Friday, June 05, 2009

555 History By Committee

555 History By Committee

There's a book on the desk, now, a college text book.  In part, it's about the years in America since 1945, the end of WWII, and it was written by a committee.  When you have a committee of academics writing a book, you get a book written by a committee.  An unattached historian, one professor from the University of Delaware, another from Harvard, one from Bard College and one from the University of Texas at Austin.  The Gang of Five.

You can find almost anything on Google.  But not the days of birth for this crew.  Which unfortunate, because if you could, you be able to verify whether any of these folks were actually alive in 1945 or any of the other years about which they write.

It doesn't seem so.  Or, more accurately, it is strange to look at an academic view of something one has lived through.

The facts, well -- they seem to get much of that straight.   There is, for example a long piece about Harley Earl who was the design maven at General Motors (back when it was private enterprise.)  They picture a late 1950s Cadillac and call it an example and a metaphor for the excesses of that decade, which it was.

They tell us that the move from the cities to the suburbs which began right after the war and continues to this day impoverished the major cities.  They tell us that the cold war sucked up a lot of resources, maybe unnecessarily.  The erection of and then the erectile dysfunction of the Berlin Wall.  The establishment of the Interstate Highway system.

But there's an awful lot of academi--quacking about feelings.  They are trying to explore one era through the prism of another.

In the late 1940s and the 1950s you never heard much about feelings.  We went to war.  Tough on lots of us.  But we went.  Did our duty.  After victory, we rebuilt and then embraced the enemy and started a ping pong game with our then-ally, the Soviet Union.

While so much attention is paid to feelings today, we didn't think in those terms.  If we had, we'd probably never have escaped the Great Depression and would all be speaking German and Japanese today.

The death of a loved one on a battlefield?  How could that not make you grieve.  Having a Chevy in the driveway instead of a Lincoln?  Maybe that made us feel envious.  But it wasn't talked about -- and scant little attention was paid to it.  We were too busy recovering and trying to get our lives in the order we wanted.

Also missed in the book, one of the two greatest culture-changing pieces of technology since the discovery of fire and the invention of the wheel:  TV and the computer.

By 1947, television was becoming the cultural center of our universes, to be replaced 40 years later by the home computer.

Without adequately explaining the impact of those two machines, it's impossible to adequately explain the era.

Maybe the committee should have another meeting.

Shrapnel:

--Chet Currier's take on "protective" investing in gold:  You can't eat the stuff, and if it comes to the point where you'd have to no asset's an asset.  Chet's gone some years now.  But his wisdom lives on.

--Adversity breeds opportunity.  Maybe they could turn all those closing car dealers' showrooms into banks.  You can never have enough banks.

--Funny the stuff people keep.  Guy passed along a letter the other day, letter from a guy in the lockup.  Letter from the guy in the lockup was requesting that a radio station play a song, the letter was dated 11/26/57, so the guy's probably out of jail by now.


I'm Wes Richards.  My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

1 comment:

Dr. Douglas said...
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