[dark ruminations in the dark hours…]
“I too attained majority and blossomed toward adulthood in the `80s, the 1980s, that is, swimming pools and movie stars, gleefully embracing the Morning in America zeitgeist that permeated throughout what all right-thinking people viewed as the Free World. Finally, to shuck off the heavy burden that we’d been existing under, the so-called ‘post-war consensus’. Consensus? Nobody asked me. Consensus, what consensus?
What was so great about being middle-class anyway, the greatest ‘achievement’ of that era, elevating the standards of living for the masses. And for what? Jackie Collins? Charlie’s Angels? Women’s Lib indeed. Middle-crass, more like it. Declassé, I say.
Besides, if everyone wanted to be middle-class (and We all know what we mean here by ‘everyone’, Those People), how would it continue to be the middle? Just some bulging midrift, engorged on McDonald’s fast food and Pepsi-Cola, oozing sloth and prerogative. We got soft, it was said. Forgot or even despised the notion of hard-work and obeyance of our betters. We got uppity, to use the parlance of the times.
Keynesian thinking brought us to this point. The time had come for some olde time Chicago school. We needed a little Friedkin—No, I’m sorry. That’s not right. A little Friedman, Milton Friedman.
And Reagan chuckled, as a noted pundit recently put it.
Today’s conservatives look wistfully back on the `80s as the `80s conservatives looked wistfully back on the `50s, sometimes the 1950s, sometimes the 1850s. Both views, through rose-tinted lenses, longing for times where men were men, white, and everyone else knew their place. Sit your fanny back down while I’m speaking, little lady!
The past is never exactly the past as you remember it especially if you want to use it for partisan purposes. It’s coloured with a jaundice hue. The postwar boom ran out of gas, literally, in the 1970s. Inflation. Stagflation. Wage-price spiral. A violent crime epidemic. Cities crumbling. There were genuine problems to be sure. Problems demanding serious solutions. Instead, we opted for easy answers, answers that in no way addressed the questions being asked. Intentionally so.
Morning in America, and Reagan chuckled.
Trickle down would float all our boats. Making the rich richer would enrich everyone by growing the economic pie, leaving more crumbs to be swept from opulent tables. We were morally obligated to amass as much as humanly possible in order to pull others up by their own bootstraps! Feed, clothe and house the nation with the loose change that cascaded from our bulging pockets. It would rain prosperity down upon the masses from our billowing clouds of wealth.
Of course, Reagan chuckled.
The morning sun of the 1980s was always intended to shine on just a select few, the fewer, the better. A re-consolidation of power. The decade marked the beginning of the Great Takeback. Hard-earned gains that had been made through a couple world wars, a great depression, were all being clawed back upward under the guise of a new, untested (until Pinochet’s Chile) economic regimen. The Class War updated, given an academic spit and polish, offered up as the natural order of things.
‘There you go again’, the Cult of Reagan chuckles, more of a cackle really, poisonously avuncular, full of disdain and malevolence toward perceived apostates. Communists. Feminists. Welfare Queens. The Gays, AIDS, God’s punishment on their promiscuity according to the moral leader of the movement. Just Say No to everything but excessive displays of conspicuous consumption, flag-clutching patriotism and your MTV. Where were you when you first heard the name Donald Trump? Coked up while Sweatin’ to the Oldies.
The `80s, we’ve been taught, outspent the Soviet Union into oblivion. Amongst the rubble (ruble, haha), we joined hands with our former nemesis and danced victoriously to the music of free enterprise and political liberty, but mostly free enterprise. The End of History. After some initial growing pains and tough love, the newly minted Russian Federation proved to be adept students, rising from the ashes, weeding out the incompatible and embracing the essence of Western political economy: gangster capitalism. Holding up the mirror for us to observe, we liked what we saw in our own reflection.
There was no need for the charming chuckle anymore. No longer was it necessary to try and fool anyone into thinking we believed something we never really believed in the first place. This was us. Everyone for themselves. To the victors go the spoils. That’s what it had always been about. That’s why Ronald Reagan chuckled. The con gone mainstream. You didn’t really believe that we were all in this together, did you?