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Saturday, June 7, 2008

the culture of countries and the eighties

This was my Eighties week. Shame the library closed at five this Friday and doesn’t open on Saturday. I was really into it. But I had a very interesting meeting with a ‘friend of a friend’ who lives here instead, this morning over coffee. Learnt more about life in America and we had a lot of fun discussing the cultural differences she encounters, being Dutch, in the American workplace. Want to know more? Book my presentation “Welcome to Holland” or visit It has information in English. Or visit Wikipedia.

But about the eighties. The decade of opportunity, wealth and simple answers to difficult questions. Reagan won two elections with his patriottism and populism. Critics might rail against his simplicities, his evoking of nostalgia for a national past supposedly simpler and more pleasant, for presenting illusions that easy solutions to complicated problems existed. Americans in the eighties felt otherwise. They were in the mood for the resurrection of old myths. In the simple optimism of Ronald Reagan, they found what they were seeking. “The era of self-doubt is over,” Reagan had said in his inaugural address, and the nation cheered. Not in decades, perhaps not in the century, had acquisition and flaunting of wealth been celebrated so publicly by so many. The art of self-promotion was elevated into a new category. The most succesful exemplar of the form was the one who gave the age its most deserved name. It was the decade of the Art of the Deal, and no one received more attention as the premier deal maker of the times than Donald Trump.
And next to the unbelievable but very real Trump, we had J.R. Never had television presented such a diabolically greedy man as J.R. Ewing. He was a heartless monster driven by his libido and his lust for money. Never had viewers seen such a procession of wealth and possessions and desirable women. J.R. was the American dream gone haywire, but it turned out an American dream millions wished to experience. “Dallas” and its prime-time imitators were not the only avenue to escape problems by entering a fictional world where, as historian Ruth Rosen put it, a yearning “for perfect love in a mythic community” could be fulfilled. By decade’s end the daytime TV soap opera audience had risen to about eighty million each week. And of course we had the Reagan’s real life soap, the whole decade.

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