In ten days it will be my 61 Birthday. Today at the store I was buying stuff for the party and they played this song, American Pie, The Day the Music Died. Just listening to this song no matter where I am brings back a flood of memories from those days not so long ago. I was 3 years old when Buddy Holly died in February 1959 in a plane crash in Iowa, I would only here of him many years later. The song was written years later but all the words and reference are of that period I grew up in.
It is by far the song I love the most. With my birthday now being close at hand, looking back I think how the world was so different then in the 1960’s. It was not a golden age of peace, no not at all, there was a lot of turmoil in the world, decolonization in Africa with the usual ensuing civil wars, the Palestinian organization Black September and other groups in Italy, Red Brigades and in Germany staged terror attacks, planes then where highjacked frequently, security in airports simply did not exist. The Vietnam war, with its American involvement as of 1961 taking up where the French had left off, there was steady economic growth until 1973 when the price of oil shot up overnight, the race for nuclear weapons, the Cold War and rivalries between the USSR and the USA, the World was split in two, East and West. But the prosperity and lots of jobs, a time when you could quit one job and the next day land another one.
Politicians where not better but the World was more naive, more gentile, you could believe in a better tomorrow, all was still possible, the 1970’s would start to change that perspective, the North South Dialogue was all the rage, the idea was to export factory jobs to the South, AKA Third World Countries to share the wealth, most manufacturing jobs went to Asia, Corporations could not believe their luck. Our politicians told us we did not need those job because we would have value added jobs and leisure. No one knew what that meant but it sounded good. By 1979 it was clear the world was no longer such a nice post Second World War place. The 1980’s would shake up a lot of people, the financial crisis of 1982 would put an end to prosperity and the era of cut backs was inaugurated as I entered the job market. You would have to wait until the 1990’s to hear such demoralizing slogans as Do more with less, Be efficient, Be Cost effective, Cut the waste, Think outside the box, It’s cutting edge, Be a change agent, Change is good. All these slogans will be debunked one by one but after much human cost as inequalities grew with the result we see today. We do live now in an age of uncertainty and this will continue for many years to come.
So as I look back I am happy to be 61 and not 21 or 31, in the next 30 years the world will become a more difficult neighbourhood. It has been for me a great time, a great life and that 1971 song American Pie by Don McLean reminds me of it.