Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thoughts On The Shallow Seventies

By Manifesto Joe

This was a comment I left on Watching Those We Chose, a blog with which I am affiliated, but it was substantial enough that I felt it would be a decent post for my home site. The post there went, just peripherally, into some ways that the Seventies sucked, what with "gas lines, ugly clothes, platform shoes, high gas prices, inflation, recession and disco." Yeah, I hated all that stuff, too. But ... here's the comment:

"Like others, I hated the litany of things y'all mention about the '70s. Having been a child and young adolescent of the '60s who came of age during the '70s, the latter decade was undeniably a letdown. I was one of those disco-loathing tokers who went musically to either fusion jazz or the red meat of the rock era (circa 1964-73). At 22, I found myself oddly out of place in a youth culture suddenly turned shallow with a vengeance. I couldn't relate to punks, either -- that seemed like a rebellion of futile and deliberate ugliness.

"I experienced unemployment and underemployment during the time, was seriously injured in an industrial accident, got mistreated by newly liberated women (they discovered that they, too, could be cads!), and found myself dressing in ways that embarrass me in hindsight.

"But the 2000s have done an amazing thing -- I'm a bit nostalgic for the Shallow Seventies. There are a few things I'd like to have back. To wit:

"Liberal Republicans. Remember Jacob Javits, Clifford Case, Edward Brooke, Mark Hatfield, Pete McCloskey, Richard Schweiker, John Lindsay, Charles Percy, etc? Moderate-to-liberal politicians had a surprisingly strong presence as a minority in the GOP back then.

"A strong decrim movement. I drifted out of the pot-smoking culture many years ago, but had enough experience with it to know that it's more or less no worse over the long haul than Jim Beam. At one point we got some form of decrim in 13 states. In 1979, if you had told the 23-year-old MJ that we would still be stuck on stupid about this ...

"Good Hollywood movies. The decade came in with M*A*S*H and ended with Apocalypse Now. In between, we had The Last Picture Show, The Godfather parts I and II, The Last Detail, Chinatown, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Taxi Driver, Network, Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, and so many others. It was arguably the best era Hollywood ever had. Fewer car chases and special effects -- more actual quality. They had scripts!

"An environmental movement, Part I. This was about the time when a significant minority of Americans began to realize that oil is a finite resource, that ozone depletion is a real problem, that pollution actually kills people by inches and that animal species are dying off one by one. We actually had a president, Carter, who installed solar panels in the White House. (Reagan promptly had them taken out.)

"I could go into other things, but suffice it to say that the 2000s have made the '70s look pretty good to me in hindsight. And let me repeat, at the time I utterly detested the '70s."

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


Marc McDonald said...

Future historians will remember the 1970s as the final great decade in American history.
The beginning of the end for the American empire began in the 1980s, when the deficit tripled under Reagan---an ocean of red ink that has now spiralled out of control under George W. Bush.
Any "prosperity" America has enjoyed since the 1970s has been nothing more than a mirage, fueled by foreign capital.
It's hard to fathom today, but in the 1970s, America was the biggest CREDITOR nation in the world.
All of that seems a million years ago.
The 1970s weren't perfect by any means---but it was the last decade that I've had any moments of pride about my nation.

Burr Deming said...

Interesting thoughts. Thank you.

I shook the hand of Jacob Javits one day. I met him on an elevator on Capital Hill. It was a rare thing. Most members of either house take special elevators reserved for them alone, and the public takes any of those that are more generally open. Perhaps there was a roll call or the reserved areas were crowded for some other reason, or perhaps Senator Javits was just less elite than most elected officials. That possibility strikes be as more than plausible.

I am compelled to believe that Javits would not consider participating in the entity into which the Party of Lincoln has mutated.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

Manifesto Joe said...

Thanks for the comment, Burr. Here in Texas, Republicans have always been wingnuts. But that wasn't always so in other parts of the country. It has spread like cancer.