Countless kids sitting at countless desks for countless years have listened to countless teachers drone on and on about events that occurred years and years and years ago. History is a subject that learners found either fascinating or totally without merit. As in certain math classes, the question always asked was, “When am I ever going to need to know this stuff?”
For me, the answer to the math question has been, “Seldom.” Adding, subtracting, multiplying, dividing? All very useful. But algebraic equations and whatever the heck all those plane geometry theorems were all about? Not so much. But that’s just me.
I have, however, seen the wisdom of learning about what came before us. And that’s mainly because, just as your teacher might have mentioned, history does tend to repeat itself. And if we know what happened to a previous civilization, perhaps we can take some steps to avoid the same pitfalls it had. That’s the theory anyhow.
Why mention all this now? Well, because I think we who inhabit planet Earth, and especially the good ol’ U.S. of A., might have been stuck with an already-used decade. Does anybody remember the 1970s? It appears to me that the 2020s could be headed for a repeat of those ten years.
For example: The two Presidents of the United States early on in both decades left office under a somewhat similar dark gray cloud. Even though one had fewer supporters than the other, there was still a deep divide as to how effective each had been while in office. Both had questionable personality traits. And the shadow cast by the former Oval Office occupants influenced politics and the national discussion long past their time in office.
Current clothing styles seem to be heading backward. I saw a young woman in a store the other day wearing bell bottom jeans that could easily have come from Cher’s closet back in the day. And she had on a tie-dyed shirt. Are plaid pants, matching vests, leisure suits, and big pointy collars coming next?
Gas prices are on the rise, just as in 50 years ago. In 1973, Arab members of the Organization of Petrol Exporting Countries (OPEC) wanted to punish oil-needy nations that had supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War. It embargoed the petrol, and prices rose 70% or so. That was followed at the end of the decade by the strikes in Iranian oilfields after the Shah was overthrown in the Iranian revolution. Lines at the pumps were long, tempers were short, and the price of a gallon of gas skyrocketed. Fortunately, we’ve heard very little from Iran since then, right? Russian hackers, on the other hand . . . . (By the way, in case you weren’t cognizant of world events in the 70s, the Russkies weren’t exactly nice to play with back then either.)
Inflation went through the roof in the 1970s. Why? Well, there was a long-time war we were trying to end, an increase in international competition, the loss of manufacturing jobs, and rising unemployment. Any of that sound familiar now? I’m telling you we’ve been stuck with an already-used decade.
There’s no denying technology is totally different today versus the 1970s. But what’s remained the same is our desire to own and operate the latest and greatest. In the mid-to-late part of the long-ago decade, those in the know couldn’t wait to get their hands on a Tandy Radio Shack TRS-80, a Commodore Business Machine’s Personal Electronic Transactor (PET), or an Apple II, from a smallish competitor. Now many millions of us clamor for the newest phone, laptop, or other device on which we can be in touch with the world whenever we want to be wherever we are.
Federal government spending on social programs took a dramatic leap in the 70s. Richard Nixon, strangely enough, pushed through a large amount of health and human service legislation and added greatly to the Fed’s responsibility for social welfare. And Jimmy Carter created the now massive Department of Education as well as watched interest rates climb to 18 and even 20%. There’s probably no need to mention the additional federal spending on today’s White House agenda and the soon-to-occur, inevitable rise in the cost of borrowing money.
I’m telling you, if disco makes a comeback (heaven forefend) and the Cincinnati Reds start winning World Series games again, well, in the immortal words of that master linguist, Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
© MMXXI. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer