Culture in an Age of Money By Nicholas Mills
Back to our Future By David Sirota
Sirota: Zeitgeist of the ‘80s “The 1980s defies taxonomy…there are just no catchphrases or grand unifying theories to sum up such a monumental late-century clusterfuck” (Sirota xviii).
1980s Cultural Memes A meme is an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture. • Ultra-conservative Reagan Revolution • “Me Generation” selfishness • Rampant drug abuse • Nationalist backlash to Vietnam War
“What I want to see above all is that this remains a country where someone can always get rich.”- Ronald Reagan
Wall Street: A Modern Gold Rush “Never have so many unskilled 24 year olds made so much money in such a little time as we did in this decade.” – Michael Lewis
“…the creation of a paper economy in which the buying and selling of companies was more profitable than running them” -Mills
1980s Foreign Policy “This is a lesson for us all in Vietnam…let us tell those who fought that war that we will never again ask young men to fight and possibly die in a war that our government is afraid to let them win.” –Ronald Reagan 1983: The US Invasion of Grenada • Prompted by fear of Soviet-Cuban militarization • Followed the massacre of 241 marines by Lebanese terrorists • 19 killed; 115 wounded. • 8,612 medals awarded
“The Vietnam Vet, crippled and depressed, was replaced with John Rambo” -Mills
“America the Grand” Image • Nancy Reagan’s White House China= $209,508 • 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Opening Ceremony= 6 million dollars • Reagan’s Inauguration Ceremony= 8 million dollars • The 100th year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty Celebration on July 4th 1986…
…included1.4 million-watt laser beams, the largest assembly of ships since WWII, the largest fireworks display in US history, a cast of twelve thousand, including two hundred Elvis impersonators, three hundred Jazzercise dancers, and an eight-hundred chorus, all performing on a twenty-tier stage with five waterfalls= PRICELESS* *30 million dollars
America was in love with luxury. “May you have caviar wishes and champagne dreams!”
The ‘80s Obsession with Fame “We are a society that confuses ‘celebrity-worship and hero worship.’ Instead of idolizing those who become ‘famous because they are great’ we worship those who ‘simply seem great because they are famous’” (Sirota 74).
“To be American was to be powerful, and to be powerful was to be rich.” -Mills
In the 1980s, the living standards of the bottom 1/5 of the population dropped by 8%, while that of the top 1/5 rose by 16%.
Why was this the case? According to a scholarly article from Pitzer College entitled “Economic Inequality: The Silent Depression”: • There were more tax advantages for the rich • Tax dollars went primarily towards paying the interest to those who own capital • There were decreased government policies for aiding the poor • There were decreasing incomes for the lower class
Mixed Messages of the ‘80s JUST DO IT JUST SAY NO
Sirota wonders if since the ‘80s, we have begun to “morally rationalize selfishness”…(70). “Who says you can’t have it all?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LknoheZqGbs “What happens to us in the future? Do we become assholes or something?” --Marty McFly (Back to the Future)