Published on The Doomstead Diner on June 5, 2016
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When you get to be a "certain age", as you watch the world change around you (generally for the worse), there is a tremendous tendency towards nostalgia for "The Good Old Days". You might think that this is just something Boomers do today as they wax nostalgic for what they remember from childhood, playing pickup games of baseball in the sandlot, before Little League professionalized childhood baseball with fancy uniforms and Booster Clubs raising money for expensive buses to take the team on road trips. Before the days when Texas Cheerleader Moms would shoot each other to get their daughter on the squad. Before Hockey dads would get in fistfights in the stands that make the fights NHL players have on the ice pale in comparison. You know, the Ozzie & Harriet world of the 1950s, where everybody lived in a nice house with a white picket fence and went to the Soda Fountain to have a Banana Split and play the latest Elvis tune on the Juke Box. The world Marty McFly returned to in Back to the Future, with a half dozen Pump Boys out there washing the windows and polishing the tires with 10 cents a gallon gas for a fillup.
When regaled with these stories from their Boomer parents and grandparents, Millenials will yawn, just as Boomers yawned when regaled with stories of "The Good Old Days" by their Silent and "Greatest Generation" parents. At the top of the page here you have the opening theme song from "All in the Family", which featured Caroll O'Connor as Archie Bunker, a blue collar right-wing racist who embodied the backbone of Richard Nixon's "Silent Majority". Basically the Role Model for Jimbo Quinn & his cohort of Libertarian Shit Throwing Monkeys on The Burning Platform. lol. The "real life Archie Bunker" title was also handed off to The Donald Chump recently by All in the Family creator Norman Lear. No surprise here Jimbo Quinn is a Donald Duckling.
With his dopey wife Edith portrayed by Jean Stapleton, they pined for the Good Old Days, before Strauss & Howe's LAST "4th Turning".
Those Were The Days (All In The Family Theme)
Boy, the way Glenn Miller played!
Songs that made the Hit Parade.
Guys like us, we had it made.
Those were the days!
And you knew where you were then.
Girls were girls and men were men.
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again.
Didn't need no welfare state.
Everybody pulled his weight.
Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.
Those were the days!
I suspect if you could go back in Doc Brown's Delorean to when Archie & Edith's parents were kids, there would have been an older generation who pined for the Good Old Days of the Robber Barons and financial panics every decade or so. In reality, all nostalgic views of the Good Old Days come from when you were a kid, and as long as you were decently fed and cared for you have fond memories of those carefree days.
This nostalgia has crept into the Boomer zeitgeist in many ways, mainly through television of course. When the TV series "The Wonder Years" came on in the late 80s depicting suburban life in the 1970s, it seemed just about like I remembered it. "That '70s Show" parodied the life of the time, but it still all seemed like fun, now didn't it?
The truth of course is that there really never WERE any Good Old Days for most people, although it is true that from the 50s through the 70s or so people in general did experience a rising standard of living, at least here in the FSoA.
What was REALLY going on though in these years when supposedly it was so much better than it is now? I'm going to start with the turn of the 20th Century here, with the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the great expansion of the Industrial Civilization across Amerika. What you will see is that for every era, for the rich at the top of the society, the Good Old Days were just about always REALLY GOOD! Not quite so true for everyone else though.
It was the so called "Gilded Age" and it was REALLY GOOD for the Robber Barons at the top of the heap in those days, guys like John D Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, JP Morgan and Jacob Astor. The first Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869, and they were bizzy expanding the rail network all over the place, particularly between the manufacturing centers of Detroit and Chicago and the trade center of NY Shity. Riding around in luxury in Private Rail cars, those days were definitely good for them then. Not so good today in Chicago and Detroit of course.
Not so good also back then for the folks who got the job of building those railroads, imported from China and Ireland to work for slave wages, often paid in Scrip good only at the Company Store, which often went no good as soon as said company went bankrupt, which was often. The Robber Barons themselves never suffered from these bankruptcies, then as now they were protected under layers of corporate shields, holding companies and trusts.
