Inside America: The Rise and Fall of An Empire

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Space exploration continued during the Seventies. The last moon-walk occurred in 1972. In 1973, the first American space station orbited around the Earth. Aboard the new space station " SKYLAB " American astronauts conducted scientific and medical experiments. Three different research crews came and went from Earth to the space station until 1979 when the space station broke apart and fell back to Earth. In 1975, the Soviets and Americans in a rare show of super-power cooperation, linked together an American spacecraft with a Soviet spacecraft for almost two days. Americans saw the space drama on television.

Unmanned spacecraft also traveled to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. In 1976, the Viking 1 and Viking 2 unmanned spacecraft soon landed on Mars and sent back clear and amazing full-color photos of the rocky, desert-like Martian landscape. It was like a science fiction story come true, but no signs of Martian life were ever found.

America and the world were beginning to see a new view of themselves from outer-space. But back on the planet's surface, problems remained. Many Americans were still trying to digest the cultural revolution of the Sixties under the more difficult economic times of the Seventies.


In the Seventies, the late baby boomers began to come of age like the earlier baby boomers. This largest group of American babies ever born were coming of age at the same time that the birth-control pill and anti-biotics had eliminated pregnancy and venereal disease as the logical outcome of most kinds of promiscuity. Given the same chance every generation would have behaved the same way. In most universities, co-ed dormitories where both sexes lived together became the normal state of affairs. Many young Americans were also now living together without getting married. Many popular books on sex had made the idea of having sex without marriage more mainstream in American life.

Smoking Marijuana was no longer a revolutionary act. It was now a normal adolescent ritual. Getting " high " was still the most dominant pre-occupation of the Seventies. In previous decades most of the best slang and popular songs involved elaborate code words for talking about sex. With sex so out in the open, most of the linguistic creativity went into the drug language, creating an elaborate language that dominated youth culture for much of the Seventies.

As the drug of choice shifted from Marijuana to Cocaine. The drug culture also like most other cultural developments in the Sixties became a big business. In the case of " Coke " it became big and illegal and ultimately one of America's biggest import businesses. Cocaine would become the cultural link between the self-absorbed Seventies and the money and status obsessed Eighties. Instead of sharing pot with hundreds of thousands of concert goers like in Woodstock during the 1960's. The coke snorter in the 1970's, usually sat alone on a toilet seat getting his quick fix during a party, as people wondered where he or she had gone.

But even more changes were underway during the Seventies, as baby boomers raised on television, sex, drugs, and Rock ' n ' Roll. Began abandoning organized religion in order to participate seriously in new forms of Eastern meditation or to just dabble in a New Age salad bar of fads, cults, and movements. The Seventies began with a literal explosion of spiritualism, both Eastern and Western.

New types of Christianity took hold led by charismatic leaders who were successful at combining religious propaganda and money-making. Many new kinds of psychotherapy with strange names like EST, Gestalt, bioenergetics, Rolfing, Silva Mind Control, Arica and Reichian therapy became popular. Also health foods, acupuncture, massage, yoga, tai-chi, Transcedental Meditation, and hypnotism became new ways of discovering more stress-free and healthy lifestyles. Astrology also became very popular.

The beginnings of the New Age or Human Potential movement had started at the Esalen Institute in the 1960's, but by the 1970's many new movements and techniques had appeared all over America. Many of these " spiritual " or " self-improvement " movements provided weekend retreats for their willing and paying participants where radical messages of personal self-reliance and self-absorption quickly dispensed with the niceties of social compassion and social responsibility.

The emphasis was on the individual's personal empowerment which only a "qualified " teacher could assist in. Guilt " trips " of social responsibility were thrown out in favor of new kinds of personalized trips. It was all good money for many New Age teachers and it reflected the confused times all Americans were living in.
A very popular book during thise time was Richard Bach's " Jonathan Livingston Seagull. " It was the inspirational tale of a seagull who was ostricized from the flock because of his seemingly independent personality. Jonathan became a hermit and met a special seagull teacher who taught him the secrets of perfect flight, whch in turn Jonathan later taught to the flock. The seagull messiah story became an instatnt best-seller in the Seventies
The New Age movement pointed towards a collective need for new kinds of cultural and psychological anchors in a new and confusing era. Many of the cultural and spiritual experiments that occurred in the Seventies were worthy of the spirit of the age. Yet many times tragedies occurred such as the mass suicide in 1978 of over nine hundred members of the People's Temple in Jonestown, Guyana. The founder of the People's Temple, the Rev. Jim Jones of San Francisco had attempted to create the perfect spiritual organization with his poor and mostly African American followers, but it was not to be. There were false prophets everywhere during the Seventies.

What did the Ritchie family think of this?

