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    The 1970s, 2010s: Who Programmed the Simulation?

    The world does seem in dire straits indeed and has for roughly the last five years or so. The seeming progress of Barack Obama's election cascading in to regular civil strife and civil war in the United States, where racial and gender harmony, worked on for so many decades, appears torn to shreds. Cities are on fire, under fire or being torn apart. A rivalry with Russia, which is held responsible for the election of Donald Trump has been stoked again between America and the rest of the west. China is on the ascent, as is intolerance, cultural malaise, fear, despair and disappointment.

    All of this seems horrible and is until a thought comes in. We've been here before. A friend of mine, Larry Bernard (who can be seen commenting on comic book movies) told me that "all Obama and Trump did was take us back to the 1970s." During his election, Barack Obama was compared to Kennedy for many reasons, from his charisma to his minority status. According to Roger Stone's book, Donald Trump was personally told by Richard Nixon during the 1980s that he would make a "fine president" and Trump's tacit support of Roy Moore in Alabama reflects Nixon tacit support of segregationist George Wallace.

    The rapper Eminem, after making a diss freestyle aimed at Donald Trump, recorded a song called "Unbreakable," which roughly tackles white privilege and police abuse of African Americans. As daring and good as the song is, its subject matter, timing from the point by which he was still very famous and themes more than reflect the 1969 song "In the Ghetto" by Elvis Presley, a white musician Eminem is often compared to for his role in making music associated with black Americans.

    The closest that the world saw to America's contemporary place in the world was in the 1970s. As Trump was seen piggy backing with largely developing world leaders like Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin or Rodrigo Duterte, Nixon opened economic trade with China and retreated from Vietnam. Markets in communist Cuba were filled in the 1970s while the Soviets marched in to Prague - the outcome of the late 1980s was far from certain.

    Lastly, the tense strife between genders in the United States was highly reflected during the 70s. The late 60s and 70s saw the rise of radical feminists like Valerie Solanas, who wrote the manifesto for "SCUM - the Society for Cutting Up Men." Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. Many of the comic book storylines making waves in theaters and Netflix, such as The Punisher or X-Men's Dark Phoenix Saga, were written during the 1970s and informed by that decade's social climate. Shootings, often with identical motivations to ones in recent years, were prolific in the late 1960s and 1970s.Much as Richard Spencer has gone to celebrity status by talking as a blatant white nationalist in front of African Americans, George Lincoln Rockwell did quite literally the same thing until he was assassinated. (Watch Alex Haley's Roots for a dramatization of it.) As jarring as the sight of swastikas being waved in Charlottesville was, Rockwell's group literally did the same thing as a traveling stage show back in the 1970s.

    The parallels are to the point that it feels like we are in some sort of simulation - replaying the same events for a new generation. This year's total solar eclipse was the first in decades since 1979. We like to think we are creatures of free will but what if our behavior and attitudes are manipulated by weather, the rotation of the sun and earth and other forces of nature? The apparent madness of the world would make more sense if the explanation was that it's motivated by something besides our reason. If that were true, how would it change how we view ourselves? 

    Economic conditions are as much a factor in human behavior as anything environmental. However, distribution seems set by the conditions of the planet that creates the basis for our goods more than any system we create - each system has had its abundance and then traumatic failures.


    1933, demagogic fascism seems a closer match, below -  Lingua Tertii Imperii, by V. Klemperer:

    Victor Klemperer's diaries: January 1, 1935 – language tertii imperii: Lutze's New Year message to the SA...Our "fanatical will" twice in a non-pejorative sense. Emphasis on believing without understanding. (1) "fanatical engagement of the SA," (2) "fanatical sense of commitment." Nov 24, 1936 – On the language of the Third Reich:...The Fuhrer must be followed blindly, blindly! They do not need to explain anything at all, since they are accountable to no one. Today it occurred to me: Never has the tension between human power and powerlessness, human knowledge and human stupidity been so overwhelmingly great as now. May 23, 1938 – The aim of education in the Third Reich and of the language of the Third Reich, is to expand the popular stratum in everyone to such an extent that the thinking stratum is suffocated. – language tertii imperii: In Hitler's New Year Order of the Day to the troops again the "victories (Trump -"wins") of unparalleled dimensions," again the American superlative, "The year of 1941 will see the accomplishment of the greatest victory in our history."

    Aldous Huxley, 1956:

    The aim of the demagogue is to create social coherence under his own leadership...The demagogic propagandist must therefore be consistently dogmatic. All his statements are made without qualification. There are no grays in his picture of the world; everything is either diabolically black or celestially white...He must never admit that he might be wrong or that people with a different point of view might be even partially right.  Opponents should not be argued with; they should be attacked, shouted down...


    Nixon? Sneaky, liar, yes. Noam Chomsky called him "the last liberal President." Why?

    1. 10% across the board increase in Social Security payments all beneficiaries.

    2. Indexed Social Security to inflation.

    3 Constitutional amendment to give 18 year olds the vote.

    4. Founded the EPA.

    5. Founded OSHA.

    6. Started the requirement for minority and women quotas in hiring for federal contractors.

    7. Hated by the Right Wing..?? Time Mag., August, 1971, The Right Wing Disowns Nixon. (pre-Watergate).


    8) dropped US troops in Vietnam from 520k in 1969 to 20k in 1972 (compare our withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan)

    I was there and lived it. I agree with your friend Larry that the general zeitgeist is similar. Everyone was negative about where the country was headed politically and economically. Everyone was also obsessed with the crime rate, it seemed sometimes if urban safety could never be assured again.

