Virtuous Circle: what were the Eighties really like?

I’m wearing a Frankie Says Relax T-shirt, too much eyeliner and leg warmers. It’s hot and stuffy and the headrest of the seat in front smells of fag smoke. Anna and Suzy are singing The Reflex by Duran Duran and I’m trying to look cool in front of Nick Holloway.
School coach.
Tintern Abbey.
The coach crosses the Severn Bridge and everyone’s talking Torvill and Dean. Olympic Gold. Bolero. Suzy says her mum’s bought her skating lessons at the Mecca and Anna says she’s gonna get skates for her birthday so she doesn’t have to wear the stupid blue ones anymore. The driver jolts and jerks us through traffic.
As the coach crawls into Wales, the heat and cigarette smell and the stop-start of the engine makes me nauseous and Anna’s White Musk perfume’s not helping much either. I put my forehead on the glass of the coach window, stare out at a man on the pavement waiting for his dog to cock its leg against a lamp post and reflect that we’re an unlikely group of friends, Suzy, Anna and I. 
See Suzy’s all Princess Di: sailor collar, flicked hair and Twilight Teaser; I’m a Goth and Anna’s veggie. Anna's got a tight curly crop, bitten nails and her everything is animals, stop the testing, stuff like that. Her mum let her go vegan last month and she gets a crease in her blue Body Shop eye shadow that no one ever tells her about. I have no idea how we all get along.

In 1984, I was 14. Everything was animal cruelty, miners’ strike, CFCs, Ethiopia, and nuclear bombs. Mum was wearing a CND badge and talking about going to Greenham Common over half term. I tried to put my head in the sand and ignore it – it was grim and depressing, and if I thought about it too much I felt sick.
So I watched Dallas, drank Woodpecker cider, listened to Cyndi Lauper and hoped it’d all go away. It didn’t.
By Christmas, Band Aid was number one and poor starving children were a constant on the TV. At the end-of-term disco, I backcombed my hair, sprayed it with half a can of Boots extra firm hold hairspray, finished off a bottle of Cinzano in the Ladies with my mate Sally, and tried not to care that Nick Holloway was kissing Suzy under the mistletoe accompanied by Simon Le Bon singing There’s a world outside your window...

Now it’s 2013 and people roll their eyes behind my back like I rolled my eyes behind Anna’s. I'm the 'ranter' now: we’re killing the world, exploiting the poor, abusing animals: there's a world outside our window. 
Someone even said to me, exchanging glances with their husband, “But surely, Emma, campaigning and stuff, it's all just a fad.”

Oxford Dictionary: Fad (noun) – An intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived.

 Tall skinny sugar-free caramel cappuccinos.
Frankie Says Relax T-shirts.
Teens liking Torvill and Dean.
Duran Duran.
Sorry, Le Bon lovers. It’s over. Fad
Back combing your hair til you look like a parrot.
Nick Holloway.
Fad. Fad. Fad.

Caring is cool. So what? Does that make it a fad?
Would you rather the rich and famous sat round their LA mansions petting Chihuahuas and drinking Mojitos all day? Liberty for East Germany wasn’t trivialised just because David Hasselhoff sang Looking for Freedom on the Berlin Wall.
Society’s changed. It’s expressing itself in different ways. Television, pop music, high street fashion, social media. We’re cycling through ideas, technology, and trends more and more quickly. None of us are untouched by popular culture and advertising campaigns. Even my ninety year old gran watches X Factor.
We’re living in a faddish culture, but it’s not all bad. The appetite for TOMS shoes last summer did a whole lot of good whilst they reigned supreme in the footwear charts. We’re showing the multinationals that there is a market for ethical products. If consumers buy ‘ethical’ then suppliers will make ‘ethical’. And if suppliers make ‘ethical’ their advertising campaigns will promote ‘ethical’. And if advertising campaigns promote ‘ethical’ then consumers will buy ‘ethical’ because we live in a faddish culture. It’s a virtuous circle. Let’s not pull the brakes on it with cynicism.
In 1984, I thought ethics was someone lisping the name of a county. In 2013, you can buy Fairtrade Dairy Milk in supermarkets, TOMS shoes from Top Shop and a cup of PG Tips Rainforest Alliance certified tea from McDonalds. You can support ethical campaigns at the click of a Like and add your views to green blogs.

Ethical has gone mainstream.
Going away?
Even if you want it to?
Not likely!

Emma is a columnist and feature writer for Liberti Magazine.

Total Pageviews