I was researching a few side issues on the cow shown here, and came up rather disappointed. No, I was not really expecting to find multi-flavored cows. But I was expecting to find out a little more about the Postwar World, once one of the great mass visions.
What turned up on the Interwebs was that there have just been too many wars for any one “Postwar World” to get much attention. The Interwebs is about the Religion of What’s Happening Now, and was filled with essays on what Nostradamus had to say about the Ukraine. (I’ll summarize these for you by noting Nostradamus hardly ever gets pulled out these days for anything less than the end of the world. There, you can now skip millions of digital words. You’re welcome.)
During the 1940s, however, those people who weren’t grumbling “I am so sick of this war. Is it ever going to end?” (the grandparents of those who would like Covid to go away and stop bothering them) were indulging grand visions of how a world partially demolished during World War II would emerge from the rubble. These visions were heavily based on technology. Wars tend to encourage technological innovation, and new glories were coming out faster than Scouts on scrap drives.
The technology was going to make us all happy, comfortable, used to leisure and luxury. I am especially impressed by the Modern Kitchen envisioned for the housewife of the 1950s. Every modern kitchen would be brilliantly shiny, filled with electric stoves, electric refrigerators, electric frying pans, electric can openers, electric toasters, and electric dishwashers. A lot of this came to be, of course, though I, personally, would like to know what became of the electric malted milk machine. Medical science had proven that malts were very healthy, and every good housewife would give her husband and children malted milk as part of the daily routine. I feel a little cheated.
I also miss, kind of, the flying car. This was more a matter of science fiction than sober consideration, but air travel was the wave of the future. One American airline was poised to seize control of the skies after the war, and once it was in charge, why, the sky was the limit. People would give up their cars and commute by airplane, helicopter, or who knew what variation we might come up with.
Because we would live in highly electric homes in the suburbs, all built new and fresh, we would be commuting by very safe and hygienic new methods. We would ALL have cars in the Postwar World, of course, because prosperity would accompany the grand rebuilding. (It did, by the way, but you can’t go on rebuilding forever.) General Motors was imagining automated commutes, controlled by special new highways. You set your car for the route you needed, got on the new Intelligent Interstate Highways, and left the driving to the road. Since every car was included in this system, the automated roadway would not allow for crashes or traffic jams.
Politicians were alive to all of this; some were working hard to make sure everybody would take part in this grand rebuilding. Just after the war, a major presidential candidate campaigned throughout the United States. Rumored to be a Buddhist, he promised cooperation among industries to make not just the United States but the whole world prosperous and happy (this did not go down well with American CEOs planning to seize the markets abandoned by bombed-out European businesses) and included among his supporters the Civil Rights leaders who came out of World War II and even a discreet Gay rights group from New York. He was defeated handily, and in the real Postwar World, his supporters were hounded by self-appointed investigators.
No movement looking to the future is, of course, without it doomspeakers. Other experts on the Postwar World predicted uncomfortable social upheaval, especially among a group they called “teenagers”, who had been left to raise themselves while their parents were out winning a war. The collapse of governments and the spread of bizarre new political groups (like that fellow mentioned in the last paragraph) would frighten and terrify. And above all, they warned, people who were expecting huge benefits from the Postwar World would become dissatisfied, feeling cheated, and start demanding more than the postwar World could hope to deliver.
Makes me feel a little guilty, really. I AM still waiting for my malt, though.