New Wave Music, the 1980s, and Presages of Apocalptic Doom

Aug. 15, 2021

Listening to the New Wave station on Sirius, I am reminded of the ways the world has become worse since the end of the 1970s. Although much of 80s music seems, on the surface, upbeat, dance-oriented, there is, also an undercurrent of cynicism and gloom, at least in some of the songs, such as my favorites from that time period–”Fade to Grey,” “Tainted Love,” “Blue Monday,” and works by Goth artists (Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division etc.). I sense in works by these artists a premonition of doom , a glimpse behind the vapid, prosperous facade of Reagan-era, billionaire-enriching economics to reveal a future of increasing income disparities, callous commodification of health care, erosion of worker benefits, and rampant destruction of the environment. Although there have been brief periods of apparent social progress, the negative impact of the Reagan era continues, increasing during Trump’s ruthless regime.

Now, with Coronavirus and the pandemic of selfishness, many people do not seem to care about anything but their alleged right to disregard the safety of others by refusing to wear a mask or follow other health mandates. More than ever, I am often disgusted by humanity, its treatment of other living beings and the environment. We now face an environmental crisis that may within the next few decades result in the extinction not only of ourselves but of nearly all other forms of life. All of the magnificent works of art, the cultural and scientific achievements that have been made throughout the beginnings of humankind may also be destroyed. If our ancestors could see what has happened, how their creativity and innovation have been defiled by the greed of those having the power to prevent such catastrophes and the ignorance of those swept up into nonsensical furors by divisive despots, what would they think?

I wonder if, back in the 1980s or before, we would have been able to prevent or at least slow the destruction wrought by climate change by acting more quickly and unselfishly to implement changes regarding energy sources, wilderness conservation, etc. Back in those flippant days of big hair and big money, would we have at least had the chance to stop this looming apocalypse?

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Writings by Alison Armstrong