Facebook post by Michael Kelly, H.W.

This post by @John Atwater led me to think about the cultural and global changes from 1919 to 1970, on the one hand, and from 1970 to 2021 on the other.

Mathematically they are the same number of years apart, but you have to adjust for two effects. One is that cultural change is cumulative: the end of WW1 feeds into WW2, which leads in turn to the Cold War, the geo-political world that seems to be what we are still living in in 1970. So, 1919 is ancient history in geo-political terms. In the US, the 60’s is still happening so, again, a huge change from 1919. Also, the Civil Rights movement had huge accomplishments by the mid-60s, and more were expected to build on those.

Another dimension of change is technological. No one in 1919 could imagine a project that could plausibly result in a human walking on the moon, but by 1970 that had happened. Technologically, 1919 is the dark ages in comparison with 1970.

In these terms, 1970 is not so far away from 2021. One of the biggest changes in daily life, the internet, is certainly huge in the history of humanity, but the seeds were already planted in 1970 in the form of the ARPANET and the miniaturization of electronics needed for the space program. Socially, while we have “gay” marriage, which is genuinely a big deal, real social justice in terms of racial equality seems almost as far away as in 1970, and politically it is actually further since conservative Rs are scoring political points by restricting voting rights for Black and other classes of voters. The progress many in the Civil Rights movement has not materialized, despite having had a Black president—consider his successor! Ecology was seen as something to be protected in 1970, but today there is political and economic pressure against actions, like a carbon tax, that would help mitigate global warming, while some factions continue to insist global warming is a Liberal myth.

As I see it, there were huge constructive changes between 1919 and 1970, but between 1970 and 2021, from the limited perspective of Jan. 2022, the US is certainly in a backward slide as far as rips in the social, economic and racial fabric, and in terms of the overall governance of our society.

I’m going to stop here at least for now.

–Michael Kelly, H.W.

One thought on “Facebook post by Michael Kelly, H.W.”

  1. A very interesting look at our progress or lack of it. As I write this I am listening to a TED talk on DNA sequences and gene therapy. Unfortunately, only the rich will be able to use the consequences of the discoveries. The question of the speaker is how can this be made available for all? Thanks, Michael for good food for thought.

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