A Blast from the Past
Looking back 100 years to see if history is following a similar pattern. The roaring 20s may not be so different from our own.
March 6, 2022
100 years ago today, people were on the move, reveling in newfound splendor for the joy of life. From fashion frenzies, restrictions, social movements, and an epidemic, the Roaring 20s seem to hint at a similar pattern that’s happening now. By looking at the similarities, differences, and changes brought about by both decades and seeing how, in some aspects, history repeats itself.
Starting with the global epidemic of the Spanish flu which ended right at the start of the 20s. The Spanish flu killed its victims with a heavily contagious cough that in turn filled their lungs, drowning them in a matter of days. COVID-19 also attacks the lungs, is spread by coughing, and is highly contagious. History teacher Mrs. Kelly says “the Spanish flu killed people faster, it was a really hard way to die, people were basically drowned in their lungs. They were vomiting and having diarrhea, and it was this really crazy way to die, and they would die within three days. It was extremely contagious, and there was a lot of misinformation going around.”
“It probably started in Kansas on a pig farm, and the person who got it went to a military base and spread it.””
— Mrs. Kelly
Speaking of misinformation, our pandemic consists of many different theories surrounding the virus, vaccine, and mandates. Though COVID-19 miscommunication was spread through media and the government downplaying the seriousness of the virus. The Spanish flu didn’t originate from Spain but rather the U.S.
It makes sense for the government to keep it quiet because WW1 was going on and who would want to show the enemy any potential weakness? So they deliberately sent those infected men to war. “So the pandemic wasn’t really told about until people in Spain got it. Spain wasn’t in the war so they didn’t give a crap about who knew and started telling people that their people were dying because they didn’t have the enemy to worry about,” continues Mrs. Kelly.
Once word got out, people started locking down and wearing masks. Schools closed, forcing kids to sit in front of radios to hear their teachers’ lessons. Quite similar to how zoom was for those in the 2020-2021 school year. Governors passed new laws, masks were instated, and yes there were people who protested wearing masks but not at such a large scale. Mrs. Kelly said, “people were much more okay with the fact that things were shutting down. They were more willing to help out and they were in the middle of a war so they were used to helping out and being a team player.”
“It was seen as patriotic to wear your mask. It was patriotic to stay home and quarantine.””
— Mrs. Kelly
Unlike the 2020s, things are seen as more controversial and focusing on rights. “That was not the case with 2020. Now it’s like your telling me to wear a mask; you are violating my civil rights,” explains Mrs. Kelly. It seems that we are jumping ahead with the rights and protests, whereas in the 1920s they waited until after the pandemic to really be heard.
After the pandemic ended the war followed suit, leading people into a celebratory mindset. By living life to the fullest and indulging in new liberties, technology, and music. “They were happy to be alive and decided to party, which was hard since they couldn’t have alcohol. They were trying to live it up and just be so happy, and we know what it is like to live in a pandemic and they had both a pandemic and a world war,” says Mrs. Kelly.
“They just were like let’s have a good time now, which is a lot of what we will be like once we don’t have to deal with the pandemic anymore.””
— Mrs. Kelly
Women finally got the right to vote in the early 20s and that led to the flapper culture. New fads in hair, clothing, and entertainment rose up.“Women had just got the right to vote which led them to have the opportunity to break changes of oppression for women, which I hate using that, but they were doing things to show that they were independent,” explains Mrs. Kelly. Flaunting their new looks by dancing in clubs and drinking gin seems to be a rather weird way to show one’s independence, yet the women of the 1920s reveled in their newfound voice and partied on.
Changes in style are a constant phenomenon., from new aesthetics and varying styles of clothing the world of fashion has captivated many, however, there still stands those who prefer the traditional style, especially when it comes to women. Today women get called out for the clothes they wear. In the 1920s they were called harlots and tramps similar to women today being called more updated versions of those gendered slurs. “They were harlots and tramps because they were wearing short skirts and people that were older and more traditional didn’t quite understand the fashion and I think we still have that today,” explains Mrs. Kelly.
“Where women are more apt to wear something a little more revealing and get crap for it. So we have kind of outdated rules on what you can wear.””
— Mrs. Kelly
Another realm that’s always changing is music. Today we see artists inspired by those whose golden age had already passed. By reviving songs from the 90s and adding a more modern twist to them, the musical world entering a new era yet again. In the roaring 20s music was on the move as well. With record players up for sale and more songs being recorded or broadcasted filled the party mood. “They also had the Harlem renaissance, which was a period of African art, music, jazz was coming out, so there was this huge growth in the art culture,” says Mrs. Kelly.
Although our art and music culture had been temporally on hold due to the pandemic, the signs all point to a blast of new material. “What’s interesting is because of the pandemic a lot of those things got put on hold so now we are kind of getting a blast of things that have been on hold because of the pandemic, and in two or three years we are going to see a boom like they did in the 1920s,” explains Mrs. Kelly.
“We are just a couple years behind them because our pandemic is still going on and theirs ended around the end of 1919.””
— Mrs. Kelly
With an end to the roaring 20s came the great depression, and after seeing the similar patterns repeating themselves today, the question still stands, will we have another economic crisis on our hands? Unfortunately, the crash is inevitable. “When you look at the history there are these ebbs and flows. We had a high in the 50s and lows in the 70s, a high in the 80s, and a low in the late 90s. So it goes up and down and it always does, I just think we are setting ourselves up for a really bad one, but I have no idea how that’s gonna look or when it’s going to be,” explains Mrs. Kelly. Just like all the other golden ages in history, we too must follow the pattern of highs and lows.
Back in the 20s, the rich were mindboggling rich, around ten people shared 95% of the wealth, and the poor stayed poor. The tax system was constructed back then to benefit the rich, as it still does today, and screw the poor. “That’s the same thing going on now, so that people who are billionaires, there was this billionaire named Moran Buffet who came out a few years ago that he pays less in taxes than his secretary. He is one of the richest people on the planet and he paid less in taxes than his secretary because there are so many loopholes,” recalls Mrs. Kelly.
Those loopholes are what will set us up for a really painful fall. “If the poor can’t buy stuff or make stuff, that will devastate the community, and at this point, they, the rich, don’t seem to care, which is very similar to the 1920s. The rich were very very rich and the poor were extremely poor which led to the depression,” says Mrs. Kelly. With the majority of the population in the poor category buying and making the supplies, and the billionaires paying less in taxes, the economy is doomed to crash.
That is what’s setting us up for a devastating collapse because the poor keep getting poorer.”
— Mrs. Kelly
Aside from the economic crash, good things came out of the roaring 20s. Technology advancements, the culture, and the political movements, as well as the underground talk, led to some extraordinary events later. The talk would later turn into the civil rights movement, the technology helped bring us here today, and the music and art brought about in the 20s still inspire us today. Sure a hard lesson is in store for us, but the people back then got through it, and so will we. History is more than dates on a paper, events documented, and people long since passed. It is a glimpse into what has been, and a clue as to what will be.