16 June 2011

Postbox: The 1980s Versus The 1970s...

Thanks to all those who write in. It keeps me company, and I'm truly grateful.

Lovely recent e-mail from Sita:

We have a very attractive young teacher called Miss Cross at my school who likes to encourage debates. She often joins in and hogs the show because she's very fond of herself and usually able to out-argue any student.

One day recently, she set the agenda: "Let's talk about our favourite decades. What decades were significant, and why?"

Immediately, she started going on and on about the 1970's, how wonderful they were, how hippie they were, how world shatteringly eventful and influential they were...

I pricked up my ears and said: "But surely hippies were 1960s? They may have been around in the 1970s - '80s as well - but they started out in the 1960s?"

"Yes," said Miss Cross, "but the full thrust of hippiedom was felt in the 1970s. Woodstock..."

"But that was 1969!" I said.

Miss Cross went a bit red. "The gateway to the 1970s," she said.

"I disagree," I said. "1969 was not the 1970s."

Miss Cross was looking rather cross, and said: "Well, what decades interest you?"

"I find the 1980s fascinating," I said.

"The 1980s?" Miss Cross smirked. "A very conservative and vapid decade, in my opinion."

I frowned: "How come? Red Wedge, Greenham Common, Perestroika, fall of the Berlin Wall, creation of House and Acid House music, invention of the World Wide Web, inner city riots..."

"But many events of the 1980s were the outcome of events from other decades," said Miss Cross.

"And many events of the 1970s were the outcome of events from other decades," I countered. "Left-over hippiedom and flared trousers for a start."

"But the inventions, the fads, fashions and the technology of the 1980s can't hold a candle to the 1970s," said Miss Cross. She was getting very red in the face by now.

"Rubik's Cube, CB radio, ZX Spectrum, Apple Mac, invention of the World Wide Web, goths, shoulder pads, hair gel and mousse, leggings, ra ra skirts, jelly shoes, bulldog clips, first commercial hand-held cell phones, beginnings of GSM system, DNA fingerprinting, Sky TV, Trivial Pursuit, Pac-Man, Super Mario Brothers, Channel 4..." I recited.

The debate ended.

"Yes, well, that's most interesting. Thank you, Sita," said Miss Cross, looking as though she'd like to slap my face.

My friends and I still talk about that day. And it's thanks to you, Andy, because I took all my info from your blog!

Miss Cross hasn't initiated a debate since, and the decades skirmish was two months ago!

Thank you!

Glad to help, Sita. It does give me the pip when people start glorifying decades (usually the 1970s, unfortunately) when they don't know their facts. Decades are ten year spans and every ten years contains its own significant events, fashions, fads, and are usually interesting enough and significant enough without having to embellish them.

Judging by TV, books and on-line stuff, the 1970s are the exception...

But that's not true. Plenty happened in the 1970s, even if you just stick to the real 1970s!

Of course, the 1980s are priggishly disapproved of because they were the era of Thatcher and Reagan and enormous changes, both socially and technologically. But that's why they're so fascinating. And no amount of attempts to rewrite history can make the ... er... actual 1980s any less so.

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