Interesting, though, what people consider good times: I recently read a book about the effects of the great depression on people's lives (in Australia) The gist of it was that although the depression is portrayed as dire and terrible, people who actually lived then remember it with some happiness. Everyone had a vegetable garden, people'd go hunting for rabbit and the like, and there was a lot of community spirit and resourcefulness going on. Now what do we do? Slump on the couch watching Jerry Springer. All I can say, Deep Dish, is that it's all relative.
posted by lazy robot at 5:52 AM on August 20, 2006


I think the 1990's will be viewed the say we now view the 1920's.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 7:17 AM on August 20, 2006


Do you think history will look at it as a very good time to be alive or is this just me being a nostalgic Gen x-er?

i'm 49 and i thought it was a very good time ... the 60s were good, too, but very discordant ... the time period from 1973 to about 1989 rather sucked ... in the 90s, things seemed like they were on the right track, except for the government, but then the government hasn't seemed right for a long time

i tend to relate times to music ... i still think 1967 was the best year for popular music ever ... but i'm not speaking as an old fogie, because i think the 2nd best year was 1991 ...

during the 90s, i felt pretty optimistic about my life and the life of the world as a whole ... even though jobs sometimes folded on me, it was nothing to get another one ... i don't think i could say that now, although it's nothing like what the 70s was

our current times are strange ... it kind of feels like people are in this dreamstate divorced from reality and the awakening might be pretty rude ... the times seem fairly good, but i don't know if they really are or if we're heading towards something bad

my only other observation is that it's surprising how little some things have changed, having grown up in a world where it seemed that everything was going to change ...
posted by pyramid termite at 7:25 AM on August 20, 2006


The real Golden Age was the time between the invention of the contraceptive pill and the discovery of AIDS.

Or the period between the introduction of antibiotics and the discovery of AIDS.

Once modern medicine established cures for the common STDs, there was a relatively brief window of time in the 20th century where the only likely way that intercourse could get you dead (aside from death in childbirth, of course) was if a pistol-packing significant other found you in flagrante delicto.
posted by enrevanche at 8:48 AM on August 20, 2006


It is possible that you are nostalgic for the other things than you think. What does young adulthood (of any times) share with people who lived in very trying times in the past? Deep, emotional satisfying friendships. Hardships make people support each other - that's how they get through them. Young adulthood is also a time of strong and rich friendships.

As time passes, the forces of atomization in our lives and societies tend to lesson those those friendships.

So the present, however good, is compared to what might be, and always found wanting, while the past is seen through the lens of warm friendships passed, and is usually golden.
posted by Jos Bleau at 8:54 AM on August 20, 2006


I don't think Canada suffered as badly as the US in the 70s. However, Canada did suffer terribly when the Hong Kong real estate bubble burst (around 1992?). The recession in Ontario in the early 90s was quite bad, and there was major (disasterous?) political change around the same time.

To some extent the late 90s did offer something.. Not only was it economically good times, but there were some societal changes afoot, for example The collapse of globalism. Of course the regime that replaced it is the one you are complaining about :P You can't have everything..
posted by Chuckles at 9:20 AM on August 20, 2006


Yes, it will be seen as a spectacularly good time to have been alive, a breather between one global clash of ideologies and another.
posted by Dasein at 9:56 AM on August 20, 2006


And hunger is no longer on the socioeconomic radar in the US, even among the extreme poor.

This is most certainly not the case. According to the Oregon Food Bank, 876,000 people ate from an emergency food box last year (source). Hunger is up dramatically all over rural America. As industrial and resource-based economic engines sputter to a stop, rural Americans are seeing less of a "changing job market" and more of a death of opportunity. Another article.

It is very disappointing to hear someone blithely declare that there is no more hugner in the US. Much of the contry is worse off than it has been at any time since the depression, and the rift between these people and metro/suburban American is growing every day. I hope we don't end up with some sort of "white trash caste" who we all just laugh at and crap on.

Hunger is a serious and growing problem in the United States, and disproportionately among children.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 5:07 PM on August 20, 2006


It seems to me that when looking at history and identifying a good time to be alive, one would be considering chunks of time that are at least a lifetime in length.
posted by winston at 6:04 PM on August 20, 2006


Inner cities were plagued with urban blight, abandoned buildings, depressing porn theaters, and desperate poverty. Racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks were accepted with an amazing degree of alacrity. Kids in urban and remote rural areas would often go to bed hungry.

this is still the case. come to philadelphia or detroit (the only two cities i have experience with and feel i can speak about). urban blight and abandoned buildings and porn theaters are all over the place. so is poverty. but it's not where the tourists go, so that's why it's invisible to the people that don't live in the blighted areas.

racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks are STILL accepted with alacrity, everywhere, regardless of economic standing.

hunger, as ignatius says, is still an issue in america.

i am a bit younger than the OP, but i too look at those few years as a 'better time'. gas was cheap, music was good, there were jobs for the taking. it was unimaginable to me that i would graduate from college and not get a good job right away.

unfortunately, i graduated after the war on terror began (i use that as a time stamp rather than a cause) and jobs are not so easy to find, nor do they pay as well, nor are benefits as good.

i don't know if history will look at the 90s as a good time to be alive, and i know that some of my thinking (and the OPs) is simply nostalgia. but i think those years were better--in america--than this year and the few years prior.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:37 AM on August 21, 2006


I don't think Canada suffered as badly as the US in the 70s.

Who was suffering in the 1970s? Best time of my life! (I'm 52.) Although to some it was a sloppy era, never before or since have black and white people gotten along so well.

But yes, I think history will look upon the 1990s as a time of peace and prosperity.
posted by Rash at 8:58 AM on August 21, 2006


The Onion's Bush: 'Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over' was an early (January 17, 2001) adopter of this view.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:01 AM on August 21, 2006


One thing to consider is that these moments in history which either point to good or bad times are all relative. While many would consider the 90s (the Clinton years) as good years, during his watch the Taliban was doing its thing, Osama was planning his things, and Saddam was doing his thing.

Those were pretty bad times for the people affected. And, while we were having our good times here in the States, the seeds were being sown for the world we live in now.

This is all to say that vantage point is important and rather than think of discrete periods of time as either good or bad, it's probably more realistic to think of overlapping periods of good and bad --an ebb and flow.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 10:40 AM on August 21, 2006


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