When my friend Tim Norris posted this to Facebook recently, it made me stop and think. One of those “thinks” was that his words were worth sharing, so here (with Tim’s permission) they are…
The earliest “historical” thing I can vaguely remember was the tail end of the Vietnam War. I have vivid memories of an oil crisis in 1973 which resulted in the issuing of ration coupons (I remember my school teacher being really pleased because he drove a frugal Mini and he could get much further on his ration).
I remember a miners’ strike in 1974 resulting in regular power cuts, including my favourite one which happened during a report on Nationwide on how power stations were handling it. The man at the control desk said, “And now we’ll switch off the Sydenham district,” and reached out for the switch. The electricity went off in our house and we learned that the “Sydenham district” was their name for the whole of south east London.
I remember that the power shortages resulted in the illumination of only every other streetlight and the introduction of the three-day week. I remember that that brought down the government and there being two general elections in 1974 because no one could decide who should dig us out of the hole.
I remember inflation over 20%. I remember bread shortages and sugar shortages.
I remember the IMF crisis in 1976. Then there was the “Winter of Discontent” in 1978/79. Another recession in 1980 (I think there’d already been two in the ’70s), accompanied by record unemployment. I remember riots in Bristol, Toxteth and Brixton.
I remember the Falklands War in 1982. Then there was the Miners’ Strike in 1984 culminating in the gutting of the Trade Union movement, the end of collective bargaining and the wholesale dismantling of the UK’s industrial base.
As a constant, terrifying, heart-breaking background to all that through the ’70s and ’80s there was sectarian unrest in Northern Ireland – daily reports of murders and bombings, both in Ulster and on the mainland.
I remember another recession in 1990/91. I remember the house-price crash which left the value of my home “underwater” for nearly 10 years.
I remember Black Wednesday in 1992 when Sterling crashed so low it had to be withdrawn from the ERM. There was the Gulf War and the war in Kosovo. The 2001 terror attacks on the USA led to more war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and chaos throughout the Middle East.
Mixed in with all that for the past 40-odd years that I’ve known what was going on there were assorted political crises and scandals big and small. Some of them involving blowjobs in the Oval Office.
I’ve seen a lot of hand-wringing in all branches of the media over the past couple of weeks explaining just how fucked we are now, like it’s a new thing. But look again at that list. It’s not even close to being a comprehensive list of all the shit things that have happened in my lifetime, but it should serve to illustrate that life isn’t more shit now than it’s ever been. If you want to think it’s shit then by all means go ahead, but at least have the perspective to realize that it’s not the shittest – it’s exactly as shit as it’s always been.
And yet somehow we’re all still here. We do our bit every day to try to make things better. Just like we always have. So… you know… get the fuck over it.