History

What a 40-Year-Old-Cover of People Magazine Says About Progress

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A couple of days ago at The Daily Beast I argued that the July 1, 1974 cover of People magazine (above) provided a great benchmark to discuss the question of social, technological, and economic progress over the past four decades.

Telly Savalas—born in the early 1920s, a World War II vet, and beloved as the eponymous star of TV's Kojak—was an alternative type of cultural icon in his day. And things have only gotten weirder and more wonderful and totally better since then.

We're in The Great Stagnation, don't you know, and technological and economic momentum has conked out like the engine on a 1977 Chevy Vega. What we really "need is more Apollo-like projects" but we're too chicken-shit and beat-down to think BIG anymore. Or maybe we just need one of those bogus "alien invasions" that Paul Krugman is always flapping his gums about.

The middle class can't afford nothing no more, Amazon's warehouse workers are "today's coal miners," and even bomb-crazy and jihad-suffering Middle Easternersare more optimistic about the future than Americans and Europeans. The Experts (with a capital E!) have spoken: We've reached The End of Progress.

So back to Savalas, and bear with me here. Cue up Telly's incomparable semi-parlando rendering of If. Get lost in the Aegean-deep pools of Telly's eyes and marvel at his gold-chain-and-bracelet set. As you contemplate a naked celebrity torso apparently unfamiliar with any form of exercise, let's count the ways in which the world has not just gotten a little bit better but a whole fucking lot better since Kojak was on the case.

As we contemplate the midterm elections (oy) and the choices spread before like a patient etherized upon a table, read the whole thing.

And also take a look at Reason's special landing page about the past, present, and glorious future of the medium formerly known as television.