What happened to the end of history? In hindsight, the 1990s seems like a decade of peace, prosperity, and promise. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of dictatorships in Latin America, the Asia Pacific region, and sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s and ’90s, democracy seemed ascendant; the “third way” of politics championed by Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Gerhard Schröder spoke of an end to old left-right divisions; new technologies such as the World Wide Web offered a brighter future.
It’s easy to look at the past through rose-tinted glasses. Back in the day, a job was for life, everything was cheaper, young people were polite, and you could leave your doors unlocked. Who hasn’t heard of the “good old days”? But was it really like that? Or do we have selective memories of the past (especially as we endure lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic)?
The 1990s was also a time of brutality and violence. Wars raged in many countries, from Iraq to Somalia, and shocking crimes against humanity took place across the world, including the genocides of Bosnia and Rwanda.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. We almost always look fondly at the past (especially so when it comes to decades in which we were young and carefree). And, of course, your memories and attitudes of the past will vary depending on where you experienced them – for many people in the developing world, for example, now is the time to be optimistic (though, of course, coronavirus may dent that sense of global progress and optimism).
Was everything really better in the 1990s? Are we looking at the past with rose-tinted glasses? Would you like to return to the “good old days”, or are you excited about the future? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!