纽约时报文摘 | 为什么90年代是美国最好的10年

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BACK in the late 1980s, when I was a co-editor of Spy magazine, we published a cover story about the 1970s. Spy being Spy, it was a grand feast of love-hate celebration: “A Return to the Decade of Mood Rings, Ultrasuede, Sideburns and Disco Sex-Machine Tony Orlando.” One of its implicit premises was the silliness of the pandemic of American nostalgia, especially for a culturally dubious decade that had ended less than a decade earlier. Over the last half century, we Americans have come to create and consume automatically and continuously a kind of recent-past wistfulness.
20世纪80年代末,我还是《密探》(Spy)杂志的主编之一,我们发表了一期关于70年代的封面故事。《密探》就是《密探》,这是一个爱恨交织的庆典与精彩的盛宴:“回到情绪戒指、麂皮绒、连鬓胡子和迪斯科性感机器托尼·奥兰多(Tony Orlando)的十年里。”其中一个暗含的前提是美式怀旧蔓延的愚蠢,特别是对于一个文化上非常模糊的十年的怀旧,而它的终结甚至还不到十年。在上个世纪的下半叶,我们美国人无意识地创造与消费着对“不久前的过去”的怅惘之中,并且持续不断地处于这种状态。

But what about the 1990s? Nostalgia for the era in which you were young is almost inevitable, so people born between 1970 and 1990 feel a natural fetishistic fondness for that decade. But even for the rest of us, the ’90s provoke a unique species of recherche du temps perdu, not mere bittersweet reveling in the passage of time. No, looking back at the final 10 years of the 20th century is grounds for genuine mourning: It was simply the happiest decade of our American lifetimes.
但90年代又怎样呢?对自己年轻时代的怀旧是不可避免的,所以生于1970年到1990年的人肯定会对这十年产生一种盲目的天然亲切之感。但是即便对于我们其他人来说,90年代也能唤起一种独特的“追忆似水年华”之感,这不仅仅是对时光流逝的苦甜参半的回忆。不,回溯20世纪的最后十年是一种真正的哀悼:那是我们美国人生活中最快乐的十年。

This isn’t (mainly) fogeyishness on my part. No. It is empirically, objectively, broadly true. I am not now nor have I ever been a Clintonite, but when Jeb Bush reportedly said a few weeks ago, apropos of 2016 and the probable Democratic presidential nominee, that “if someone wants to run a campaign about ’90s nostalgia, it’s not going to be very successful,” I think he was being wishful.
这并不(主要)是出于我个人的守旧。不,这是有事实根据的,是客观的、普适的真相。我从来不是克林顿的拥趸,现在也不是,但当杰布·布什(Jeb Bush)几个星期之前说起2016年,以及可能的民主党总统候选人时,他说“如果有人能够发起关于90年代怀旧的政治宣传,肯定不会成功”,我觉得他过于一厢情愿了。

Let’s begin with the quantifiable bits. America at large was prospering in the ’90s. The United States economy grew by an average of 4 percent per year between 1992 and 1999. (Since 2001, it’s never grown by as much as 4 percent, and since 2005 not even by 3 percent for a whole year.) An average of 1.7 million jobs a year were added to the American work force, versus around 850,000 a year during this century so far. The unemployment rate dropped from nearly 8 percent in 1992 to 4 percent — that is, effectively zero — at the end of the decade. Plus, if you were a man and worked in an office, starting in the ’90s you could get away with never wearing a necktie.
我们还是从量化的数据开始吧。在90年代,美国从总体而言非常繁荣。从1992年到1999年,美国经济平均每年增长4%(从2001年起就再也没有超过4%;从2005年起,全年增长率就再也没有超过3%)。每年平均增加170万个就业机会,本世纪以来,平均每年约增长85万个就业机会。到90年代末,失业率从1992年的8%降低到4%(这事实上等于零)。此外,如果你是做文职工作的男性,从90年代开始,你就可以不用西装革履地去上班了。

