THE DECADE OF LOOKING OUT
“Not to wax nostalgic about the 1970’s, but back then people got upset when they saw injustice. They got tired of seeing our air, land and water polluted.” Senator John Kerry (1943 – Present) “Any change is resisted because bureaucrats have a vested interest in the chaos in which they exist.” Richard M. Nixon (1913 – 1994)
I grew up in the 1970’s. I began the decade as a boy and ended it as an estate gardener, but what I experienced in between defined me as a person. Despite the tacky clothes, disco and frozen TV dinners it was still a great time to grow up as a kid and I wouldn’t trade it for any other era, no matter how nostalgic they may seem. If I could define the 70’s in a phrase I would call it the decade of looking out – when average people began thinking beyond their everyday lives and started grasping the bigger picture, or the world at large. It was also a decade of endings…the end of the Beatles, the end (or beginning of the end) of the cold war, the end of perceiving government as being altruistic or always looking out for our well-being, and the end of thinking of our planet as a dependable resource for us to deplete at will. The latter epiphany came to us rather abruptly with the energy crisis of 1973, when people had to line up for hours to fill their cars and oftentimes there was no gas left to be sold. We suddenly became acutely aware of our limits as a society in a world without fuel. Our shared cynicism of politics in general can probably be traced backed to August 8th 1974, when Richard Milhous Nixon announced his resignation over national television and we knew definitively that America – a nation that prides itself on political freedom – had a corrupt president. That same television brought the war in faraway Vietnam right into our living rooms and somehow the wanton killing, bombs and napalm-scorched bodies became that much more real. It wasn’t glorious war for the sake of freedom any more, it was just senseless death. As the decade closed I was a long-haired, jean jacket wearing, left-wing, Harrowsmith-reading estate gardener who listened to Neil Young rage about racism and dreamed of a better world. Somehow those dreams never came true and even though we wanted to end war, all wars…even though we wanted to save our planet and clean up the mess we had already made…even though we wanted a more egalitarian society…we seemed to have failed on all fronts. Like many people I inadvertently left my ideals behind as the everyday demands of life began to pile up. And yet much of Africa and the Middle East is still embroiled in conflict, racism seems to be on the rise as some people look for a scapegoat for the troubled economic times, companies are spending (and making) hundreds of millions of dollars squeezing the last drop of oil out of the earth and the comfortable middle class is literally evaporating before our eyes. Call me jaded, but 2012 is looking more like the 1970’s every day – so maybe, we are due for another decade of looking out. I just hope we can cross that road from a position of moral outrage, to the other side, where the real change begins.