I’m not a millennial and I don’t agree with all of this post, but I am glad someone remembers what it was really like.
The 90’s were so positive, and it seemed like anything and everything was possible for me and humanity.
It doesn’t matter if any of that hope and promise was true. I’ll have more to say about that in a moment. What matters is how it felt.
And how it felt is just as Lindsey describes it. The internet was going to change the world, to improve it for everyone. Knowledge would be set free. The Cold War was over in a fizzle and we no longer lived under the constant dread of nuclear annihilation. We’d finally started getting raises again, and also seemingly solved financial and economic crises once and for all. The Great Moderation was in effect and the economy was on a seemingly eternal rising arc even while the environment improved. Poverty was declining; well-being for everyone was on the upswing. Jobs were plentiful and housing costs were minimal. Violence was decreasing and even racism seemed to be accelerating the pace of its long, slow wane.
Every fucking day you got out of bed it seemed the world was better than the day before.
I can’t find the words to tell you — for those who weren’t there or who are too young to really remember — just how very much different it felt, how much freer, how it seemed as a nation and as individuals that we could really achieve just about anything we cared to given the time.
No, it wasn’t a utopia. There were problems. Many of them. But here’s the difference: it felt like we could and that we would solve them. That’s the important part.
But back to the question of if any of that promise was true.
Most of I think actually was. And I am a cynic, if you didn’t know. The promise was real; those possibilities were capable of being realized. However, most of them would have made the rich somewhat less rich (the most important reason for the destruction of the dream of the 90s), and would’ve made white people just another group rather than the dominant group.
And then there’s now.
Every day you spill out of bed the news is worse. More tragic. More despair-filled. The president is a dangerous buffoon, climate change is accelerating and enormous financial calamities are in our immediate past and in our immediate future. The Left and the Right are beholden to the ideology of neoliberalism at all costs — even at the expense of the lives and futures of all the children and young people now living and still to be born.
The environment is worsening. Extinctions are increasing, and the rate of acceleration of extinctions is also increasing. The biosphere is in mortal danger, and meanwhile cadres of idiots on the Right and the Left believe that humans have no connection to the one thing keeping them alive. The coral reefs are dying and the oceans aren’t far behind.
No one is getting raises though we are told that we are at “full employment.” The rich are receiving tax cuts; the poor are told to go and die. Health care is likely to be stripped from millions of people while large swathes of the Left and the Right are militating for increased hostilities towards Russia, which has thousands of nuclear weapons. Monopolies and monopsonies dominate our lives and the only improvement in individual liberty is when one mega-corporation battles some other mega-corporation and it accidentally happens to benefit the hoi polloi.
And, oh yeah, Bill Cosby got away with raping more than a dozen women and feminism is in retreat.
I don’t understand nostalgia for the 1950s, because nostalgia for that time is mostly based on remembrance of 50s sitcoms by people who are actually too young to recall it in reality.
But I understand nostalgia for the 1990s because then — and especially in the early parts of that decade — it felt like the whole world was getting better, and that it was getting better for everyone — white, black, all people everywhere — and that we might actually be on a path of shared prosperity in an egalitarian society in a world worth living in.
Then came the first at-the-time small blemish on the dream: the Welfare Reform Act of 1996. Then 9/11. Then Afghanistan and Iraq; the Patriot Act; neoliberalism ever-tightening around our throats; eternal war, ever-present despair.
Now, we can’t solve our simplest problems and are told that even trying is futile, and we believe it. We feel it. We know it’s true, whether it’s true or not.
So yes, I understand 90s nostalgia, because I remember how it felt to wake up in a nation and in a world where the present did not feel like some third-rate dystopia, and the future did not seem likely to be an even worse dystopia.