While Detroit, Boston and Chicago certainly had some beautiful homes and neighborhoods built during this period, this wasn't where the majority of people imported from Europe or dragged up from the South after the Civil War were living. They were housed in cold water flats, 6 story walk up tenements prior to the first elevators going in in places like the Lower East Side of New York where the waves of immigrants found shelter after passing through the portal at Ellis Island, waving to the Statue of Liberty on the way in.
For these folks, you can make the case it was the "Better Old Days", since it was certainly a step up from the Pogroms and persecution and poverty they had escaped in Europe, but calling this living "Good" is a stretch.
Women worked in Garment Factories with no provisions for safety, and regular fires burned many to death both here and in Jolly Old England. Even if they weren't in the building when it burned down, the job was immediately gone and there was no buffer of Unemployment insurance. No disability insurance either if you got hurt on the job, and while obviously a portion of this population survived, procreated and eventually climbed out of poverty, many more did not. The population grew, and the number of poor people grew with it. The idea industrialization ever lifted many out of poverty is a complete lie. It merely shifted around the poverty, and by offshoring much of it made it invisible to the local population of Amerikans living on credit and buying the products of impoverished slaves in the 3rd World at Walmart at Low, Low Prices Every Day..
As the 20th Century got rolling, with all the speculation on the railroads and the growing industrial economy, the financial panics came fast and furious through the late 1800s and into the early 1900s.
Here's a partial list, for the full list go to Wiki.
|Panic of 1893||
Jan 1893 –
|−37.3%||−29.7%||Failure of the United States Reading Railroad and withdrawal of European investment led to a stock market and banking collapse. This Panic was also precipitated in part by a run on the gold supply. The Treasury had to issue bonds to purchase enough gold. Profits, investment and income all fell, leading to political instability, the height of the U.S. populist movement and the Free Silver movement.|
|Panic of 1896||
Dec 1895 –
|−25.2%||−20.8%||The period of 1893–97 is seen as a generally depressed cycle that had a short spurt of growth in the middle, following the Panic of 1893. Production shrank and deflation reigned.|
June 1899 –
|2 years||−15.5%||−8.8%||This was a mild recession in the period of general growth beginning after 1897. Evidence for a recession in this period does not show up in some annual data series.|
|1902–04 recession||Sep 1902 –Aug 1904||
|−16.2%||−17.1%||Though not severe, this downturn lasted for nearly two years and saw a distinct decline in the national product. Industrial and commercial production both declined, albeit fairly modestly. The recession came about a year after a 1901 stock crash.|
|Panic of 1907||
May 1907 –
|−29.2%||−31.0%||A run on Knickerbocker Trust Company deposits on October 22, 1907, set events in motion that would lead to a severe monetary contraction. The fallout from the panic led to Congress creating the Federal Reserve System.|
|Panic of 1910–1911||
Jan 1910 –
|−14.7%||−10.6%||This was a mild but lengthy recession. The national product grew by less than 1%, and commercial activity and industrial activity declined. The period was also marked by deflation.|
The 1907 Panic which began with the failure of the Knickerbocker Trust is what got the Federal Reserve system going, although the pigmen who worked up that scheme didn't get it off the ground for another 6 years until 1913 after numerous secret meetings, culminating in the famous meeting under Deep Cover at Jekyll Island.
While none of these years were particularly good for anyone but the Elite, they got a whole lot worse when WWI kicked off in Europe, and we sent a generation of Doughboys to fight in the trenches and get gassed by chlorine courtesy of I.G Farben-Bayer, currently attempting to merge with Monsanto, another corporation dedicated to the good of mankind and doing God's Work. These were definitely not good old days for the Doughboys.
The end of WWI led into what is popularly remembered as the "Roaring Twenties" here in the FSoA, as once again there was wild speculation and a few people at the top lived the high life, which was now being documented in movies with stars like Jean Harlow and Lionel Barrymore. F Scott Fitzgerald documented their lifestyle with The Great Gatsby. So this is how we remember that time now, through those images and words and that seems like the Good Old Days.
But of course those days were not really so good except for a small number of people who were gambling on the stock market, and for a few years doing just GREAT!
Meanwhile though, over in Germany the Weimar Republic was crumbling, hyperinflation was rampant and parents were selling their children for sex just to get enough to eat.
