Nothing in the 80’s shook the modern world quite as much as these two events (with the possible exception of the Exxon spill). The space age born of a cold war was coming to an end and the nuclear arms race born of same cold war was starting to take a left turn.
In Genesis 11, the Tower of Babel is man’s attempt to build a tower to the heavens, to progress to the point of being divine, or at least equality with the divine. One moment they are well on their way, and the next they need to buy a copy of Rosetta Stone: Everything.
The story of the Tower of Babel reveals the myth of Progress (with a big P) thousands of years before we ever bought into the idea.
Now, I don’t think that God caused the Challenger to crash or the nuclear meltdown. But I do think that these moments effectively poked holes in the myth that we could just somehow evolve to a perfect utopia. These moments helped to pave the way for the science-fiction movies of the 90’s where technology goes bad…Total Recall, Jurassic Park, Terminator. Superman IV (my least favorite of the set) actually devotes the man of steel’s entire plot to ridding the world of nuclear warfare.
Still not convinced? Think of Spock. The ideal man of the 1960‘s Star Trek is a man who works off of logic, unbiased, and totally objective. The apex of humanity is to be, well, not human. It’s to operate purely off rational thinking. But now think of Star Trek’s Next Generation (I realize that this post is making me look like a huge dork, but just go with me for a second) Star Trek’s new Spock is a guy named Data. A robot, who wants nothing more than to feel, to have emotion.
This may seem like just a silly plot, but it’s indicative of a broader cultural change.
We no longer thought that reason and logic were what made us the best humans.
We were suddenly exposed to the realization that the very things that we were pursuing to advance us might actually be the end of us. Is it any wonder that kids that grew up around this time are more environmentally conscious than previous generations? We saw what might happen if our dreams turned into nightmares.
The implications of this are profound. The seeds of post-modernism were sowed by modernism’s failed attempts at an ideal world. And while I don’t think that the 80’s were better or worse than other decades, it has probably been one of the more influential ones in shaping our philosophy, politics and theology. And I’ll talk more about that later, but for now…
How influential was the Challenger’s crash or Chernobyl’s meltdown on you?
Do you remember where you were when it happened? What you were doing?
In order not to be a totally depressing, sci-fi post I’ll leave you with a brilliant song that my friend Blake wrote about the 80’s on a comment of a previous post, set to the tune of “We didn’t start the fire.”
Breakfast Club; Top Gun; Carl Lewis on the run;
Gorbacev; Berlin Wall; Chicago Cub night-ball
Just say no; Axel F; Rubik’s Cube; Carter left;
Cabbage Patch; Big Hair; We are the world; Tiananmen Square;
Chorus… (Something like.. “We didn’t start the 90’s…”)
Moon Walk; Acid Wash; Mall rats; Arcade Games;
Trapper Keeper; Members Only; Parachute Pants;
Challenger O-ring; America hosts olympic games;
Around the world in just one flight; Rocky wants one more fight
Oil Spill; Disco’s Dead; Van Halen, Mr. T’s Head
Ethiopia needs food, Boy George is a dude
Mt. St. Helens e-rupts; Mr. Fusion; Delorian;
Kadafi has to talk; Michael Jackson Moon walk,
Hacky Sack, Reagan shot, Chernobyl gets real hot
Bill Cosby, Ocean Pacific, Joe Montana is Terrific
Pac-Man, Vans Shoes, Falkland Islands in the news,
Farm-Aid, Live Aid, Theisman needs a band-aid