As Relevant Now As It Was Then

A few days ago I finally got round to reading a book that has been on my To Read List for quite some time. The book is not particularly political so I was quite surprised to see the following paragraphs in the opening few pages.

(Please pardon the mass use of bold. It was the only obvious way to distinguish the book extract from my own words)

“… Well, we have to end apartheid for one. And slow down the nuclear arms race, stop terrorism and world hunger. Ensure a strong national defense, prevent the spread of communism in Central America, work for a Middle East peace settlement, prevent US military involvement overseas. We have to ensure that America is a respected world power. Now that’s not to belittle our domestic problems, which are equally important, if not more. Better and more affordable long-term care for the elderly, control and find a cure for the AIDS epidemic, clean up environmental damage from toxic waste and pollution, improve the quality of primary and secondary education, strengthen laws to crack down on crime and illegal drugs. We also have to ensure that college education is affordable for the middle class and protect Social Security for senior citizens plus conserve natural resources and wilderness areas and reduce the influence of political action committees…

But economically we’re still a mess. We have to find a way to hold down the inflation rate and reduce the deficit. We also need to provide training and jobs for the unemployed as well as protect existing American jobs from unfair foreign imports. We have to make America the leader in new technology. At the same time we need to promote economic growth and business expansion and hold the line against federal income taxes and hold down interest rates while promoting opportunities for small businesses and controlling mergers and big corporate takeovers…

But we can’t ignore our social needs either. We have to stop people from abusing the welfare system. We have to provide food and shelter for the homeless and oppose racial discrimination and promote civil rights while also promoting equal rights for women but change the abortion laws to protect the right to life yet still somehow maintain women’s freedom of choice. We also have to control the influx of illegal immigrants. We have to encourage a return to traditional moral values and curb graphic sex and violence on TV, in movies, in popular music, everywhere. Most importantly we have to promote general social concern and less materialism in young people”.

What struck me after reading these extracts was just how relevant they are. Almost everything mentioned is still entirely applicable even today. This left me with two opposing thoughts. Firstly, that these issues are inherent in the societies of today. They will always be relevant, and they will always be topics of contention, because there is no way of completely tackling them. It is impossible to solve them and so they will always be areas of struggle in human existence. My second thought opposed this first thought. My initial thought seemed extremely negative and deterministic, “there is nothing we can do, it will always be this way”. What if there is something we could do about these topics? What if those that are in power either choose not to do anything about them, or simply fail to accomplish anything notable? The second thought looked at these problems as less about fate, and determinism, and saw these issues in relation to the apathy and/or failure of those who are elected.

The extracts from the book voice the concerns of middle class America at that time. It is logical to think that the President, and those who later ran for that position, saw these concerns and promised to tackle them. Yet here we are now, facing the almost exact same problems. Terrorism, pollution, nuclear proliferation, affordable education, peace in the Middle East, apartheid, American intervention overseas, reducing a deficit. The list goes on.

These extracts were not from a book written five years ago, or even ten years ago. These extracts come from Bret Easton Ellis’ book American Psycho, which was first published in 1991, almost twenty three years ago. I am twenty three currently, and it is both disappointing, and disheartening, to know that the same fight has been occurring my entire life and yet nothing has been accomplished. If anything, there are even more topics which need addressing these days. Climate change, the widening inequality gap, wages, gay rights, an over reliance on fossil fuels. I could continue.

It seems life is a struggle. And it is only set to get harder.


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