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Pax in Our Times

In 1970’s London, things were a bit more rudimentary than they are today: You considered yourself lucky to get through 24 hours without losing your electricity thanks to the latest “industrial action” (strike, to you and me), the trains were invariably late, and my memory is that most people didn’t exactly overdo it when it came to showers.  Britain as a whole had reached a state that it’s perhaps now difficult to imagine, as we continue to debate the finer nuances of “gay marriage,” legal pot, and the rights of whales.  As a rule, the nation’s concerns tended to be more basic 40 years ago.  In the final days of the Heath government, inflation was running at more than 30 percent and rising fast.  The pound had lost some 70 percent of its value on the foreign exchanges in just two years.  Thanks to a protracted labor dispute in the coal-mining sector, at one point the entire country went on to a three-day work week in order to conserve fuel, and even then we all too often sat up at night in frigid rooms while eating tinned Spam and reading flimsily printed newspapers by candlelight.  There may have been no remote village in the High Andes more primitive than London in the hangover years following the Swinging Sixties.

Certainly, if you were looking for the authentic image of Britain’s decline in the 1970’s, the ritual of attending a major metropolitan...

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