Think Twice, It’s Alright

The New Puritan ReView
Minneapolis, MN
January 1990

The ’80s are over. Finally. I really thought for a while, that the decade would outlive us. I kind of remember most of it as a phase we were going through, like so many others, the point of which was to kick out our growing pains. Trouble is – was – that there wasn’t much to outgrow. It was a decade in which Andy Warhol’s theory about fifteen minutes of fame rang true the most, as the tale of one fad went down the throat of the next; and for many, cultural trends were synonymous with political consciousness.

Punk posturing barely made it into the decade as the dying gasp of the late ’70s, and seemingly has been trying to establish itself as the new left-wing ever since; spawning pseudo-activist organizations loosely based upon the ideals of 17th-century anarchists and ’60s radicals. Predictably, many of the movements were co-opted by conservative media and an endless stream of fashion-conscious entrepreneurs, leaving a small minority of idealists and crusaders to be written off as rebels without a cause.

The most significant trait of the ’80s is that somehow it managed to escape being labeled as “the decade of…” anything at all. The ’50s will possibly always be hopelessly over-identified with “greaser” hairstyles, sock hops and hula hoops. The ’60s conjure up images of paisley and love beads, and produced bibles full of pop psychology and popular science, all designed to enhance your favorite altered state of consciousness. Oh, and let’s not forget the ’60s’ most historical monument – The Beatles. ’70s sensibilities were forged during a battle between “progressive” (re: classically influenced) rock and roll, and the bass-laden/booty-shakin’ syncopations of what many thought would mark the death of live music altogether – that technological diehard (or was it stay hard?) known as disco. Of course, as the culture bunkers collapsed, a mutant offspring rose in their place, mirroring the chaos and charisma of the dreams of children everywhere. Enter the bastard son of a mixed marriage, and it shall be called punk.

Aside from this all-too-brief synopsis of the past thirty years, the one one thing that the past few decades have in common is their introduction to one another, as they all made their comeback in the ’80s. But what will the ’80s be remembered for? A few provocative headlines in an era of economic depression named after a chief executive, and what else? Face it, the ’80s were “history” before they were over.

Is there hope for the next decade? It depends, I suppose …Can the popular media stop hiding behind sensationalism, or pretending that world corruption is an overnight phenomenon? Can an overgrown infant nation stop blaming capitalism or the government for every crisis that occurs in our everyday lives? Can individuals in a so-called “free” society stop measuring success by personal gain, or stop gauging their accomplishments with the character assassinations of others?

Okay, I admit I’m trying to bait you with some fairly difficult questions. I was just thinking about the fact that many of us born in the past few decades are old enough to be giving birth to yet another generation, and imagining the sort of questions they would be likely to ask over the next ten years. I guess I was thinking, too, that peace in our time shouldn’t be that difficult to obtain, and that for all the world’s homeless souls, home is still where the heart is. There have already been countless prophecies about the year 2000, and now it’s only ten years away. What was once the basis for so much science-fiction is going to be a part of our lives in as much time as it took most of us to get through school. Let’s see if by the time it gets here, we haven’t made some positive changes in our world, starting with this year, the first year of the ’90s. Any and all cliched sentiments aside, have a happy new year, okay?

© J.Free / The New Puritan ReView; 1990; 2022