In the year 2000 I was 18 years old and about to (barely) graduate high school. I had a cell phone- just a flip phone, but they were new at the time and not many even had those. Back then it was still all about the pay phone for remote calls, which were everywhere in populated areas. Had a very low-key pre internet connectivity vibe to them. We used to hang out as adolescents and ring random 800 numbers just to probe the possibilities of what we could connect with from the corner store of our tiny little town in a world still mostly isolated from itself- I’d say for the better.
No smart phones or social media on the horizon for a few years to come, but I was no stranger to the Olde Internet, and had been using it in some capacity on my PC for most of the decade. All the cool kids called me and my very few nerd friends losers for being interested in it, completely unaware that they would be far more addicted than we ever were once steve jobs put that internet in the palm of their normie basic ass bitch hands.
I thought for a while that it was just the rose colored glasses of youth, but more and more I am beginning to realize that the 1990s really were peak western civilization and I just happened to be in the prime of my life to experience it. The culture still had that strong judeo christian framework holding everyone together- keeping people motivated to work and reproduce and innovate- but liberal ideas of shameless freedom that had been simmering with the boomers since they were teenagers rebloomed in the 90s when those hippie teenagers entered the Mature Parent age and gave us this perfect zeitgeist icing of creative freedom and romantic exploration on top of a sturdy cake of cultural and economic stability.
Mental health was as good as I’ve ever seen it. Race relations were as good as we’ve ever seen them. Enlightenment values seemed to have won over history, and in fact many people believed we did arrive at the end of a certain era of crude history unlikely to surface again. The biggest problem we had nationally was the president getting a blowjob in the oval office by an aide. The films we produced were philosophical and visionary. Young people were creative and adventurous and experimental.
What the hell happened? Did well intentioned liberals allow totalitarian tyrants to hijack all of their mainstream lawyers because they were too soft to stand up to and police their own? Race relations felt mostly solved. Now they feel worse than they ever been in my lifetime, but for even less reason today than people had back then. Art and philosophy feel like they’ve ground to a halt. Like people don’t have the capacity to manage them, anymore. Everything is more deconstructive than creative. What a boring and miserable world the generations that followed us made for themselves. Not that it’s their fault, of course.
I think the splendor of the 90s came with a price tag we put on layaway, that has since come due. The wheel of heaven has turned. I have been getting flashbacks from the 80s, and it’s only further reinforced the point. The 80s were a very poor time, similar to now. The same dirty aura of decline clung to things like damp air on a very old and yellowed cloth couch cushion. It felt like magic crawling out of that stench into the innovative middle class.
And it feels like the opposite of magic regressing backwards into darker chapters.