The lingering misery and hardships of the Great Depression, including rationing, are a part of my earliest memories. Slowly, the beginnings of a new prosperity emerged. The new mood was signalled by, amongst other things, a change in the music. Everyday living began to lighten up, then turned to exuberance. The spirit of optimism was embodied in new-fangled consumer items such as televisions, fridges, transistor radios and hot water systems. Even more exciting was the availability of jobs that allowed people to buy them.
It was the early dawn of what turned into a general prosperity that was completely unfamiliar and sat uneasily with my parents’ generation. As they had worked their fingers to the bone to try to ensure that my generation would have a better life, so we blew it by instantly adapting to the new prosperity and by assuming that it would last forever – a New Age. As their lives had been damaged by the poverty, so ours were warped by the prosperity. How on earth had our parents’ generation made such a mess of their lives?
After WW2, the UK had voted to extend the hard times by electing a socialist government, which continued the wartime central planning of the economy. In so doing, they managed to stretch out the depression for a few more years. In 1951, they were voted out of office, the markets were opened up and, that same year, rationing finally ceased. I remember my mother’s joy. Socialism had proved to be not such a good idea after all.
And now I have lived long enough to witness what I strongly suspect is the beginnings of the next depression. I know what depressions are like. They aren’t pretty and not something to dismiss as someone else’s problem.
No job is secure.
Even if you somehow personally manage to avoid the worst of the deprivations, you will still have to witness things that you would rather not see – certainly not remember for the rest of your life. People become bitter and cynical; kindness is in short supply. It becomes easier to turn away and not see.
The only good news is that the contemporary surplus of daft notions is about to be blown away in an unsympathetic gust of reality.