How We Got Here: The 70s: The Decade That Brought You Modern Life – by David Frum (2000)

In a nutshell, this book is about the dramatic transition of American society from pre-70s to the new world of the 1970s. Before the seventies, most of the country was naive and trusting. They believed their government and what they heard on the news. They were extremely loyal to the companies they worked for. They attended church and followed its moral standards because it had been ingrained in them, not necessarily because they believed it.

But by the 1970s, people were tired of the way things were. They were sick of the Vietnam War. The lies of politicians were being revealed. The economy was not doing well. People became tired of their monotonous jobs. Many grew weary of their obligations of marriage and child-rearing. Religious devotion was shrugged off. The Civil Rights movement was not accomplishing as much as many had hoped it would. It was a time of great dissatisfaction.

Excerpt from pages 57-58:

Sometime after 1969, millions of ordinary Americans decided that they would no longer live this way.
An early 1970s advertisement for hair dye featured a lovely blonde simpering, “This I do for me.” The ad would have spoken more directly to the times had it only added: “and this, and this, and this.” One could fairly call it the greatest rebellion in American history. It may have lacked the blood and gunpowder of the political rebellions of the past. There was no Boston Tea Party, no firing upon Fort Sumter. But it was more earthshaking than any of the violent uprisings of the past. In hundreds of thousands of kitchens, offices, and classrooms across the continent, Americans in their multitudes shucked the duties and broke the rules that their parents and grandparents had held sacred. From now on, Americans would live for themselves. If anyone or anything else got in the way – well, so much the worse for them. “Clear your mind then,” advised one of the many bluntly titled best-sellers of the 1970s, Looking Out For Number One. “Forget foundationless traditions, forget the ‘moral’ standards others may have tried to cram down your throat, forget the beliefs people may have tried to intimidate you into accepting as ‘right’. Another best-seller urged, “When you say ‘I should do this,’ or ‘I shouldn’t do that,’ you are also in many cases allowing yourself to be trapped by the past, following rules set down by parents, teachers or other mentors that may no longer have real meaning for you in our crisis culture.”

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How We Got Here: The 70s – by David Frum (2000)

My father was fond of saying that society was an ever-changing pendulum. First public sentiment would drift a certain way until it became too extreme, then the pendulum would begin to swing back in the opposite direction.

The author of this book does a fantastic job of showing what American life and beliefs were like in the 1940s-60s, and how it led up to dramatic changes in the 1970’s. Here is a clip from the introduction:

“They were strange feverish years, the 1970s. They were a time of unease and despair, punctuated by disaster. The murder of athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games. Desert emirates cutting off America’s oil. Military humiliation in Indochina. Criminals taking control of America’s streets. The dollar plunging in value. Marriages collapsing. Drugs for sale in every high school. A president toppled from office. The worst economic slump since the Great Depression, followed four years later by the second-worst economic slump since the Depression. The U.S. government baffled as its diplomats are taken hostage. And in the background loomed still wilder and stranger alarms and panics. The ice age was returning. Killer bees were swarming up across the Rio Grande. The world was running out of natural resources. Kahoutek’s comet was hurtling toward the planet. Epidemic swine flu would carry off millions of elderly people. Karen Silkwood had been murdered for trying to warn us that nuclear reactors were poisoning the earth. General Motors was suppressing the patent on a hyper-efficient engine. Food shortages would soon force Americans to subsist on algae…” (from xxiii – introduction)

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