October 11, 2009


(The 1970s - beneath the tinsel, more tinsel)

Hard to imagine the 1970s as a decade of turmoil and self-doubt. Compared to the last nine years of this decade, the 70s seem almost sane and dull by comparison. But I guess it proves the point that every decade, no matter which one is loaded with fear, anxiety, loathing and self-doubt. Just seems natural, in a strange way.

A few years ago, BBC Radio 4 aired a documentary in three parts called "The 1970's: The Decade of Self-Doubt".

It primarily covers the financial, social and political upheavals that took place in Britain from 1970-1979. Some of the issues don't apply that much to America in the 1970s, but there are enough to feel an eerie sense of deja-vu coming on, particularly with the Women's Movement and the rise to power of Margaret Thatcher.

But a lot of it deals with the financial and labor problems that beset England right at the end of 1969 and continuing on throughout the 1970s, such as the continuing labor troubles at the National Theatre as recalled by Sir Peter Hall:

Sir Peter Hall: “The country was having a prolonged nervous breakdown, and there was obviously a very serious situation about the power of the unions and how much a democratic society the unions could actually do to the rest of the society. The National Theatre, I found to my horror was a kind of metaphor for the whole country. We had unofficial strikes, we had pickets declared official by unofficial strikers so that the actors wouldn’t cross the picket We had Workers Revolutionary Party Shop Stewards unfurling red flags on the top of the National Theatre. We had an unholy alliance among the stage staff, between the kind of extreme right-wing South London heavy mob, and the extreme Trotskyites.”

Much of what happened in England in the 1970s wound up visiting us in the 1980s via the Reagan Years and the Bush years.

This is part one and two of a three part series. I will post the third and final installment later on this week.

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