A funny thing happened on the way back to the Golden Era. In fact many funny things, since one way back became the story line in Midnight in Paris, a Woody Allen movie. The main character in this story, a Hollywood screen writer who travels to Paris with his fiancé in 2010, is able to transport himself back to his vision of the Golden Era – Paris in the 1920s with its cultural, expatriate scene.
The movie certain portrayed an exceptional Golden Era. Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds, partying with Cole Porter, Picasso and Gertrude Stein and Salvador Dali. Exciting, young, energetic, late nights, cafes, dancing and drinking and discussing writing and painting abstract expressionism.
The funny thing was that the young screen writer met and fell in love with a woman muse from that era, but she had a her own concept of the Golden Era – Paris at the turn of the century with Toulouse Lautrec and Degas and Gaugin. They, too, whom the couple met, had their idea of the Golden Era and then the young screen writer moved to the logical conclusion that every era will think back to an earlier one and romanticize it as a Golden Era.
My own Golden Era? Several. Pre-Kennedy assassination 1960s. Or, revolutionary Boston. Westward expansion into Ohio and Kentucky. Times filled with hope and confidence, new ideas that mattered and hard work with a purpose.
What are yours?
These remain, though, nothing but romance, glossing over other uncomfortable realities about those eras. The movie’s protagonist admits to having a nightmare of living in a time without anti-depressants and antibiotics.
Still, one has to wonder. Will these years be viewed as anyone’s Golden Era? It’s hard to imagine. Where’s the romance in 140 characters of Twitter, self-absorbed blogs (like this one!) or deleted e-mails? Where are the new ideas and ambitious undertakings when our government is hopelessly in debt and incapable of addressing our inability to fund projects that will carry the next generation.
You want bold ideas and projects? Go to China. We just came back from our first trip to China, and would have never gone were our daughter not living there. It is hard to miss the double BOOM going on there. One the day we left, they were inaugurating the longest bridge over salt water in the world and a high speed train between Beijing and Shanghai.
Of course, the trade-off is that they can ignore delaying criticism of the projects, such as environmental or structural safety issues. No need to consult with all the stakeholders, residents, or taxpayers.
Still, one does get the strong sense that our moment has passed. We have passed the torch to a new generation, and we have built a bridge to the 21st century. It’s just that they both are in China. The Golden Era, but they would probably give it another term, like the Era of Heavenly Rejuvenation.