From 1990 to 1999, the median American household income grew by 10 percent; since 2000 it’s shrunk by nearly 9 percent. The poverty rate peaked at over 15 percent in 1993, then fell to nearly 11 percent in 2000, more or less its postwar low. During the ’90s, stocks quadrupled in value — the Dow Jones industrial average increased by 309 percent. You could still buy a beautiful Brooklyn townhouse for $500,000 or less. And so on.
从1990年到1999年,美国家庭收入的中位数增长了10%;自从2000年以来,降低了约9%。贫困率在1993年达到最高,超过15%,到2000年下降到接近11%,近乎“二战”后的最低点。在90年代,股价翻了四倍,道琼斯工业平均指数增长了309%。你仍然可以用50万美元乃至更少的钱就买下一栋漂亮的布鲁克林联排别墅。等等。

By the end of the decade, in fact, there was so much good news — a federal budget surplus, dramatic reductions in violent crime (the murder rate in the United States declined by 41 percent) and in deaths from H.I.V./AIDS — that each astounding new achievement didn’t quite register as miraculous. After all, the decade had begun with a fantastically joyful and previously unimaginable development: The Soviet empire collapsed, global nuclear Armageddon ceased to be a thing that worried anyone very much, and the nations of Eastern Europe were mostly unchained.
到90年代末,事实上,有那么多的好消息——联邦预算出现剩余、暴力犯罪大幅度减少(美国的谋杀率降低了41%),HIV/艾滋死亡率也大幅度减少——这些惊人的新成就在当时并为被视为奇迹。毕竟,这十年刚一开始,就发生了一个令人快乐而又难以置信的成就——苏联帝国解体,人们不再为全球核末日而担忧,东欧国家也大都获得了解放。

A tide of progress and good sense seemed to be sweeping the whole world. According to the annual count by Freedom House, the tally of the world’s free countries climbed from 65 at the beginning of the decade to 85 at the end. Since then, the total number of certified-free countries has increased by only four.
进步与善意的大潮似乎席卷了整个世界。根据“自由之家”(Freedom House)组织的年度统计,90年代初,全世界共有65个自由国家,到了90年代末,变成了85个。自那以后,被承认的自由国家只增加了四个。

Between 1990 and 1994 South Africa dismantled apartheid surprisingly peacefully. With the Oslo Accords, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization had come together at last to negotiate a framework for coexistence and eventual peace. The civil wars in the former Yugoslavia ended and an enduring peace was restored. China became normal, reforming its economy, tripling its gross domestic product and easing its way into the world order.
从1990年到1994年,南非以惊人的和平方式废除了种族隔离制度。根据奥斯陆协议,以色列与巴勒斯坦解放组织终于走到一起,谈判共存与持久和平的框架。前南斯拉夫国家的内战结束了,持久的和平得以恢复。中国成了正常国家,开始进行经济改革,国内生产总值翻了三倍,开始融入世界秩序。

During the ’90s, the only American-led war in the Middle East was the one that drove Saddam Hussein’s invading army out of Kuwait with a ground campaign that lasted a mere 100 hours.
在90年代,美国在中东的唯一一场战争是派遣地面部队,把萨达姆·侯赛因(Saddam Hussein)的侵略军赶出科威特,战争仅仅持续了100个小时。

Peace, prosperity, order — and American culture was vibrant and healthy as well. There were both shockingly excellent versions of what had come before and distinctly new, original forms. Wasn’t the release of Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” in 1991, pretty much the last time a new rock ’n’ roll band truly, deeply mattered, the way rock ’n’ roll did in the ’60s and ’70s? Wasn’t hip-hop, which achieved its mass-market breakthrough and dominance in the ’90s, the last genuinely new and consequential invention of American pop culture?
和平、繁荣与秩序——美国文化也同样健康活跃。文化中既有承袭自过去的东西,也有崭新的原创形式,二者都很精彩。1991年,“涅槃”(Nirvana)发行了《别在意》(Nevermind), 一支新的摇滚乐队能像六七十年代的摇滚乐那样,产生真正深远的影响,这难道不是最后一次吗?嘻哈乐在大众市场获得突破,主宰了90年代,这难道不是美国流行文化中最后一次产生真正新颖而重大的创新吗?

