Two recent books warn Americans that our society stagnated after the moon landing: The Decadent Society and The Complacent Class. Both imply that the 2000’s are running on fumes and have no equivalent of the Saturn V rocket. We have barely altered our physical world in decades, improvements in cell phones notwithstanding.
This has launched an interesting debate (you could even call it a game) where people look for counterexamples. Here’s the most recent one I’ve seen
This week I saw a reinforcing example of stagnation.
In the 1990’s I used to read the American Girl doll catalogue from cover to cover every year. Everything is terribly expensive but also delightful to look at. I had the Molly doll and I read a few AG books about how she was inconvenienced on the homefront during World War II. She complained about having to eat turnips from a Victory garden, but she was encouraged to be patriotic and support a cause greater than herself. Her father is away with the U.S. Army Medical Corps.
I was a little dismayed when I saw that you can now buy a mini Molly doll for your 80’s doll. My life is now “historical”, so I am officially old. Great.
It’s not lost on me that American Girl is playing on nostalgia to sell more product. Millennials like myself might buy this mini Molly doll so we can re-live memories of childhood vicariously. However, I’m going to use this to illustrate “the great stagnation”.
You can be inwardly focused or outwardly focused. The WWII war effort was a time when America was dynamic and focused on achieving great things.
“Courtney” the 80’s doll is pictured next to a Pac-Man arcade machine. Her goal is to keep herself sufficiently entertained. She can listen to her Walkman if Pac-Man gets boring.
Today, 40 years later, people are still starting at screens just like Courtney the 80’s doll. The reason we are buying a mini 1940’s doll to gift to a 1980’s doll is because so little has happened since 1980.
You can make jokes about an infinite recursion of American Girl dolls. It’s funny because it won’t happen. You can be inwardly focused or outwardly focused. Molly’s America is outwardly focused, and that makes her exciting.
I don’t think anyone is going to give a 2050 doll a mini Courtney 80’s doll. I’m even more certain that no 2050 doll is going to get a mini 2010 doll complete with tiny 2010 iPhone.
Maybe by 2040, there will be something new to ignite the imagination.
Incidentally, LEGO seems to think humans will be on Mars soon.