Out across the farmland of the Great Plains, farm prices were crashing as industrial tractors began to proliferate and farm banks began to fail. By the close of the decade in 1929 it was a Bubble ready to POP, and Pop it did big time with Black Thursday, October 24th, 1929.
The crash kicked off the Great Depression, which was not Good Old Days even for some pigmen who lost everything, although the top of the heap never did of course. If you create the credit, you never go broke.
Bad as it was to start with, it only got worse with the collapse of the Rothschild bank Credite Anstaldt in Austria, causing a cascade of more bank failures and the worst years of the Great Depression 1932-1934. Those were the years John Steinbeck chronicled in "The Grapes of Wrath". 1932-1934 were NOT Good Old Days for Okies picking peas in sunny California.
Meanwhile over in Germany, the Nazis came to power with the burning of the Reichstag in 1933, then you got the Spanish Civil War which ran from 1936-1939, basically leading straight into WWII. These may have been Good Old Days for Ernest Hemingway, who got a lot of book material out of this and a chance to be Extra-Macho, but not for most Spaniards.
Definitely not Good Old Days for them as Pablo Picasso portrayed in his depiction of the bombing of Guernica, an early variation of Beirut and numerous other cities since subjected to the Death From Above from the Industrial Empire, and things really didn't improve much until WWII really kicked off and the FSoA was supplying arms to EVERYBODY! Prescott Bush was laundering Nazi money, and banksters developed a "Lend-Lease" program for broke Britain so they could buy our planes. Basically Vendor Financing there.
Except for the Rationing, WWII was probably better than the Great Depression for the people who were over here building planes and bombs, but for the GIs who got sent over there to storm the beaches at Normandy, I don't think you could characterize this as Good Old Days for them.
The close of WWII after the Nukes were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki DID begin the real Good Old Days for many Amerikans. GI's who returned from the War alive got the GI Bill of Rights, which included such nice perks as a Discount Mortgage to buy a tract house in Levittown and Grants to get a College Education. NOT such Good Old Days obviously for all the dead, burned and maimed victims of Fat Man and Little Boy, collateral damage of the Death From Above from the Flying Fortresses of the Enola Gay and Bockscar.
With the FSoA left as about the only unscathed Industrial Power in the aftermath of the war, it got to supply everybody with materials to rebuild, and lots of good well paying Union jobs cropped up here, further helping the development of a new "Middle Class" in the FSoA. Not everybody got to join this group equally though, in fact the black community basically got shut out of these jobs, and mostly only got much lower paying jobs doing the scut work of the society. Segregation was the norm down in Old Dixie, and these were not Good Old Days for the Black folks, although somewhat better than the slavery of earlier years.
The arrival of the 1950's along with Ozzie & Harriet, Leave it to Beaver and Your Show of Shows also brought with it the escalation of the Cold War and the Army-McCarthy hearings and their Communist Purges which destroyed the lives of numerous Amerikans of a leftward bent. The Korean War was initiated to stop the spread of Communism by the Chinese, and that war against the "Domino Effect" spread seamlessly into the 1960s & and 1970s with the Vietnam War.
The brief Ray of Hope that came with the election of John John F. Kennedy defeating Richard Nixon in the 1960 POTUS election was brutally and violently crushed with the shots fired in Dallas in 1963, and the social violence here only escalated after that, with the riots in Watts and Chicago of the seething Black community that had been basically shut out from all the bennies stemming from the end of WWII. This was definitely not Good Old Days for them, but the violence did serve to get the New POTUS Lyndon B. Johnson to initiate the "Great Society", a social welfare program in theory designed to help these folks bootstrap out of poverty, but it never worked to do that. It just worked to keep them pacified for a while while the money and credit was flowing fast and loose through the society.
The end of the Vietnam War brought some Good Old Days to some Amerikans here who got on the bandwagon of an expanding Industrial Culture, college educations were mostly available and affordable without outrageous debt, and there were jobs for those graduates in the expanding economy. Those who did jump on this bandwagon and were successful with it tend to look at everyone who did not get on this train as lazy, stupid or both, and therefore deserving of their fate living through these years at the margins of the society. In reality this group of "failures" is actually the largest demographic of Baby Boomers, they mostly do not have good retirement savings because they didn't earn enough to save, and they mostly are in debt because the wages they did get never kept up with the rate of inflation for the period. So over the decades here, as a group they have sunk ever deeper in debt. The 1% of financially successful Boomers out there sneer at these people and blame them for their own failures. They weren't smart enough, they didn't work hard enough, they didn't save enough, etc.
