Fifty years on

It’s common to hear the sentiment that things were better in the past. The idea that generations are becoming less in touch, or that past times were better is something many of us have heard from our parents, grandparents and other relatives.

This kind of sentiment has been common throughout human history, and has been tied to feelings of nostalgia. Many of us have no doubt expressed nostalgia toward our childhoods, even if they weren’t perfect.

At the same time, young people today have come under the impression their lives are going to be worse and less fortunate than their parents and grandparents.

These sentiments are far from inaccurate. The Conversation reported young people are seeing declining earnings — a trend that started before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Declining life expectancy is another trend that began pre-pandemic. According to NPR, an American’s life expectancy fell by almost three years from 2019 to 2021. Alongside the pandemic, Americans have also been dealing with overdose deaths, mental health issues and other physical health issues.

Alongside fears about a lack of income, many young Americans are worrying about the role climate change will play in their lives.

Pew Research Center released a poll which found 63% of Americans said the effects of climate change will only grow worse in their lifetime, with 30% of those between 18 and 29 saying they’ll have to make major sacrifices because of it.

The post-World War II era of the United States was perhaps — at least in terms of economics — one of the more secure times to live in history.

While the benefits weren’t evenly distributed — especially along racial and gendered lines — America was thriving as the only economy not destroyed by the war. This period of relatively equal economic distribution continued until fifty years ago.

1973 was a watershed year for many reasons.

Watergate was unraveling the President Richard Nixon’s administration, America was pulling out of Vietnam, the CIA overthrew the Chilean government, the dreams of the 1960s were dead or dying and the economy was heading for uncertainty.

One of the most significant events of that year came from a topic familiar to the news today, war in the Middle East. October 1973 saw the Yom Kippur War, the last of a series of Arab-Israeli wars.

A coalition containing Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and various other Middle Eastern countries attacked Israel, and while the anti-Israel coalition failed, the war rippled through the global economy.

Most of the OPEC nations began an oil embargo against Israel’s major supporters, which included the United States.

Gas prices spiked and Americans had to line up at the pump for what little gas was available.

This set the stage for a decade which saw inflation, oil embargos, wage stagnation, deindustrialization — like Black Monday — and political realignment.

Today, we continue to face worry in the wake of environmental degradation, political instability and an uncertain future. With all that is happening, it is worth it to pay attention to current events that seem far away, as they can soon ripple into all our lives.