Reflections on the 1980’s – aspects of the “shadow era” which follows a “glory time”

Here’s a thought I had:


I was talking to someone about the 1980’s the other day.  I stated that there was a quality about the 1980’s that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.  There was something “different” about it.  After some reflection I began to say that the sense I got from the 1980’s was that we were living in the shadow of all the success that followed WWII.  For the youth that followed, it made us look incredibly small.  How could we ever compete with all that?  We simply can’t.  The generation before us was so successful that it was almost unreal.  During their time they increased the economy, created all sorts of gadgets and gizmo’s, rock’n roll music, fantastic movies, TV, automobiles, split the atom, created jets, landed on the moon, etc., etc., etc.  We were standing under the shadow of this big massive thing which none of us could even hope to compare to no less begin to outdo.  Another way I described this is like being the son of an incredibly wealthy successful father who pioneered something.  These sons tend to become very small insignificant people.  In many ways, that’s what many of us were like in the 1980’s.  No one discussed it or stated it outright . . . at least I don’t recall it . . . but the sense was in the air.  As I reflect on it now I tend to think that this sense had great impact on the 1980’s mentality and attitude.  I think this is one reason why I didn’t like the 1980’s that much.  I just felt so small (see my article Thoughts on the American scramble for the “inheritance” of their parents and grandparents – the fight for “post WWII glory”).

In the conversation I stated that I was of the 1980’s generation but, on reflection, I don’t feel that’s true.  I would say that I’m really of the 1970’s generation and reflect many attitudes from that time.  I think this is one reason why I didn’t fit into the 1980’s that well.  In fact, while living in the 1980’s I used to call it the “sterile 80’s” and looked down on it.  It was only in the 1990’s that I began to realize that there was a lot of unique and neat things that happened in the 1980’s.  It was also the last decade to have a unique style all its own.

I should point out, though, that most of the neat things were not done by the younger 1980’s generation, themselves, but the older generation before them who happened to do things in the 1980’s.  In this way, most of the neat things in the 1980’s were not done by the youth of that era (I don’t recall us doing anything).  The younger generation was following along, so to speak.  The “sterile 80’s” point of view was from the perspective of being one of the youth (who lived under the shadow of the success of the former generation and was small as a result).  It was only when I looked at it from a greater and broader angle (that is, no longer from the perspective of the youth) that I began to see it was a neat era and that it was the previous generation that caused all that.

In actuality, the effect of the youth of the 1980’s era would happen in the 1990’s and later.  And how did that appear?  I first began to see the signs of it in the early-mid 1990’s.  I began to notice an almost obsessive tendency, sometimes to the point of abuse, for parents and society to force the kids to be successful.  What I saw the most was how every kid, and their dog, has to go to college and has to achieve in some way, and have some fantastic high paying job.  In effect, the children of the youth of the 1980’s generation were turned into “machines of the American success story”.  This mentality has continued on down to today.  I’ve often been appalled how parents of my generation, and later, treat their kids . . . often like show ponies or machines.

This “machines of the American success story” is reflective of the quality I described above for the 1980’s . . . living under the shadow of the post WWII generation . . . and then trying to recreate it (see my article Thoughts on some origins of many ridiculous attitudes of the American mentality – the ongoing effects of WWII, Cold War, and the Vietnam War era, fear, and on how the U.S. is living in the past).  In this way, the legacy of the youth of the 1980’s generation seems to be one of reenacting the post WWII glory time.  In particular, they forced this reenactment on their children.  Because of this, the children of the youth of the 1980’s generation are continuing this same mentality.  In fact, its actually gotten worse.  This seems largely due to the success of the so-called “digital revolution” which, in some respects, is like a “mini post WWII glory time”.  As a result, it only catered to and fostered the “reenacting” mentality making it worse and worse.  This mentality has gotten so prevalent that I often call the 21st century the “century of reenactment” and now assign it as a dominating trait (see my article Thoughts on how the 21st century is a reaction to the 20th century – the ongoing effects of the “dramatic century”, with remarks about “historical disruption”).

The “Small Generation”

I went on to say that we, in the 1980’s, were part of the “small generation” because we were made small by the success of the post WWII world.  We were looking up at this massive thing that we couldn’t compare to.

