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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Cultural Musing on the Decade

My view of selected aspects of recent decades:

In the late 60s and early 70s, the culture of the US changed drastically, between Black Liberation, Women's Liberation, the Anti-War Movement, the Vietnam War itself, drugs, sex and rock and roll, hippies, and the Environmental Movement. The riots, the war, the confusion and anger were mixed with a sense that something very different was sweeping over us all. The walls between people who were of different cultures were crumbling and it was refreshing. Some people took their disapproval of The War out on the soldiers, which was a tragic, narrow and foolish view.

In the 80s, the conservatives worked hard to discredit the environmentalists. The term "tree-hugger" was an expression used with a scornful tone of voice, and feminists were considered to be emasculating men. Both movements were blamed for economic problems. There was a big upsurge of fundamentalist Christianity, and those particular Christians expressed themselves in strong disapproval of everyone unlike themselves. Socialism was tainted by the failure of communism.

Wars became smaller and less public. The lesson of Vietnam for the US military seemed to be "don't let them see people bleed, or we will lose their support". Television coverage of the wars was minimal and began to appear more and more like video games. Meanwhile, people seemed to give up the idea that we could reach the idealistic goals we sought to embrace during the 60s / 70s, and people became more and more competitive, narcissistic, and superficial, which was reflected by music, which became less and less individualized and more and more corporate, and innocuous.

The 90s continued the trends of the 80s, with more and more conspicious greed and consumption, but the tide was clearly turning if anyone was looking for it.

In the Zeros, things have been moving back the other way. Although there are two US war zones, very few of us blame the soldiers; we may or may not grasp the machinations underlying the industry of war, but we understand that we have very little control over where our troops are sent and why. We have finally seen American Black people and women in high positions in our government, where they are acting very much the same ways as white men do; people are not all that different.

Music has gone into a much more individualistic phase again, because of the internet. The freedom to create and distribute is unlimited. The internet has connected people of all cultures and countries, in a profound and positive change. Yes, of course, there are still criminals and sociopaths, but that is inevitable.

There is a global culture emerging that is not under anyone's direct control. Power has moved steadily downward on what could be described as a pyramid, over my lifetime.* The environment and the rights of people of varying colors, cultures, religions and genders, are more and more coming to everyone's attention, no matter where injustice is occurring. Pressure is being applied by very large numbers of people, to redress these wrongs.

The average age around the world is younger and younger. This means that there is a fresh viewpoint, as there was during the localized "youth culture" phenomenon of the Baby Boomer generation in the US and Western Europe.

Creativity is abundant, and the problems we face are global. More and more it is dawning on humanity that we are in this together, and unless we address our problems in a unified manner, we could annihilate ourselves. The planet itself would survive our passing, and very likely, there would be humans in tiny pockets, living in simple ways. This is the moment of global bloom. It is a huge opportunity for all of us.

Happy New Year, Twenty-Ten!

*Pyramid: Feudal = Aristocratic minority with kings on top; Capitalism = larger minority manipulating majority; Whatever we are doing now: more and more choices, more and more individual power

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