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:

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  1. TomorrowToday's Blog » Blog Archive » Generations and Culture - December 1, 2009

    [...] From the beginning of the 1970s to the end of the 1980s, the world was in chaos. Everywhere. And then a major tipping point. In 1989 Gorbachev came to power in Russia and announced perestroika and banned the communist party. In South Africa, de Klerk came to power and announced the ending of apartheid, the release of Mandela (he was eventually released in Feb 1990) and unbanned the communist party. In Romania, the dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu was overthrown and Eastern Europe opened up. In Germany, students punched the air with the global clenched fist “power salute” as the danced on the Berlin Wall and smashed it to pieces. In China, students did the same on Tiananmen Square, as tanks rolled over them. And America invaded Panama in one of their early “pre-emptive strikes”. All this in 1989 – a tipping point in recent global history. Read more about 1989 here. [...]

  2. TomorrowToday's Blog » Blog Archive » Mandela’s release is announced – 20 years ago today - February 2, 2010

    [...] was a momentous year all around the world. I wrote about it last year, as each month we rolled through the “twenty years on” anniversaries of everything from [...]

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