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Subject: Pessimism in the 90s

Written By: Sweet Illest Baby on 10/15/08 at 8:32 pm

Most of the books I've read written in the late 80s up to the mid 90s talk about many of the same things we complain about today - economic crisis, the decline of values, crime, even terrorism.

This makes me think our economic crisis is nothing new, but just the total breakdown of what's been declining since 1990 or even much earlier.

I used to see the 1990s as being quite a bit happier than now, but now I'm not sure.

Subject: Re: Pessimism in the 90s

Written By: Foo Bar on 10/16/08 at 1:24 am

The early '90s started with a moderate economic recession.  The late '00s ended with a severe economic recession (and possibly worse, but we're looking on the bright side).

As someone who profited handily during the mid-90s-early-00s (internet) boom, and as someone who was in the technology industry during the dot-bomb era (01-03), our economic crisis is something different.  If we're very very lucky, it'll be like 1987, and we'll be "OK" in a year.  If we're anything less than miraculously lucky, we'll be looking at a Lost Decade like the 70s stagflation era (or more accurately, Japan in the early 90s, which was a deflationary problem).  If we're only slightly unlucky, it's 1929.  From 1929 to 1933, stock values dropped another 80%.  Using the Great Depression as the standard, that'd translate into Dow 2500 by 2012.

Not to disparage the crunch of the early 90s, but this one really is bigger than that. 

But if you want to recapture the zeitgeist of the early 90s, you need to find yourself a copy of Excessive Force, Desperate State, 1993, Track 6 off Gentle Death, with the caveat that the "Clinton" of whom the sampled "Chicago cab driver" spoke was the funny intern-vag-dipped-cigar-smoking one, not the bitter vindictive one.  Apart from that, he got everything else in the song right, 15 years ahead of his time.

"We've reached a level of diminishing returns, I think, now, and nobody wins in a situation like that - there are no winners."
"Desperate state / Desperate state of affairs.  I'd worry about that."
"Our country is self-destructing from within.  In two or three years it's gonna be mind-boggling."
  - some Chicago cab driver, as sampled on Excessive Force, Desperate State, 1993
  (Track 6 off Gentle Death)

The real difference between the early-90s (the collapse of the Soviet Union) and the late-00s (realization that post-9/11 America met the same fate as the Soviets, and for the same reason) was the triumphalism.

KFMDM sang it with irony (or at least with a serious double entendre intended to be lost on most Reaganauts).  They sang it so well that even though I knew...

"...into light and the future / education is work / into violent peace / that will conquer the world..."
"Excessive force / keeps moving forward / moving you - and thousands like you / on course - and in one direction."
  - KMFDM as Excessive Force, Violent Peace (Track 1)

...what they meant, I still used it as background music when I loaded the flight simulator as a pastime during the Kosovo conflict and Gulf War II.  Never did it feel so good to take over the world. 

The tracks were written in 1993.  It wasn't until some time after 2003 that we finally learned that some parts of the world weren't worth taking over.  Too late for us, long live whoever comes after us. 

Subject: Re: Pessimism in the 90s

Written By: 80sfan on 10/17/08 at 11:18 pm

All of the 90's was optimistic. It was 9/11 that ended the optimism. There will always be 'underground' and dirty stuff in politics and small things in the economy. So those things don't count. But overall the 90's was optimistic!

Subject: Re: Pessimism in the 90s

Written By: sonikuu on 10/23/08 at 3:07 am

I figured I would respond to this due to the material I've been reading lately.  Thanks to election season hype, I've recently been reading books and doing research on the various presidents of the 20th century.  I'm currently on Bill Clinton, having finished the first Bush recently, so while the information is still fresh in my mind, I'll comment on 90s pessimism.

