1989 – a year that changed everything (everywhere)
Today is the twentieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall coming down.
In just a few weeks, we’ll also celebrate twenty years since the Velvet Revolution (Prague, 17 November), the execution of Nicolae Ceausescu (Bucharest, 25 December), the release of Nelson Mandela (Cape Town, 11 February, 1990) and the stepping down of Pinochet in Chile (March 1990). So far this year, we’ve seen twenty year anniversaries for Tiananmen Square (Beijing, 5 June), Ayatollah Khomenei’s chaotic funeral (Tehran, 6 June) and the Baltic Way (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania; 23 August) – all political revolutionary moments that changed their countries.
Add to that, the culture-defining events of Lockerbie, Hillsborough, the invention of the HTTP that forms the foundation of the Internet, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and the debut of The Simpsons, and you have quite a year! That was 1989 (and a few months on either side of it, for Lockerbie, and Mandela and Pinochet).
In my studies of generational theory, it’s common to come across a variety of definitions of who fits into which generation. Different authors, desperate to prove their research credentials, define the start of “Generation Y” as anything from 1978 to 1996. Most go with 1984 – defined such because children born in 1984 or later graduated high school in the new millennium (hence the other name for this generation: “Millennial kids”). Yet, to me, 1989 is a much better cusp year.
The worlds before and after 1989 were very clearly different. That is why 1989 holds such an important place in my mind – it marks a real change in human history. It will be remembered forever. If you want to reminisce with me, you might like the following links:
- A detailed introduction to generational theory
- New Statesman magazine – 1989: The Year of the Crowd special edition
- Lead article from New Statesman 1989 special edition
- TIME magazine 1989 special edition
- A list of TIME magazine special edition articles – easier to access index
- Remembering 1989, The Times, UK