OPINION: Will the roaring 2020s be a big decade of change just like 100 years ago?

The 1920s saw big changes in art, fashion and attitudes - James Marston suggests the same could happ

The 1920s saw big changes in art, fashion and attitudes - James Marston suggests the same could happen 100 years on. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

We’ve already seen big changes in the 2020s - and we’re only a few months in

I can’t help wondering what’s going to happen next.

I don’t mean whether Liverpool is going to be under curfew or not, or if house arrest – though I suspect the Covid fearmongers won’t like that description – is soon coming to Suffolk or Norfolk, or whether history will show that viruses respect pub opening hours, or masks, or not, I am wondering what might happen in the rest of the 2020s.

We will eventually learn to live with this new virus, vaccine or not, and no doubt the fuss will die down eventually and perhaps a more measured response will take its place. Brexit too will one day be a thing of the past, as will Scottish independence and all the rest of the transitory dramas of our times.

We all have things we want to do again that we can’t now. I want to sing hymns again and not wear a mask ever again. I’m waiting for the day – in year or two’s time I suspect when what today are the voices of dissent will have become the prevailing narrative. For that is often, as history shows us, what happens in the end.

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The 1920s saw a period of cultural and artistic as well as economic growth and prosperity as the world recovered from the devastation of war and Spanish flu. Art Deco, the Jazz Age, the growth of cinema, the changing role of women, alongside motor cars, mass production and cultural and social liberalism – perhaps with the exception of Russia – made the 1920s a decade we still emulate and ape with fashion, frozen food, television, weekends, and cocktails, and cars.

We can expect technological advance – even this week I read an article about hydrogen trains – in the aviation and motor industries. And maybe a burgeoning of artistic and cultural expression as a reaction to the censure and disapproval of today’s youth – as it is they who will have perhaps suffered the most.

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I fear, and this is why I am reluctant to take part in it, that track and trace, such is the social approbation and potential power of this technology, is here to stay, perhaps as an anti-crime measure or continuing public health precaution.

As Peter, Paul and Mary famously said Times are a-changin’ – or was it Bob Dylan?

Whoever it was I sense change in the air.

Not least because going back to normal – the much sought after normality we hoped for at the beginning of these dramatic months – is clearly not going to happen, not in the way we hoped anyway.

But this and these times do not mean that the future isn’t going to be bright.

Indeed the 1920s were a decade of transformative progress and, though through the tinted lens of time, they were exciting and colourful and fun. The past might be a foreign country where things are done differently but history repeats, whether we are incapable of learning from it or not.

Say not the struggle nought availeth,

The labour and the wounds are vain,

The enemy faints not, nor faileth,

And as things have been they remain.

If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars;

It may be, in yon smoke concealed,

Your comrades chase e’en now the fliers,

And, but for you, possess the field.

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking

Seem here no painful inch to gain,

Far back through creeks and inlets making,

Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

And not by eastern windows only,

When daylight comes, comes in the light,

In front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,

But westward, look, the land is bright.

What do you think? Is optimism misguided? Is the future bright? Write to James at james.marston@archant.co.uk

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