The “small generation” is primarily a result of a condition, a situation which made us small and insignificant.  Some of the effects that this had on us include:

  • A lack of ambition (why do anything? . . . its already been done)
  • This caused a tendency to apathy (we can’t surpass what’s already been done)
  • A blind continuation of attitudes and ways started by the successful generation before us, even though they may have no meaning to us or we didn’t really care (for example, one group tried to maintain the success theme by becoming “Mr. successful” – the yupi’s – and another group continued the rebellion started with the hippies – the stonies, and so on)
  • An attempt at trying to recreate or reenact the “former glory” in some way

These caused a lack of genuineness and originality which, in a way, made us even smaller.  About the only thing to make us “bigger” was to somehow replicate the post WWII glory in some way and many people made a life out of that . . . and still do.

The “Nobody Generation”

I then said that the generations that followed the “small generation” were the “nobody generation”.  The “small generation” are their parents.  Because of this, the “nobody generation” is really the next step after being made small.

Unlike the “small generation” the “nobody generation” were not reacting to a condition.  Instead, they are reacting to the instruction and guidance of the “small generation”.  Its as if the “small generation” were trying to force the post WWII glory and success, that they could not receive, onto their kids.  In this way, they would receive the glory and success through their children, so to speak.  But, in the process, they turned their kids into “nobodies”.  Basically, the “nobody generation” were made nobodies because they were treated like nobodies by their parents and society.  This happened a number of ways, such as:

  • Because they were treated like “machines of the American success story” having to reenact and display American success
  • As show ponies of their parents and societies desire to reenact the post WWII glory and the cult of success and achievement it created
  • As a result of having to be educated to death, spending a lifetime in school and cramming their head with information (remember that this is motivated out of the desire for American success)
  • As a result of being dominated by all the creations that success created (for example, becoming enslaved by the cell phone)

These as if degrade the individual person, making the person insignificant to the point of becoming a nobody.


All this brought up a subject which I call the “shadow era”.  This is the period of time following a “glory time”.  In this article, I am primarily looking at the glory time that happened during and after WWII (1940’s, 50’s, 60’s, and into the 70’s).  I generally speak of this as the “post WWII glory” as most of its effects became apparent after WWII.

The “glory time” has qualities such as:

  • It consists of new and novel things
  • It brings people together and has a unifying quality
  • Its massive in its effects
  • It has many positive effects

The “glory time” is something so impactful that the generations after it are “living under its shadow”.  In this way, the following era becomes as if enslaved to it (see my article Thoughts about “living in the shadow” and its effects).

The “glory time” has phases

  1. The phase of creativity.  This actually causes the “glory time”.  It tends to be overshadowed by what it creates.
  2. The phase of creation.  This is the result of the creativity.  Because it is something that is “grasped” this is often what’s remembered.

The “shadow era” is primarily a reaction to the creations of the “glory time”.  In other words, the “shadow era” tries to replicate the creations and, as a result, tends to not reflect the creativity that created them.

This replication is done a number of ways such as:

  • Imitation
  • Attempts at sustaining it
  • Recreating in some way
  • By reenacting it

The idea of the “shadow era”, generally, is to keep the glory alive by keeping what it created alive.  As a result, it tends to not display the qualities described above:

  • There is little that is new or novel
  • It does not bring people together nor has a unifying quality
  • It has minimal effect
  • It has minimal positive effects

The result is that things tend to slow down and, in a way, the society slowly falls apart.  This more or less means that the attempt at recreating a former glory actually tends to impair the society . . . it becomes as if “stuck” in a hole.  I have always felt that the U.S. is in this situation in the 21st century.

Some Effects

In the “shadow era” a measure of a person is often based in how well one can imitate the qualities of the “glory time”.

Success in this imitation can cause a number of things such as:

  • Many peoples “happiness” is often actually a result of success in this imitation.  That is to say, they are not happy because they are happy . . . they are happy “because they can imitate properly”.
  • It can create a feeling that one is entitled to the glory
  • It makes people view themselves as bigger than one actually are (for example, I am noticing that many females are now trying to make out anything the female did in the past as some great thing)

Not being able to do achieve this imitation can cause a number of things, such as:

  • Dejection and low self esteem
  • Lack of ambition and apathy
  • A tendency to rebellion and contempt
  • A tendency to become envious and feel hatred if one did not benefit from the glory (in the U.S. many people have begun to use politics as a means for this by claiming that they are being discriminated against, had their “rights” violated, and so on)
  • It can create a condition where people fight and scramble for “a piece of the pie” that the glory created

These are all common in the U.S. in the 21st century and are, I think, reflective of living in the shadow of the post WWII glory.

Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Historical stuff, Society and sociology, The "drones" and stuff associated with them, The effects of WWII, the Nazi's, the Holocaust, the Cold War, and the Vietnam War era protests, The U.S. and American society, Twenty first century and post cold war society and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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