Here we are again. A time to reflect and look back on the endless stupidity my generation was subjected to while growing up, trying to convince the younger generation the neon framed sunglasses and checker-patterned Vans just weren’t worth the crap TV, lack of internet, primitive video game systems, and stuff like:
5. “New” Coke!
Knee-jerk reactions to non-existent problems were a hallmark of the 80s. And the Coca-Cola company became the poster children for such ventures, when they, with great fanfare, changed their whole formula and introduced a whole new soda, with the same name.
Oh but they didn’t stop there. They were so damn convinced this “new” Coke, a reformulated version of the American Icon that had been wildly successful for 100 years, would be so incredibly popular, they pulled every can with the old formula off the shelves.
Let me back up for a second here. When you’re 9 years old in the middle of the 80s, this was a huge deal. And not just to 9 year olds. I remember this thing dominating the news for months. I remember my dad blindfolding my sister and I and giving us a “taste test” with the new and old Coke. I remember it was pretty damn hard to tell the difference, but one clearly had a little more sugar, so of course that got our vote. It was the New Coke.
If you aren’t from the 80s, and you don’t know how this story ended, I bet you can guess. People went ape-shit and within a few months the “old” Coke came back. For a while old and new Coke were on the shelves together, then new Coke basically disappeared. All in all it was an embarrassing and ironic episode that only served to help the root cause of all this, Pepsi. You see before this all went down there were some blind taste tests and Pepsi was apparently faring a little better than Coke, leading to the whole “let’s change the formula” fiasco.
4. Let’s all be Farmers!
Before the era of big-agra, America did most of their agriculture the old-fashioned way. There was the family farm, and typically one or two crops. Farming, as you may know, sucks incredibly. To make matters worse, The 70s gave rise to a farmer real estate bubble. Sound familiar? Yea well that bubble also burst, and lots of farmers got fucked.
So, naturally, lots of people quit the farm business, ironically, so as not to starve. The Reagan administration responded they way most presidential administrations would have. They didn’t know what the fuck to do. But, one thing they did do that I experienced, was the worst kids’ education campaign of all time.
Yes, the government decided the best way to indoctrinate young kiddos to the wonders of farming in the 80s was to show them terrible industrial farming videos from the 60s. Jesus guys, at least give me something fun to mock like a rapping farmer with dancing cows.
These videos were the equivalent of live action shots of accountants, with the hopes that would inspire a generation of future CPAs. The whole exercise confirmed what my friends and I already suspected. Farming sucks.
3. Everybody Wins!
In the late 80s, a Task Force in California came up with a brilliant strategy to help struggling students. Just tell them how wonderful and special they are, and they will excel. If you have any common sense whatsoever, you see where this going, and I could probably stop here. But I’ll go on..
Not only did they expect this institutionalized learned narcissism to make kids smarter and more successful, they figured it would make them nicer to their peers as well. Surprisingly, they were wrong… about all of it. Kids indoctrinated in meaningless self-esteem boosting did not fare any better scholastically, socially, or conduct-wise. In fact, some follow-up studies showed these kids had some very undesirable tendencies, such as refusing to take responsibility for mistakes, giving up on complex problems, and elevated self-image with led to some bullying tendencies. Nice going guys.
But wait.. there’s more. To take this mode of thinking to its logical end, youth sports leagues went with the idea that no one should lose. Of course when no one loses, no one really wins either. These ideas were clearly dreamt up by former athletes and competitive types. We all know games and sports are mad fun when there’s no motivation to win. Moreover we all know this country was made great by people who just felt like winners, not who actually worked for, strived for excellence, and accomplished anything.
Hey, I love my ultra-liberal peeps out in Cali. We are on the same team. But sometimes they get it so wrong I’m want to hang my head in shame.
2. Heavy Metal will turn your kids into murderers!
In the 80s, some busy-bodied housewives and grandstanding politicians found the idea of troubled young people committing violent crimes, teen pregnancy, and suicides distasteful. So, instead of doing the hard work, like exploring these kids’ access to mental health counseling, family support structures, and social pressures, they looked for a quick panacea. Ahhh I know! How about that terrible heavy metal music? Problem solved.
It got to the point that artists like Judas Priest and Ozzy actually had to take the stand in court to explain to grieving parents how their job was to sell lots of records and have a lot of sex and do a lot of drugs, not to make your kids kill themselves. Parents didn’t buy it, but juries did, and threw the baseless cases out. However the modern era of censorship had begun
Not much really changed. I do remember being incredulous when I couldn’t buy a Guns N’ Roses tape at age 13 without my parent present. I tried to explain how I had already seen hardcore pornography and graphic violence, just that same day in fact, but to no avail. Thanks Tipper. I couldn’t buy Appetite for Destruction at the record store, and had to get it for $.01 plus shipping via the BMG mail-order club. You did save me about $10. So, I kinda owe you, I guess.
#1 Just Say No!
Ahh, good old Nancy Reagan. Nancy was displeased in the 80s by all this stuff on the news about drug abuse. And inevitably at some point a story slipped in about an 8 year old somewhere whose insane or indifferent uncle got them hooked on smack. Tragic, no doubt. And also, a logical call to action. Clearly, the most vulnerable people in the country to the horrors of drug abuse were suburban 8 year old white kids.
Let me offer you some unque perspective on 2 important facets of this. Point #1: With the overwhelming amount of PSAs, terrible, awful short films, school presentations, and preachy sit-com plots geared toward me as an 8 year old, this was really a real thing, for my age bracket and demographics (at least in the eyes of Nancy and her ilk).
Point #2: I was said white 8 year old kid. I grew up in suburban Miami, FL. That’s right, the cocaine capital of the world. There was more cocaine flowing through the streets of Miami than sand on the beach. So if little white kids anywhere were having to dodge the pushers after school, it would have been me. I can safely say, I never saw any kind of drugs or drug use until well into my teens (when the PSAs and dire warnings all but completely stopped, incidentally).
Which brings me to another fallacy of the “War on Drugs.” If not the soulless pushers hanging around elementary schools, inevitably many of my classmates were hardcore drug users, according to Nancy R. As an 8 year old who definitely didn’t want to get high and live on the street, a lot of these messages instilled real fear that many of my peers were going to illicit tremendous pressure on me to use their drugs with them, if not just hold me down and force bags of cocaine and endless viles of heroin into my system.
I can safely say, once I got a bit older and actually were around some drug-using peers, they were not the least bit demanding about wanting me to use their drugs. In fact, had I been into that, I’m quite sure the opposite would have been true.