    So one thumbs up for your talent in cultural history, gleaning from things like comics of the era and oral history from your friend Larry.

    But there is one big difference I will add: there was an excitement at the time in the culture that we don't have now, we have just the opposite, with the country suffering almost group depression. Nowadays it's considered de rigeur to dis the whole disco movement, but Studio 54 and it's ilk, the nightlife at the time, was not all as depicted for the mass audience by John Travolta character from Queens. The streets were alive with people going out to have fun. Sex was fun. (Need I say: condoms were not common, birth control was.) Gays were coming out. Women were being freed. Norms were being broken.There was a lot of fun stuff going on. Drugs and rock n roll still going strong too.

    And then Valerie Solanas shot Andy Warhol and AIDS reared its ugly head. And things got very dark very quick after that.

    Solanas was '68, AIDS was much later, early 80's. Think your timeline got off track...?

    You be correct, my very bad!. I was confusing Andy's death in 87, also off track, with the shooting in '68.  This is an excellent example why one should never trust oral histories, nor anything a blog commenter says, always verify. cheeky

    You can however, trust Andy's interpretation of American culture, was a seer.

    Oh, I imagine AIDS was enough to take credit all by itself, and Warhol is rather timeless to pin down. 2 things I read recently - one was Lennon hearing B-52's doing Rock Lobster, thinking it was somewhat similar to Yoko's attempts at stage sound. AIDS took that band's guitarist; the other was David Byrne noting his line "This ain't no disco..." was picked up to mean "Disco sux" when the T-Heads toured the South, which of course meant an anti-gay, anti-black vibe as well. Strange for a guy fronting a band getting bigger and more diverse every album, including adding well-known black background singers & funk musicians from James Brown & Parliament-Funkadelic and a steady drift into Kabuki (where Bowie got a a good bit of his androgenous effects) and dance. And of course Byrne was friends with the relocated B-52s who'd become an odd Manhattan fixture and party band pretty quick. Part of it was NYC taking that underground gay scene with NY Dolls & Lou Reed's new glam, etc., pushing it till it came out looking like mad made-up punk, goths, new age and Grace Jones/Nina Hagen types before everyone got too scared to party anymore.

    good points about gay, black and punk. The disco scene was largely gay instigated but not at all dismissive of funkadelic, funkadelic and motown was actually a very welcome part of it and funkadelic and Motown did take part in it. Those in it didn't call it disco, they called it "the club scene" and Motown already had one and they merged across the country. You don't need to even get as gay disco specific as Grace Jones, all the black divas of locomotion were adored, as were their styles from Ella to Diana Ross, played every night on the dance floor as were the more pop unabashed disco queens like the Pointer Sisters, Sade etc.

    The most interesting thing about early "punk" in NYC as opposed to its incarnation in the UK. With the latter it really was clearly same old "angry white working class lads and lasses,"  many could be slotted in today as Trump fans, and they were literally head bangers at times.  While in NYC it first grows out of "the club scene", CBGB's and was not at all gay "disco" unfriendly, just a desire to go back to more rock n'roll sound than smooth soul. I think the segue into the glam rock thing is where the real split happens here in the U.S., as angry head bangers go southern and rust belt white trash with punk-like noise and glam rock is targeted elite, dreamlike, more optimism, sophisticated themes, performance and costumes....

    Actually AC/DC played early at CBGBs without any problem, Lou Reed was mixing glam, and the NY Dolls were totally camp. The grunge and skinhead thing later was still a lot of mosh pit action, not quite disco-tuned, but not antithesis. Prince came out roughly 1980 and was crossover Hendrix guitar with dance moves, while Chili Peppers were similar funk+heavy guitar, Beasties moved from canned sound back to playing own instruments but still rap. And Madonna & Michael Jackson were all over everything after '84, including playing with Guns 'n Roses guitarist, etc. It was *after* Rick James and Public Enemy and such that the rap & hip-hop scene started to diverge again into black clubs, with the "I hate rap" whiteboy whine replacing the earlier "disco sux". And of course MTV famously marginalized rap and a variety of other harder stuff, so we ended up back with the record code, what was acceptable. One thing that I think changed everything was the new catwalk/supermodel replacement of events and concerts - not only didn't you have to play an instrument, you just looked good and walked down the runway. Canned music became de rigeur, and no one had to be a musician to tie it together, which I think led to a lot of pre-packaged music-dance-as-pure-marketing. Also, probably post-MTV college dominated the money and direction, whereas before it was all ages.
    Another factor was the increase in drinking age around 1980, that killed a lot of club scenes. Maybe not as much in New York, but smaller towns was bad to get caught, and you couldn't go into the decent places until 21 - rather sordid, and split the revenues if you were trying to keep clubs open on music + alcohol.

    Update: Congress mandated raising the drinking age to 21 in 1984, withholding highway funds. So yeah, the 70's until about 1986 were a special time. You could even drink legally through college, fancy that.

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