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Coming in from the Cold War

Do you ever find yourself longing for the good old days of Cold War Mk 1?

I know, there were aspects of it that weren’t too great. The fear of nuclear war, for a start.

But occasionally I find myself thinking back to the way it seemed to be before the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union fell apart and I almost feel a sort of nostalgia for the apparent simplicity of it all.

It’s true that the simplicity was rather deceptive if you scratched more than a little below the surface of the daily news. But all the same, perhaps because I was so young, life during Cold War Mk 1 felt a lot different to how things seem in 2021.

Back then I think most of us took for granted that our side was where you found the good guys who believed in freedom and democracy. We didn’t really know what was going on behind the dreaded “iron curtain” (or even the “bamboo curtain”, for that matter). But we were pretty sure it was bad in almost every way. In the lands of the bad guys we knew that:

  • The governments were wicked, corrupt and sinister and wanted to crush the freedom of their people and hold them down forever
  • Ordinary citizens were hopelessly misinformed by a captive media that insisted their social, economic and political systems were the only way to live
  • The governments were ruthless war machines with vicious tentacles of espionage that reached into the far-flung reaches of the planet, forever spying on us and forever plotting for the day when they would declare war against us and crush us into their evil empire
  • This ruthless machine ran proxy wars in other countries, setting up compliant puppet governments designed to steer resources and power to the bad guys
  • Only the well-connected and privileged enjoyed the best fruits of the labour of the deluded many, who slaved away for a pittance to keep the giant war-machine running and the party leaders living in luxury
  • The governments in the lands of the bad guys always lied about everything and never admitted to their misdeeds even when caught red-handed
  • It wasn’t possible for honest, decent people to ever get near the levers of power, since the ruthless party bosses worked hand-in-hand with the war-machine’s executives to stamp out any competitors to themselves

In a way, we folk in the free world felt something like a sacred duty to help our democratically elected governments do whatever it took to bring down the wicked governments in other lands and help the good guys plant seedlings of democracy, truth and freedom in those blighted soils and nurture them into full bloom.

That’s all in the past now, of course. As we know, the good guys won the Cold War Mk 1. Surprisingly, there has been no let-up in the constant state of war around the world, and our good guy governments are forever finding new places that need to be liberated and gifted the treasures of freedom and democracy.

And with every year that passes I find myself looking at the list of things we used to be told about how things used to be in the lands of the bad guys and getting a strange sensation. It’s like déjà vu, except not quite that. It’s like I’m looking at a description of somebody I was told to hate and recognising a different person altogether. Somebody really close to home.

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