What is the most remarkably successful literary creation of the last several decades? The Harry Potter novels, the first three of which appeared in the ’90s. Supertalented literary youngsters appeared — David Foster Wallace (“Infinite Jest”), Donna Tartt (“The Secret History”), Jonathan Lethem (“Motherless Brooklyn”) and Dave Eggers (McSweeney’s). And supertalented literary geezers — Philip Roth (“American Pastoral”), John Updike (“Rabbit at Rest”), Alice Munro (“The Love of a Good Woman”), Don DeLillo (“Underworld”) — produced some of their best and most successful work as well.
说说过去十几年来最成功的文学创作?哈利·波特(Harry Potter)系列小说的前三部都是在90年代出版的。那十年间,天才文学新星开始出现:写出了《无尽的玩笑》(Infinite Jest)的大卫·福斯特·华莱士(David Foster Wallace)、写出《秘史》(The Secret History)的唐娜·塔特(Donna Tartt)、写出《布鲁克林孤儿》(Motherless Brooklyn)的乔纳森·勒瑟姆(Jonathan Lethem)和写出《麦克斯维尼》(McSweeney’s)的戴夫·艾格斯(Dave Eggers)。此外还有那些天才的老人家们——菲利普·罗斯(Philip Roth)写出了《美国牧歌》(American Pastoral)、约翰·厄普代克(John Updike)写出了《兔子歇了》(Rabbit at Rest)、爱丽丝·门罗(Alice Munro)写出了《好女人的爱》(The Love of a Good Woman),唐·德里罗(Don Delillo)写出了《地下》(Underworld)——他们都献上了最精彩、最成功的作品。

The quality of television radically improved. “Seinfeld” and “The Simpsons” had their premieres in 1989, and in the ’90s they blew up, along with “Friends” and “NYPD Blue” — all of them broadcast network series, none of them reality shows. HBO, before the ’90s a channel for movies, boxing and soft-core porn, decided to swing for the fences. First with “The Larry Sanders Show” and then with “The Sopranos,” it proved that episodic television could accommodate major ambition and actual brilliance, ushering in an enduring new (cable) TV era.
电视节目的质量急剧上升。《宋飞传》(Seinfeld)和《辛普森一家》(The Simpsons)都于1989年首次亮相,在90年代兴盛一时,之后是《老友记》(Friends)和《纽约重案组》(NYPD Blue)——它们都是公共台电视剧,都不是真人秀。HBO台在90年代之前是个专放电影、拳击和软色情的频道,90年代,它决定转型。先是制作了《拉里·桑德斯秀》(The Larry Sanders Show),之后又有了《黑道家族》(The Sopranos),这部剧集证明电视剧也可以承载远大的抱负,成为真正精彩的节目,从而引领了一个长盛不衰的(有线)电视新时代。

In feature films, it was the decade of “Pulp Fiction” and the indie movement, thanks to which idiosyncratic, more-commercial-than-art-house masterpieces like those by Wes Anderson, Alexander Payne and Richard Linklater became plausible. It was also the decade in which traditional Disney animation came back from the dead and in which Pixar, with the first two “Toy Story” movies, reinvented the form magnificently.
在电影界,这是属于《低俗小说》(Pulp Fiction)与独立运动(indie movement)的十年,韦斯·安德森(Wes Anderson)、亚历山大·佩恩(Alexander Payne)与理查德·林特莱克(Richard Linklater)拍摄的那些怪异而又有商业气质,不那么孤芳自赏的杰作开始为大众所见。这十年里,传统迪斯尼动画起死回生,皮克斯也带来了《玩具总动员》(Toy Story)系列的前两部,革新了动画片这种形式。

THE digital age, of course, got fully underway in the ’90s. At the beginning of the decade almost none of us had heard of the web, and we didn’t have browsers, search engines, digital cellphone networks, fully 3-D games or affordable and powerful laptops. By the end of the decade we had them all. Steve Jobs returned to Apple and conjured its rebirth.
当然,90年代,数码时代也在酝酿之中。在90年代初,我们大家几乎都没有听说过互联网,我们也没有浏览器、搜索引擎、数字手机系统、3-D游戏或便宜好用的笔记本电脑。到90年代末,这一切全都成了现实。史蒂夫·乔布斯(Steve Jobs)回归苹果公司,令它获得新生。

