Please don't send me nostalgic memes about growing up in the 1970s – it wasn't all so great back then

It harks back to an imaginary idyll, when Britain was supposedly a better place. When there were fewer immigrants, and the people with brown skin that were here knew their place. When gay people stayed in the closet, and disabled people were called 'cripple' or 'spazz'

James Moore
Saturday 11 November 2017 11:55
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Growing up wasn't all about playing outside and downright wonderful
Growing up wasn't all about playing outside and downright wonderful

"Congratulations to the ones born in the 1930s, 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s and EARLY 80s," read the meme, posted on a Facebook page called "Healing Heart", which is full of homespun wisdom and uplifting religious messages.

Ooh, I thought. I was born in the 1970s. What did we do that was so awesome back then?

Apparently it was that we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank (though I’m pretty sure mine didn’t), took aspirin and ate blue cheese dressing.

And that’s not all. Our baby cots were covered in fine lead-based paint, and we did stuff like ride bikes without helmets, and sit in cars without seat belts, and share sugar-filled cans of pop without getting fat because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING (the page's emphasis not mine).

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We didn’t have Nintendos or Playstations but we did have freedom, failure, success and responsibility and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL. Stuff like not getting picked for the school team and more besides!

The meme – backed by a sickly piano melody – went on to exhort viewers to share it with their kids so they would understand how brave and just downright wonderful we all were before evil lawyers and governments and especially the dastardly EU (ok it didn't say that but would it surprise you?) regulated all the fun out of life. Along with the lead.

The post has gone viral: 70m views, nearly 2.2m shares and counting. There’s no clue as to the identity of who’s behind it, other than that they’re probably British. I make that assumption based on the use of the word “pop” for fizzy drinks. If the meme were American it would likely have said “soda”. A British origin might explain why the poster missed the irony of spending their time putting up stuff like that when, if they followed their own advice, they’d have been out playing sports.

But I suppose that in a nation where Boris Johnson is the top diplomat, and keeps his job despite landing a British citizen in an Iranian jail for five years, irony is just about dead.

If ever there were an argument against lead-based paint in cots – that crazy thing called science has long known that heavy metals like it cause brain damage – it's Boris. If only the overfed buffoon would heed the Healing Heart message and go outside and play so that someone with a degree of competence could take on his job.

I doubt the page’s creators would see it that way, mind. Their brand of corrosive, sepia-tinted nostalgia is similar to what Johnson and his chums play on.

It harks back to an imaginary idyll, when Britain was supposedly a better place. When kids not only played outside but respected their elders. When there were fewer immigrants, and the people with brown skin that were here knew their place. When gay people stayed in the closet, and disabled people took it in good part when they were called “cripple” or “spazz” or “retard”.

It's interesting to note that the person who shared this twaddle, and thus brought it to my attention, isn’t all that different in age from me. I’d guess they were born in the 70s, or perhaps the 60s.

Regardless, they’ve clearly forgotten how it was when they, and I, were growing up. We might not have had mobile phones, tablets, or the ability to post whiny passive-aggressive memes on Facebook, but we did have Nintendos. It’s just that back then they were little rectangular things with LCD screens. We didn’t have PlayStations, but we did have the Atari VCS and later the Sinclair Spectrum or the BBC Micro, or the Commodore 64. Our parents used to moan about how long we played on them just as we moan at our kids today.

What we certainly didn’t do is spend all hours PLAYING OUTSIDE. Not even close. Lots of us got only the fresh air it took to get us to the local amusement arcade where games likes Space Invaders, and then Pacman and then Donkey Kong, were all the rage. If we didn’t get picked for sports teams, and I didn’t, we dealt with it not by running around somewhere else, or by being stoic, but by finding somewhere quiet where we could play Dungeons & Dragons.

Later we went to music festivals, and illegal raves. We smoked dope, took ecstasy, and had sex. And the Healing Hearts of our day, usually writing in the right-wing press, cried “kids today” and complained that we were lazy, entitled wasters.

They also wagged a finger at our parents for letting us do all that stuff, and claimed TV was rotting our brains, especially when Channel Four arrived.

If the people behind Healing Heart won’t follow their own advice and sod off outside somewhere, perhaps they might occupy themselves with taking a refresher course in what it was really like to grow up during the time periods they were gushing over with their meme.

Or they could just make some effort to spend some time with modern kids. I do that, as a school governor, and as a parent. Despite their Playstations, and their tablets, and their mobile phones, and the time they spend watching Dan bloody TDM on YouTube, they seem fit, and fun, and remarkably well adjusted despite what some of their idiot elders would have you believe.

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