Welcome to the Roaring ’20s! Or is it the Soaring ’20s? Or the Deploring 20s? Time will tell. (There is an enormous truth in those three simple words).
When the Roaring ’20s of the last century unfolded, the world had been through the most horrible deconstruction of civilization in human history, what we now call World War I. It was mainly a European war, but over 400,000 U.S. troops saw action and over 100,000 Americans died in combat, all in just the last year of the hostilities. Then the great Spanish flu epidemic set in immediately, triggered by the horrid conditions of the war, with over 20 million casualties. A second “world war” became an inevitability, too, even deadlier than the first, necessary to halt civilization’s descent into a true new dark age.
Today’s launch of the 21st century Roaring ’20s seems tame by comparison. In the ’20s of the last century, the impacted nations went almost clinically mad, as effects of “post traumatic stress,” called “shell shock” then, were everywhere. Political, cultural and literary leaders were desperate to craft something that would be a balm and prevent a repeat of the horrid events of the previous decade. Berlin became the avant garde for new morals, new ideas, new notions of humanity felt needed so badly to prevent another bloodbath.
But it did not work. The millions of deaths of educated young men in the war, and millions more from the flu epidemic, did not appease the sinister forces that had triggered the war, who felt that war was a necessary remedy to maintain their power. These were three cousins, heirs of British Queen Victoria, who ruled England, Germany and Russia: Three who grew up attending royal picnics and holidays together, who were collectively terrified of the rising power of organized labor and revolutions aimed at ousting them from power.
The first such revolution was the American revolution of 1776, and then for the next century more uprisings unfolded against autocratic tyranny on behalf of economic justice and improved working conditions. Who knew that in their desperation, the elites would resort to an unfathomable horror of a world war to perpetuate their rule? It didn’t work in Russia, where cousin Czar Nicholas was toppled. As the war didn’t end the unrest in Europe, elites saw to the rise of fascists that ruled with an iron hand and introduced, as in the case of Hitler’s Germany, a genocide against six million, the Jewish Holocaust.
England, America and resistance forces in France, Scandinavia and elsewhere eventually prevailed against this unbelievable carnage, and with the leadership of FDR, Churchill and others forged a peace that has held since, generally, against the relentless efforts of elites to rekindle their horrors. Institutions like the United Nations and NATO made peace possible to now.
OK, Roaring ’20s Redux, bring it on! How will we fare this time? Time will tell.