Published: 7/18/2019 9:41:05 AM
(Last week, we asked readers this question: “What would you say to someone who asked what the 1980s were really like?” Here are the responses we received.)
Ah, who would have guessed anyone would miss the ’80s?
The decade is best summed up for me by saying that it felt like change. It felt like technology was advancing at an increased rate, and the future was on our doorstep. The Celtics would always be in contention, the Sox would never win the Series and everyone was looking forward to the ’90s.
As a kid, all we wanted was to grow up fast, but with no real need to: Moms stayed home, neighborhoods were considered a safe zone (“Okay, but stay in the neighborhood”), bicycle helmets were new – and optional – and you were cool if you had a Walkman with a button to change sides.
The 1980s was a decade of the celebrity billionaire, where being wealthy was good but flashing it was better. Popular shows were Dallas, Dynasty and Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous – shows that were a far cry from the family sitcom of previous generations.
There was Michael Milken, Charles Keating and Donald Trump. But Ivan Boesky epitomized the decade when he was quoted as saying “greed is good.” This attitude was fueled by “trickle-down economics,” a philosophy based on the premise that the poor have too much money and the rich don’t have enough.
Giving the decade its own panache was not only living large but looking down on the poor and homeless. If someone was poor and homeless, they were probably too stupid or too lazy to get rich.
However, it is possible that some of these homeless people were simply too honest to get rich in the 1980s.
All the men mentioned bankrupted their companies, were found guilty of financial crimes and left investors holding the bag.
Note: Boesky did not actually say “greed is good.” At the end of what has been reported as a rambling, boring speech, he said “greed is healthy” and posited that greed fuels innovation.
JAMES K. COLE
The ’80s felt like heady times when we were living them, however quaint and quiet they seem from our current perch.
We felt more enlightened than the previous generation, particularly with our nascent understanding of safety and healthy living. We embraced car seats, helmets, seatbelts and child-safe toys, even if we missed the good old days when kids could bounce around in the backseat, or they could ride bikes unencumbered by a heavy object on their heads.
When it came to a healthy diet, we were suddenly more attentive to our parents’ admonition that “garbage in means garbage out,” mainly because there was suddenly so much more “garbage” hidden in the form of alluring treats, snacks and fast food than there ever had been in our childhood. And we were beginning to see the links between chronic stress and inactivity and chronic health concerns, so we could begin to be proactive.
Technology felt absolutely amazing. With a wireless phone we were no longer chained to the wall but could duck around the corner to the next room to have our conversation in a quieter location than a bustling kitchen. We could listen to an audio tape from a cassette deck in our car, and push a button to “wind the windows up,” and turn on the AC instead of bearing the heat of a summer day while driving.
“PC” didn’t stand for “political correctness” but for “personal computer,” a large and unwieldy box with little more than a cathode ray screen with a tangle of wires hooked up to other, different large and unwieldy boxes. Most of us couldn’t imagine an Internet linking us together, much less pushing us apart.
We didn’t realize in the early ’80s that political correctness was a thing, but we did believe in civil discourse. We expected our leaders to be wise, thoughtful and to serve the common good, and by and large they didn’t disappoint, even if we disagreed with their choices and tactics. We believed our elections were free and fair, and we trusted that, if we disagreed with leadership, we could work together to effect change.
For better or worse, our country has changed. We would do well to look back and take some lessons from those earlier times.
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