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Same Picture, Different Frame


Perhaps the notable feature of the [1980s] decade was not that some people made money but that so many others were so bent out of shape by that. If some yuppie got a bonus, what was that to us? Rather than the Decade of Greed, wasn’t it really the Decade of Envy? Or the Decade of Envy, Jealousy, and other resentments there was no reason for those afflicted to sound so proud about?

Subjectively, far from being a Decade of Greed, the early 1980s were years of hard work and maximum productivity, better in my opinion than any period that has come since. For me and a lot of other people, the eighties were the young-adult Wonder Years, when autonomy came to the fore and we could finally do the things we were in uncomfortable preparation for all the years before that.

Much of the socio-political and economic climate of the 80s was perfect for those young enough to work hard. Youth is more able to adapt to change, and has fewer expectations that the future must follow the ruts worn by the past.

There had been young urban professionals in eras past. The 80s saw the onset of desktop computing, for example, that made being urban and professional more productive and more valuable. Instead of shuffling through books like clerks and assistants, those with the mental agility to work the software were actually making decisions. Or shaping the process by which their elders made them.

With change and transition comes instability. Instability is an enemy to people with children to raise. And anyone older who was in—or had passed through—the family-building stage of life would be inclined to see the Yuppies preference for work in a negative light.

Instead of seeing the economic flowering of their children as beautiful, the older generations saw only selfishness. Their kids were supposed to provide grandchildren, not buy BMWs.

And the younger folks without the drive or the talent to be part of the emergent wave of the 80s were happy to join the condemnation. The 80s appeared to be a selfish and superficial time to those who were not part of it.

Those on the inside, the ones painting the cultural stereotype with their work and lifestyles, were seizing their day.

Quote is from The Last Days of Disco, With Cocktails at Petrossian Afterwards via Chicago Boyz.