Pessimism was most prevalent in the first half of the decade.  The decade started off optimistically.  The Cold War was at an end and the first Gulf War resulted in an explosion of patriotism.  However, things took a negative turn with a recession, crime was on the rise, and while the first Bush had a good foreign policy (at least he knew when to stop with Iraq), they had a not-so-good domestic policy.  Darker music like Grunge and Gangsta Rap started to gain a following, possibly as a reflection of growing pessimism.  Bill Clinton was elected, in large part, because of his optimism, but upon entering office, he was forced to compromise or entirely abandon many of the domestric programs and reforms he wished to institute.  This, combined with a perception of being weak on foreign policy (the Somalia debacle, failure to do anything at all about the genocide in Rwanda) and the "Hillarycare" controversy, led to the "Republican Revolution" of 1994.

While the pessimism of the first half of the 90s was much less than it is today, it was certainly existent and had a clear impact on society.  The pessimism began to fade around 1993, but the 1993-1994 period can hardly be called optimistic.  "Normal", perhaps, but not exceptionally optimistic.  By the second half of the decade, the happy go lucky optimism that the 90s is associated with began to emerge.  Computers and technology began to revolutionize society to a degree not seen in decades, crime and poverty began to decline, Clinton established himself as a stable and reliable president (even after the Lewinsky scandal, his approval ratings never went down below 50%) and the country entered the largest period of economic growth in our nation's history.  That is when the truly optimistic 90s began, when people felt like technology could solve everything and people felt hope for the future as a result.  

That optimistic period ended like all the others.  This one ended with 9/11 and the climate of fear that took place afterwards.  Some other optimistic periods include 1983-1987 ("morning in America" and all that), 1961-1963 (Kennedy era) and the mid to late 50s.  The other post-1950 years would be either "normal" (like the mid-60s) or "pessimistic" (most of the 70s).

Subject: Re: Pessimism in the 90s

Written By: sonikuu on 10/30/08 at 6:05 pm

I've been watching short clips of state of the union addresses lately, so I thought I'd showcase a few clips to better demonstrate what I was talking about earlier.

Bill Clinton's 1993 State of the Union:

As I said in my previous post, the period between the Gulf War and into the US election would be characterized as a pessimistic period (although pretty damn optimistic compared to today).  Clinton's 1993 State of the Union showcases this, with talk of strengthening the economy and how, unless we fix the healthcare problem, the economy will not improve and may instead continue to weaken.

Bill Clinton's 1995 State of the Union:

The mid-90s were more of a "normal" period in time. Some optimism, some pessimism, but overall pretty balanced between the two.  Most periods of history are "normal" periods.  Although compared to the pessimism of 2008, the normalcy of the mid-90s seems optimistic in comparision.  Clinton's speech showcases this as well.  There is some optimism (good economy, millions of new jobs) and some pessimism (illegal immigrants, growing gap between rich and poor, and some people working harder for less).

Bill Clinton's 2000 State of the Union (definitely watch this one.  Its depressing when you know what came afterward):

By the time of this state of the union, the enormous economic growth of the late 90s (and a large part of 2000) had occurred, fueling a period of enormous optimism in the United States.  Bill Clinton's speech showcases this as he opens it up describing the various achievements that had been accomplished over the past few years.  He also compares the pessimistic picture of 1992 with the optimism of the new millenium.  This state of the union is also the most depressing when compared to today, particularly near the end when he talks about looking ahead to the new century and how we will create a better future.  Unfortunately, we all know what really happened.

Subject: Re: Pessimism in the 90s

Written By: MrCleveland on 11/02/08 at 4:52 pm

All of the 90's was optimistic. It was 9/11 that ended the optimism. There will always be 'underground' and dirty stuff in politics and small things in the economy. So those things don't count. But overall the 90's was optimistic!

I do agree about 9/11.

That made many people fear a lot of things. I was happy during most of the 90's. I think it was because I was a Gen-Yer and there was a lot of shows on TV and you didn't have to buy anything like cable, satellite, or digital converters. There was no Spongebob and where I lived, we had a renaissance. Now, we might as well call it a Ghost Town!

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