Deborah: " Oh, god. It's just awful what happened in Guyana. "

Mara: " Yeah, that guy really tried to lay a trip on a lot of people. "

Deborah: " It's just a sign of the times, I guess. "

Mara: " Yeah, I mean people nowadays are really looking to be saved by somebody. It really just sucks. I think people need to go inside more for the answers to their problems, but they have to also be careful who they're their getting advice from. There are a lot of dangerous weirdos out there. "

Deborah: " How's your new job at the non-profit going? "

Mara: " Oh, it's going OK. I think my boss is kind of a dork. But at least we're doing good things for the environment like preventing over-logging up in Northern California. We can't allow all those lumber companies to cut down every single tree. Then there will be nothing left for future generations. "

Deborah: " Are you still living with Phil? "

Mara: " Yeah, he and I are doing fine. We don't want to get married though. "

Deborah: " Why not? "

Mara: " Well, look what happened to you and Dad. That doesn't give me a lot of confidence about getting married. More and more people are getting divorced now. So I don't think it's worth the hassle, you know. "

Deborah: What if you want to have a child someday. "

Mara: " I'll worry about that when the time comes. " I'm not even thirty yet. "

Deborah: " Things were so much simpler when I was your age. We all knew what we had to do. "

Mara: " Well, maybe we can go back to that time in the future. When women had no choice at all…" ( laughing)

Deborah: " It wasn't all bad. At least the schools were safer and you could walk on the street late at night with no one bothering you. "

Mara: " Yeah, you also were just a prisoner in the house doing nothing but cooking and cleaning. Get Real, Mom. "

Deborah: " Have you spoken to Harvey, lately? "

Mara: " Yeah, he's just trying to make as much money as possible. You know he majored in business at college and now he's working with some big-shot brokerage firm in San Francisco. You know, he just parties a lot with all those stupid coke heads. He thinks he's some kind of swinger "

Deborah: " I like my job at the big clothing store in the shopping center. I might soon get promoted to assistant manager. "

Mara: " Wow, that's the way to go, Mom. "

Deborah: " Yes, but sometimes I feel lonely. I even miss your father sometimes. "

Mara: " Well, why don't you call him.? "

Deborah: " I don't think it's a good idea. He's been living with another woman who's ten years younger than him. "
Mara: " That is so typical. "

Deborah: " Whatever, I really don't want to bother him. You know he finally quit his old job at the computer company and now he's starting his own computer business. He's working even more than when he was working for someone else. "

Mara: "I think, Dad should chill out and do some meditation. "


" Deborah: Oh, it's the phone again. "

Mara: " Why don't you just let the answering machine take care of it? "

Deborah: " What if it's important? "

Mara: " Look, you can just screen the call. I do it all the time. I mean aren't you glad these answering things just came on the market? Now you can even decide if you want to answer back or not. I think that's pretty cool. No more talking to jerks that bug the hell out of you "


Getting high: Taking drugs.
Lay a trip: Convincing someone of a new way of thinking often by force.
Weirdo: Strange and possibly dangerous person.
Dork: Stupid person.
Hassle: Trouble.
Bi-shot: Famous and important.
Coke head: Someone who snorts cocaine.
Swinger: Some one who chases women.
Chill-out: To relax.
Screen Calls: To listen to calls on the answering machine in order to decide whether to answer or not.
Jerks: Stupid and annoying people.
To bug: To bother.


November, 1979, Teheran. An Islamic revolution had swept through Iran in January, 1979. The Shah of Iran who had been a long-time ally of America had been overthrown and had been forced to flee. The Ayatollah Khomeini, the spiritual and political leader of the revolutionaries had returned to Iran in triumph. In November, Iranian students who supported the Ayatollah seized the American embassy in Teheran and took sixty-two American employees hostage. The students were angry because the Shah had been admitted into the United States for medical reasons.

Once more another American foreign policy disaster had quickly turned into a national television drama. The Iranians burned American flags and chanted anti-American slogans on a daily basis. It would be the start of a year long ordeal for the American public and the beginning of the end for the presidency of Jimmy Carter. With the war in Vietnam barely over. The Middle East would occupy the attention of the American public well into the next century.

The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan the year before and few people knew, at the time that this would not only be the Soviet Union's own " Vietnam ," but also the beginning of the end of the Cold War. New forces were now at work in the world which would ultimately define a new era by the end of the century. Religious fundamentalism all over the world would be the new sign of the times.

The impact of religious fundamentalism would be profound when this new force collided with the American multinational corporations which had now become the new commercial driving force on the planet. An economic force whose philosophy was based on an endless stream of material consumption. In America during the Sixties, there had been an equally strong reaction against this force from the direction of the counter-culture. Now in the world an equally strong reaction had begun from a more violent and conservative direction.

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