The 1980s were hardly the Good Old Days for the Air Traffic Controllers, who Ronald Rayguns summarily dismissed and replaced with Scabs, and they weren't a very good decade either for about anyone in South America, where a suceession of CIA backed Coups and IMF backed Economic Hits made it impossible to run any kind of Goobermint that wasn't a vassal of the FSoA and a place to mine up natural resources or employ more slave labor, or both.
The Endless War pursued by the Bushes (the heirs to the legacy of Nazi money launderer Prescott Bush) brought us to 9-11, and those were not Good Old Days for anyone working in those towers at the time. That was a REALLY bad day to arrive at work early. Nor have they been Good Old Days for the 1000s of veterans who have returned from these stupid wars with PTSD and committed suicide in the aftermath of their "service" to the Empire.
Although the last decade has been VERY GOOD Old Days for the 1%, for everybody else they have been Bad Old Days. Certainly for all the unarmed black males murdered by cops they were the worst of days. Not real good either for the millions of blacks currently incarcerated in a FSoA Prison System that now dwarfs what Uncle Joe Stalin ran in the Gulag.
My conclusion here is that there never were any Good Old Days for most people, only days which varied from bad days to very bad days to worse than very bad days to awful and horrible days. When you do have some seemingly good days, it's always at the expense of someone in another part of your society or another part of the world having a really bad day.
As you age though and look back in retrospect, what were actually Bad Old Days SEEM like Good Old Days. This is because as time goes by things have always been getting progressively worse for most people, beginning with the Dawn of Agiculture, when most people traded the free wandering of the earth for Slavery in the fields. Of course, for the 1% who took control, the days were very good when this occurred, and just got even BETTER when they rolled out the Industrial model.
The other reason the Old Days seem good in retrospect is that you were a KID in the old days, and for kids as long as they are decently fed and clothed with a roof overhead, days are always good. There are games to play, places to explore and new things to learn every day. The weight of the world is not in your consciousness and you don't have the responsibility of getting the food on the table, your parents take care of that. Even if you are poor it doesn't seem bad to you until you become aware that there are others who are living a whole lot better than you.
This awareness of comparative situations comes to different kids at different ages I think. For myself it came around age 7 or 8 when I was living in Brasil and saw how the poor kids in the Favelas lived. They in turn of course saw how I lived, and the awareness of a distinction in class and privilege becomes a part of your consciousness. Because the distribution of this privilege is largely race based with European descended Whites having the preponderence of the privileges and bennies, it creates the racial divide that inspires the hatred between races.
As you progressed through life, depending where you lived and what your opportunities and native intelligence were, some folks manage to social climb their way out of poverty. It's not a huge percentage, but there are always Horatio Algers out there. These folks tend to look at their days living in poverty as Bad Old Days they never want to return to. They also tend to look at those they left behind as "losers", and attribute all their success to their own hard work and intelligence. Gradually they adopt the meme of the 1%, that poor people are poor due to their own stupidity and laziness, and their empathy for these people diminishes.
Social mobility was probably at its zenith in the post WWII years from about 1950 to 1980 or so, but has been steadily diminishing since, and certainly since the turn of the millenium with the progressive evisceration of the middle class has become virtually non-existent. Of course you still will get your Horatio Algers like Mark Suckerbug, scarfing up Billions in debt money from a Goldman underwritten IPO of Facepalm. But for every Suckerbug, there are 10s of thousands of IT graduates flipping burgers at Mickey Ds and living in the basement of their parent's McMansions, where once they spent the Good Old Days playing with the Matchbox Racing Carz set they got for Christmas.
The stratification is becoming ever more solidified, and the gap between the Haves and the Have Nots in our society is becoming ever wider. This can only lead to some God Awful Days in the years to come. On the upside, when they look back, the Millenials will remember these days as the "Good Old Days".