And it was just the right amount of technology. By the end of the decade we all had cellphones, but not smartphones; we were not overconnected or tyrannized by our devices. Social media had not yet made social life both manically nonstop and attenuated. The digital revolution hadn’t brutally “disrupted” whole economic sectors and made their work forces permanently insecure. Recorded music sales nearly doubled during the decade. Newspapers and magazines were thriving. Even Y2K, our terrifying end-of-the-millennium technological comeuppance, was a nonevent.
而且这些都是适度的技术。90年代末,我们都有了手机,但还不是智能手机;我们还没有被设备过度连接,或者受到技术的控制。社交媒体还没有令社交生活变得病态般无休无止,一方面又弱化了社交生活。数码革命还没有粗暴地“瓦解”整体经济环节,令它们的工作变得再也不那么安全。90年代,音乐唱片的销量几乎增加了一倍。报纸和杂志也繁荣昌盛。就连可怕的千禧年技术危机——千年虫——到最后都根本不成问题。

Indeed, the ’90s were a decade of catastrophes that didn’t happen. The Clinton tax increases did not trigger a recession. Welfare reform did not ravage the poor. Compared with Sandy, every hurricane that touched New York — Bob! Bertha! Danny! Dennis! Floyd! — was a dud.
事实上,90年代里根本没有发生任何大灾难。克林顿政府的增税并没有引发衰退。福利改革没有掠夺穷人。与桑迪飓风相比,那时候经过纽约的那些飓风——鲍勃!伯莎!丹尼!丹尼斯!弗洛伊德!——全都是小菜一碟。

Were there real problems in the ’90s? Of course. But they weren’t obvious, so … we were blissfully ignorant! Almost none of us were suitably alarmed by carbon emissions and the warming planet. According to a 1995 article in this newspaper about climate change, “most scientists say the amount of warming so far, about one degree Fahrenheit in the last century, is still too small to be distinguished from the climate system’s natural fluctuations.” So why worry?
90年代有什么真正的问题吗?当然有,但它们并不是那么明显,所以……我们真是处于有福的无知之中!我们都没有充分意识到碳排放与全球变暖问题。《纽约时报》1995年的一篇文章中谈到气候变化,“全球气温与上个世纪相比提高了一华氏度,大多数科学家认为,考虑到气候系统的自然波动,这个变化并不大。”所以我们干嘛还要担心?

When the House and Senate passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities and President Clinton signed the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, doing away with the firewalls between investment banks and commercial banks, the change seemed inevitable, sensible, modern — not a precursor of the 2008 Wall Street crash. When a jihadist truck bomb detonated in the parking garage below the north tower of the World Trade Center in 1993, we were alarmed only briefly, figuring it for a crazy one-off rather than a first strike in a long struggle.
1999年,参众两院以两党多数通过了金融服务业现代化法案,并由克林顿总统签署生效,撤销了投资银行与商业银行之间的防火墙,在当时,这个改变看来不可避免,是明智而现代化的——而不是2008年华尔街金融危机的前奏。1993年一个伊斯兰圣战者用卡车炸弹引爆了世贸中心北塔的停车场,我们只是短暂担心了一阵,觉得这是疯狂的一次性行为,而不是长期战斗的开端。

Americans have never much liked paying attention to foreign countries and their problems (see Rwanda, 1994), so the decade between the end of the Cold War and the beginning of the war on terror was very much our cup of tea.
美国人从来不喜欢关注外国和外国人的问题(看看1994年的卢旺达吧),所以从冷战结束后到与恐怖主义作战之间的这十年正是最合我们的口味的那杯茶。

No: I mean our cup of coffee. You can’t talk about the ’90s without talking about the sudden availability of excellent coffee — espresso in Idaho! — all over America. This was thanks to Starbucks, of course, which went from nearly 100 outlets in the United States at the start of the decade to 2,000 at the end. But as it goes with so many good things in America — easier credit and financial innovation and electronic connection and all the rest — that just wasn’t enough.
不对,我是说,它是最合我们口味的那杯咖啡。谈到90年代,不说那些突然出现的好咖啡怎么行——爱达荷特浓咖啡——一下子遍及全美。当然,这要感谢星巴克,90年代初,它在全美只有100家分店,到90年代末就变成了2000家。但当时美国还有那么多的好东西——放松信贷与金融创新,还有电子通讯等等等——这么多家星巴克还远远不够。

Today there are more than 13,000 Starbucks in the United States. And each of them, to my eye, looks exactly as it did when the rollout began — 13,000 ubiquitous and faintly melancholic time-capsule museums of the last best American decade.
如今美国有13000多家星巴克点。在我看来,每一家都和它最初的样子差不多——13000个无处不在、略带忧郁的时光胶囊博物馆,封存着上一个美国的黄金十年的样子。

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