The turmoil of the 1970s is partly reflected in popular culture, with films such as The Warriors, set in a graffiti-painted slum, seeing violent clashes between different gangs. A result of urban depopulation, economic crises, business closures, ethnic divisions and riots.
And in the Bond film Diamonds are Forever, we see the homosexual couple Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd as the extravagant antagonists of the day. Sexual liberation was celebrating great triumphs, and it was not just about the relationship between men and women, the pill, but also about people’s sexual orientations.
Then there is Roger Moore’s debut as Bond in the film Live and Let Die, which is partly a blaxploitation film, with lots of black actors in important roles. This reflects the black civil rights movement, as well as an increasing acceptance of black music, culture, etc.
Nor should we forget Princess Leia in Star Wars, where as a woman she plays an active and leading role in the Rebel Alliance, initiating the events of the opening scene and starting the whole adventure. Relations between men and women became increasingly equal, both on the silver screen and in real life.
Well, all this was 50 years ago. Half a century has passed. All these struggles for justice should be put to bed and done with.
But instead, we have a new 1970s upon us. The last few years have been marked by a kind of culture war in which women, minorities and various orientations continue to demand their rights as if it were still 1970. Even the race riots are back in the US.
The rights claims are being dragged out yet again, and activists are pretending that all the rights we have won in history do not exist. Women are to be made equal again, even though they have had the right to vote and change society for 100 years. And so are blacks and gays, once again to fight for their rights; perhaps they have forgotten that their grandfathers did the same thing 50 years ago? Maybe they are ignoring the fact that the acceptance towards homosexuals and blacks is high. All talk of systemic racism and intolerance is exaggerated, we live in a very tolerant and accepting society, at least in the West.
We also have the Cold War back, just like in the 1970s. Where Russia unprovoked attacked Ukraine last year, after Kiev, with the goodwill of NATO, bombed Donetsk for eight long years. The word unprovoked is open to interpretation. This was followed by sanctions against Russia and Russian citizens, confiscation of assets abroad, and the blowing up of the gas pipeline between Germany and Russia. Why the West is taking Ukraine’s side in the conflict is not easy to know; the country was described as a veritable nest of thieves and the most corrupt in Europe just weeks before the outbreak of war. There is obviously something rotten here. We get vibes of both the Vietnam War and the arms race with the Soviet Union.
The former 1970s ended with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and soon came the more successful and glossy 1980s. We had a slightly more conservative society, more stability and better security in the city centres. It was also a decade when white youth put up posters of black artists like Eddie Murphy, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Sade, Chaka Khan and many more. Perhaps we have never been closer to such acceptance between cultures and races? During the same period, gay men were leaders in fashion and entertainment, and being gay wasn’t a big deal. And the working world was overflowing with women, the housewife becoming the exception rather than the norm. In the East, Gorbachev abolished communism. Many thought we achieved some kind of balance.
The difference between 1970s activism and today’s is possibly that it is now paid for by various organisations as well as business. When the money stopped flowing into Floyd’s protests, they stopped. Other activities are also suspiciously short-lived and coordinated. Perhaps it’s about corporate guilt, that they would like to contribute to something good in society, while not really bothering to find out what’s really going on. Maybe it’s about something else, who knows?
Those of us who are tired of reading about LGBTQ, metoo, riots, protests, migrants, insecurity etc etc – when will we see the Reagans and Thatchers of tomorrow? Isn’t it time for them to emerge soon, and end the 1970s, again?