The Pursuit of Happiness…..
It has been said that the two biggest motivations of humans are to obtain pleasure and to avoid pain. I believe with some variations, this is mostly true. Add into this our instinct for survival and you can probably explain most behaviors. But I am just guessing here, I suppose.
This was a whole lot simpler when I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960s and even into the 1970s. We had to live with a very real – to most Americans and I would say also Russians – threat of global annihilation. I am not going into the propaganda factor here, because at the time this was not a consideration. For the people then it was very real. We had seen it right before our very eyes.
On the television. The effects from the test blasts in the desserts of Nevada. And for more than a few, up close as well. The nuclear tests were what put Vegas on the map and made it a tourist mecca. People would flock to the area to watch. Thrilling and terrifying at the same time. It was a simple and easily identifiable threat. So clear were the consequences of a nuclear exchange, that there were few if any who could or would deny it. When you could find yourself with just enough time to hug a loved one before being obliterated or facing a life of slow radioactive death in a world plunged back to the dark ages. These were the visions in most peoples minds.
As children we had lectures on nuclear war in school and were even given bracelets to ware for identification afterwards. As it there would be anything left to identify.
And I believe that this one item…one situation….drove and influenced our political, economic and social behaviors more than anything else at the time. The Cuban Missile Crisis was the first time I ever remember seeing fear on the face of my father. A time of national terror that the unthinkable might actually happen.
Later in the 1960s the Vietnam War brought it home in a much more personal manner for the youth of the day. A possibility of nuclear war AND the very real likely hood of getting ones head blown off in some South East Asian jungle, with the war casualties climbing every day. With ones friends and neighbors being sent home in a body bag or box.
The effect of all of this on politics was very, very strong. Seen to a large extent as walking a tight rope, politicians and peoples political leanings did not very much from center. Do not vote for anyone who might rock the boat, lest they initiate some catastrophe.
It’s why Eisenhower was picked and why Kennedy was picked and yes even Nixon was picked. If you seriously look at each ones agenda, none of them veered much from center. And it was why the ad at the beginning of this diary was so effective. Seems tame by today’s standards, but at the time hit the buried and not so buried fears of the day.
But with the decline and then the fall of the Soviet union we on the left saw this as being free to pursue more progressive agendas. But at the same time the right also seeing this as finally being able to undo those same progressive laws they had hated so much from the time of FDR onward. Electing those more to their own personal ideologies with out fear of initiating some immediate Armageddon.
Besides there is no physical prof of climate change and economic calamity was just some governmental fiddling in the market. No tangible cause and effect and could easily be rationalize away any way one pleases.
For you see the same cage that kept us from our pursuits had also kept the loonies and extremists at bay as well.