May 30, 2013
1983 was an interesting year. I learned a lot. The first half I spent teaching college in China, which was then still struggling out from under Maoism’s great rotting corpse. The joy of the work was my students, who were much brighter, funnier, and more optimistic than I thought they had any cause to be. They were more diverse in character, too. Solzhenitsyn noted the paradox that the varieties of human personality, good and bad, exhibit more strongly under totalitarianism, while freedom leads to leveled conformity.
I returned to an England transformed. The monetarist medicine of the early Thatcher years had been digested, the victory over Argentina had given patriotism a boost, and the Iron Lady had won her second general election. People I”d known a year or two earlier as clock-watching corporate drudges and public-sector drones were starting businesses. That woman mattered.
In 1993 Nellie Muriel Derbyshire was born, and my life as a parent began.
The Clinton presidency began a few days later. If you want to tell me the Clintons are scum-sucking bottom-feeders, I won”t disagree. But those eight years were pretty nice, the nation more relaxed than before or since. You could even say true things about race without a screeching mob of schoolmarms coming after you.
In 2003 the USA invaded Iraq; I forget why. I published Prime Obsession, still my favorite among my own books, just on the Elvis principle.
Interviewer: “Of all your hits, which one is your favorite?”
Elvis: “Uh, “Teddy Bear.””
Interviewer: “Why is that your favorite?”
Elvis: “Uh, that’s the one that made the most money.”
2013: Personally, this will likely be the year of the Empty Nest. Publicly…oh, dear.
According to The Economist, the United States was the best place in the world to be born into back in 1988. Today, the United States is only tied for 16th place.
I have watched one great nation decline; am I fated to see another? I pin my hopes on 2023.