Twenty years ago: Remembering 1998.

by Elias Blum

The thing I miss most about twenty years ago was the sense of optimism.

In the long decade between the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and the 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks (2001), we were living in the ‘End of History’.

Liberal democracy had won. It had defeated all authoritarian and totalitarian alternatives. The Free West had won the cold war with nothing more lethal than coca-cola, blue jeans, and rock-n-roll. We’d solved all the big ideological questions, and everything else was just detail.

Democratic capitalism (the words were not then oxymoronic) was working: with just enough regulation and redistribution to make it tolerably fair, free enterprise was going to put a VCR and a PC into every home.

Yes, there were still problems, but we knew how to solve them. We had the answers, and the technology, and the money. It was going to be ok after all. We had figured out the way to the good life, and it involved TV diners and hanging out at the mall. We were going to be safe and free and rich and happy forever. World without end, Amen.

Then it all went to shit.

On a personal note, in 1998 I didn’t have sciatica or hemorrhoids.