If we must look to the past, let’s make it 1989: a year of transformation | John Harris

The Guardian
2019-01-01 (UTC)

From eastern Europe to the dancefloors of Britain, a new optimism emerged. We should remember and take heart Whatever happened to the future? Brexiteers cling on to a fantastical mixture of empire , war and an England whose genius was supposedly embodied by Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. In the United States, Donald Trump harks back to an America of economic might: musclebound men toiling in car factories and coalmines, and splendid isolation. A recent issue of the Economist surveyed politics in Europe and the US and observed “ an orgy of reminiscence ”, partly traceable to the fact that millions of westerners cannot shake off a deep and understandable sense of decline. There’s an obvious irony in having to look back to find something better, but 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of a run of events that embodied pretty much the polar opposite: optimism, faith in the future and a sense of shared humanity that could not be more different from the polarised, rancorous mood of today. As this year unfolds, the events of 1989 – a year as replete with significance as 1848, 1945 or 1968 – will be celebrated and picked apart; in Berlin there will be an impressive run of commemorative events . Leafing through histories of the time, and thinking back to what happened, what most sticks out is a set of emotions and impulses that we would do well to revive: defiance, joy, an urge to run headlong into whatever happened next. Continue reading...