Wednesday, June 06, 2012
The 1960s were an era of blooming. Flower Power was the order of the day. When those first protestors stuck daisies into the barrels of the National Guard’s rifles—rifles that were pointed straight at the protestors and close enough for them to jam a flower stem into it—they began the revolt that was later assimilated into our culture. This was the dawning of the concept ‘think outside the box’, though no one would see the shift clearly enough to put into those words for another two decades. The 1950s had been a high-water mark for stultification in America. But that homogeneity was so pervasive that it became a weakness—a stiffness that almost dared you to deviate by so much as an inch.
In the 1960s, clever young college students (and even high school students) were taking that dare. The adult legions in their housing developments, automobiles, telephones, air conditioners and refrigerators, were enjoying a luxurious lifestyle compared to the three previous decades—a ‘middle class’—all of whom came from a prior poverty where such opulence as their present had been considered great wealth. They liked it—especially after getting back alive from a world war—and nothing their kids could say was gonna change that.
Blanket conformity like ours of the 1950s can be made to look ridiculous by something as simple as pretending to be unaware of the restrictions. If you have ever seen episodes of an old TV show, “Laugh-In”, you will note that the humor is pretty moronic. That such antics were enough to ‘scandalize’ audiences into ‘aren’t we naughty?’-tittering is both an example of how strait-laced our diversions had become, and an indication of how such boldness has gone from bravery, then –to commonplace, now.
Some young people saw ‘flower power’ primarily as a political statement insofar as forcing the issue into the basic ‘peace vs. war’, ‘hawks vs. doves’ arena—this made the geopolitical implications of the war in Viet Nam a moot point. Much was made of the great distance between our two nations, the lack of any immediate threat to US soil, and the youth of the soldiers being led to the slaughter. This damaged the premises which our government used to defend its policies, i.e. the ‘domino effect’ (the idea that, if Nam fell to the Commies, the Reds would just press on to the next victim-nation, and the next, ad infinitum.) This ‘controversy judo’, if you will, left Hippies free to brand themselves as “peace protestors” and the Establishment as “war-hawks. This was very powerful PR.
But others, including myself, saw ‘flower power’ as a philosophical quantum-leap—the idea that everything can be made light of (or, conversely, be made a looming tragedy) by ones approach, or point-of-view. This gives us the powerfully robust intellects of the digital age. Today’s budding scientists are not made de facto ‘monks in a cloister’ by those old assumptions (i.e. ‘geeks’ are inconsequential, space-flight is nonsensical, and racism, sexism, and anti-Semitism are all perfectly acceptable in our society.) Science is king (in business, finance and the military, anyway) even if the new, ‘indoctrinated from birth in closed communities’ Evangelicals (and other cultists) are making a brave stand against Reason.
We today are much more aware of the duality of things, the plurality of the open-mind, and the origins of the observable universe. We more easily accept the concept of 11-dimensional space (the other seven of which can only be inferred by theoretical physics), our new map of the Human Genome (the blueprints for making a healthy baby), the practicality of a permanent space outpost such as the International Space Station, and an understanding of the human brain that allows us to legislate against ‘cellphones while driving’ because we can clearly state that those two brain functions interfere with each other to a dangerous, often catastrophic, extent.
Such open-minded-ness is not without its costs. We see bullying and exclusion of students leading, next semester, to armed murder sprees. We see people spouting the most self-serving nonsense become popular, respected Christians in our communities. We see finely honed pro athletes accidentally shooting themselves in the tuchas in nightclubs (cause they gotta be carryin’ if they want any street cred, yo!)—and celebrities exiting limousines pausing to flash their privates for the paparazzi. We see a lot of ‘crazy’ along with pluralism—it is more a balancing act than a philosophy. But in our technology-driven culture, most of us need a lot of knowledge—and those of us who can’t absorb enough become walking examples of the adage: ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’.
Ending of Saturday, June 09, 2012 1:26 AM
[Wednesday, June 13, 2012 7:50 PM New additions: ]
V V V
Where does that leave us? O, right, cyber-space! We have launched our civilization into cyber-space. Banks, Stock Exchanges, Military, Industry, Factories, record keeping of every kind, each and every transaction’s paperwork or contracts—and let’s not forget the fairly new ‘e-book’ push. The Times today announced that Thomas Pynchon, considered by most our greatest living novelist, has given his publisher permission to offer his works in ‘e-book’-form.
So, we are on the verge of replacing our school books, texts, references, and encyclopedias with electronic ‘books’. We’ve already (mostly) replaced paper checks, paper invoices & bills, paper receipts, typewriters…. Heck, we’ve even switched from ballpoints to felt-tips (felt-tips were unacceptable, pre-digital, because they didn’t leave an impression for the carbon copies on the sales receipts) because a data-file of a .doc ‘don’t need no steenkin’ carbons’ (if I may paraphrase Generalissimo Zapata).
Gone are the days of the gruff ol’grampaw who ‘just isn’t interested in those newfangled laptop-thingies’. If you want to talk to your friends, withdraw money from a bank, keep your photographs where you can share them with the rest of the family, or use the navigational system in the car to get anyplace at all—you’ve got to get in the pool and get wet. You must accept that you will have a life-time of hunting and pecking before you—a mouse is very useful, but there’s always gonna be some text input, i.e. typing. You must accept that every little blip on the screen display, even the different colors of the text-words (when it’s also a hyperlink) all of these tiny details are important. You must accept help from your grandchildren when you get stuck.
But mostly we just have to accept that we are now the most ignorant segment of society. All of our hard-earned knowledge is now garbage, all of our hard-won experience is more likely to mislead us, than guide us, through cyber-space. We must remember that the ethics of our youth are considered quite naïve—weaknesses that others will only exploit, never share.
Still, this discomfort, coming so late in life, is very exciting—and we know we won’t be here long enough to see even today’s perspective become quaint and dated—as it must, as every age has. The real victims are the low-IQ folks—even if they get full-on support at home, at school, for medical or therapy requirements—even the best case scenario—will still leave the learning-disabled unarmed in a world of speed and complexity and competition.
Speaking of IQ—it wouldn’t surprise me if the test has to be recalibrated in future to account for the rise in over-all IQ-strength needed to hold even a minimum-wage service-industry job. If legislation hadn’t passed so promptly, the texting-while-driving error would have swiftly winnowed out, in hyper-Darwinian fashion, the less sensible drivers among us. Then again, they may have taken out plenty of smarter, innocent car-full’s in the process!
Yes, perhaps I will have to reconsider this issue of increasing complexity in everyday life, and the bad position duller-minded people may find themselves in—it’s equally likely that their lack of comprehension will result in more oppressive government. If we can’t trust citizens to understand what they’re doing—well, of course, we’re gonna need to put some slight restraints on peoples’ activities, right? Yes, the intelligentsia will chafe at the bridle—but who listens to a bunch of eggheads anyway….
Ah, Flower-Power, where are you now? Have we gone beyond our blossoming, into the mulch of history?