I recently watched a program on the National Geographic channel called; ‘The 80′s: The Decade That Made Us’.
I wasn’t born until the early 90′s and I missed out on the decade, so watching this program was basically a history lesson for me.
I learned of how the walkman became a craze sweeping America and how the game Tetris was an obsession much like the Fifa’s and Call of Duties of today. Despite all the technological advancements and trends sweeping the developed world, I couldn’t help but notice the political changes that occurred during the decade and how they allegedly came about.
I despite being a supporter of the left politcally have never been a fan of the Soviet Union or any of its leaders. I don’t have a huge knowledge of the era itself but I rarely hear positive things about it, however I struggled to really take in what the program percieved to be the driving force in making people desire a new way of life. American TV.
The program told of how people in Romania and Bulgaria would watch American TV shows and then question why they never had fast sports cars or other material goods shown on the TV. This would make them question there governments and look for a way out to live their own American dream.
I understand why people wanted out of the Soviet Union but they would be sadly dissapointed thinking America was going to give them what they seen on the TV. The ‘American Dream’ is probably one of the biggest lies ever told, it is utter nonsense and any one who believes it has fallen for the trap. America is one of the most unequal societies around, the wealth is very narrowly concentrated and the Rich are in control. Ronald Reagan who was the man the Nat Geo program heralded as a hero, was infact a mere puppet to the corporations and the banks. Reagan was a script man, something that came naturally to him as a former actor. During his time as President, Latin America suffered at the hands of brutal despots his government supported and armed. He backed the terror campaign against the Sandinista government of Nicaragua and furthermore he played a huge role in criminalising the black community within the United States itself.
Ronald Reagan backed genocide in Guatemala among other places in the world and just recently, when General Rios Montt of the Guatemalan Army of the 80′s has been charged with crimes against humanity, Reagans comments stating that General Montt was a man of great integrity and a believer in social justice, come back to reveal what kind of people Reagan thought good.
Capitalism in the 80′s grew as did violence across Central America and poverty in the United States. People around the world were shown how Capitalism was great through the TV shows that portrayed America as a sunny all action society where beautiful women and fast cars made up the normal street scene. What the TV didn’t show them was the Ghetto’s and the drug problems. It failed to talk about the unemployment and the plight of the vulnerable section of society. Take the television cameras a few blocks away from Hollywood and you have a different image of Los Angeles, that would put one off ever visiting. High crime rates and a drug war that ravaged poor communities across the country. Prisons overflowing with people, mainly black, due to the so called ‘War on Drugs’.
Capitalisms strongest weapon was the television. Through the TV it could pull the wool over the eyes of the public and it covered up the cracks which appeared on its image from day one. Inequality and poverty had no place among the David Hasslehoffs and there was no such thing as greed. The US military had apparently lost the faith of the public in America so the answer to this problem was bring out a film in which Sylvester Stallone would bring down flying tanks with a bow and arrow and a personal vendetta. The sensationalism of such films got people believing again, USA, USA, USA!! chanted in the cinemas, the country was unstoppable.
With the Rambo films fuelling the bloodthirst America was ready for the war on terror, the war on drugs and the war on communism. One war which it has never been ready for funnily enough, despite having the weapons at its disposal, was the war on poverty.
Throughout Latin America, it could easily be argued that America was supporting governments which inflicted poverty more than trying to stop it. The Sandinista government for example made great strides to creating a more equal society, but the Reagan Administration would openly support the terrorist contra campaign to try and de-stabilise the Nicaraguan government. This was nothing new in the region, yet no mention of it in the 80′s program.
When the program finished without having mentioned any of the crimes which came from Capitalist governments, I felt like the propaganda of the 80′s was still present on todays television.
I am fortunate enough to have read about US involvement in Latin America, but had I not, I would have believed they were the hereos of the decade. I would have held the belief that the war criminal and terrorist Ronald Reagan was a political saint. So with the 80′s bringing us undoubted blessings in the form of new techonology etc, it seems it also brought with it a culture of lies. Capitalism was undoubtedly strengthened throughout the decade but that is no reason to celebrate. For me, a 90′s baby who watched a brief history of the decade on the TV, I have to say the 80′s was most certainly the decade that made us, but what it made us was not necessarily a good thing.