We need to sometimes take a longer view. The media (social and mainstream) would lead most people to believe that the world has never been so dangerous or that governments have never been so incompetent or evil. Whether its the latest news on Brexit, Trump’s Tweets, Putin’s evil intent or the chaos that is Syria and Yemen. There appears to be a tendency to ignore even recent history.
It seems apt that I take a personal perspective. This year marks the 40th year (in August) since I entered full time employment. I left school at 17 (Much to my parents annoyance) half way through my A Levels. It was unusual then to even take A Levels. University was for less that 20% of the population. I was in the vast majority. The UK was a very different place. A Labour Government was in charge under Jim Callaghan as Prime Minister and his infamous ‘Winter of Discontent’ was to follow that winter.
I had dreams of being a rock star (don’t laugh) instead, I became an Electronics Technician earning (via a weekly brown envelope holding the cash) £29 per week. Equivalent to about £160 in today’s inflation affected money. The inflation rate was 7.8%. It would rise higher along with interest rates.
The UK was known as the sick man of Europe which was the trading block known as the EEC or Common Market as it was commonly known. The UK had joined the EEC with Denmark and Ireland in 1973 – there was no referendum. It did have a referendum to remain in 1975.
The troubles were 10 years old in Northern Ireland, and that year 82 deaths were attributed to the conflict. The next year would be worse. The UK was still supporting the new Oman regime but elsewhere was not directly militarily involved, except of course the day to day cold war with the Soviet Union. To give some context to Middle East troubles including Oman this is a handy reference – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_modern_conflicts_in_the_Middle_East
Jimmy Carter was US President having beaten Gerald Ford in 1976. Ford of course had become President after Nixon resigned in August 1974. (pence for Trump?) The Iranian revolution would follow in 1979, with all the troubles that caused Carter. Brezhnev was the leader of the Soviet Union and would be until Nov 1982. He would be in charge when the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan in 1979 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet%E2%80%93Afghan_War.
It took the Soviet Union nearly 10 years to ‘get out’ of Afghanistan. The US supported the Mujahideen including Bin Laden with advisors and weapons. The US Ambassador to Afghanistan was murdered in 1979 initially blamed on a communist group. The US, UK and others still have troops there since the October 2001 invasion, and in Iraq since March 2003. How long will it be until we completely leave both countries.
In 1978, Germany was split East and West with Berlin a split city in the East. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, were still joined. Solidarity in Poland was still a couple of years off. The KGB was the security apparatus of the Soviet Union supporting the vassal states in the Warsaw Pact. A Bulgarian exile, Georgi Markov was murdered on a London Street by a poisoned umbrella pellet in Sept 1978. Odd murders by security services are not new.
The World Wide Web would not be invented until 1989 and have little relevance until the late 1990s. There were 16 million users world wide in 1995 when I was a military officer on an Exchange post in the USA. Now. there are over 4 Billion. The Internet of course existed in Military and scientific fields before that.
Writing this is has reminded me how much has changed personally and how little has changed world wide. Yes, names have changed and regimes have changed, but global politics is as messy as ever. We still have Middle East conflict, US Presidential politics, and rows about Europe. We can add in the mix a rising China and risk of trade wars, climate changes, and the risks from population growth. Despite the current issues it still feels a better world than watching uncollected rubbish pile on the streets whilst walking to work because of yet another strike.