.The Decline of Society
An internet friend of mine, Sean
at has written an essay about the contrasts between a "cutting-edge" lifestyle of electronic toys and tools versus an older, more "traditional" lifestyle of sitting in a pub with beer mug and pipe in hand. It is an interesting essay and it is the impetus for my essay below:
Sean talks about a book that he is reading and I quote him here:
"Ian MacDonald's "Revolution In The Head". In between painstakingly analysing almost every extant Beatles recording, his thesis is that popular music has been in terminal decline since the early 1970s, and that the Western soul has died. He points to the absence of meaningful community spirit."
My comments about said:
1. The book sounds quite interesting in some ways. As having been very much immersed in the music of the era while in school, I can say that I would tend to agree with Mr. MacDonald. It does seem there has been a tremendous decline in the inherent value and quality of popular music since in my estimation roughly somewhere around 1975-1976. Now, please do not get me wrong... there ARE quite wonderful and valuable artists and recordings that have occurred since this time (all the way from Talking Heads, B-52s, Ice -T, Nirvana, Lennie Kravitz, Tupac Shakur) as well as others that are very noteworthy. Yet, I believe there has been a steady decline in terms of which artists and which artistic endeavors have become MOST POPULAR. You may find audio files of some extraordinary artists on Grumpy's Radio Station
. He has excellent taste and has helped broaden my own awareness of high quality (albeit lesser known) modern musical artists.
What I mean by this is that the above examples of higher quality music are not and have never (except perhaps the brief popularity of Nirvana) been what the MASSES of popular music listeners will listen to as their dominant musicians. Each of the above has had fits and spurts of popularity whereas meaningless fluff (low quality) music from artists such as most "heavy metal" groups, Cindy Lauper, Britney Spears, Vanilla Ice, Boys to Men, etc that have been IMMENSELY POPULAR. The lion’s share of my students who do not realize (or at least do not care) that it is rude to wear headphones and tape recorders into class represent the AVERAGE Joe (or Joline) of the moment. I have asked several of them to stand up and tell us what it is they are listening to in their little personal stereo (as a manner of getting them to stop such behavior), and inevitably they will mention some sort of inane group such as the ones I have listed above. I then will confiscate their tape, CD, or other device and ask them to retrieve it after 24 hours. I then usually listen to the dreck for a few moments to see what it is like.
Yet these students represent the NORM of society and therefore I feel MacDonald is correct.... the decline in music standards of what is popular has correlated well with a decline in society.
2. Sean also comments about the contrast of a harried electronic existence and a leisurely beer-and-pipe pace of life. I can fully appreciate and share his interest and understand the contrasts. As an old grey-bearded fellow myself, I may be skewed a bit further to one field than Sean, but I am still firmly planted in the middle of the road:
Positives of the electronic and physical worlds:
a. I would be unhappy to not have my computer, the Internet as they have enriched both my work and my personal life.
b. I would be unhappy to have ONLY traditional film cameras. I enjoy the ease and speed available from the digital format.
c. I enjoy the pub experience of a mug of beer in one hand, and a pipe in the other, where the interactions are intimate and personal. You talk with those around you in a casual manner.
d. I enjoy the physical interplay that is possible with the alcohol and nicotine that is not possible with "gadgets". This would also include the old-fashioned behavior I enjoy of bedding my wife as often as she permits. The physical interplay is beautiful.
Negatives of the electronic and physical worlds:
e. I do not plan to ever own a damnable cellular telephone. I do not wish to be that easily contacted, nor do I wish to be tethered to such an obnoxious device.
f. I do not find computer games stimulating or enjoyable to play. I have tried on numerous occasions to find out what it is my young students find so captivating about said devices but cannot fathom what it is. There are only two electronic games that I have ever found remotely enjoyable (and then only marginally so). These two devices are Tetris and Tempest. From my understanding Tetris is still available for people to waste their time with, but the Tempest game is now apparently defunct.
g. The only negative I see in the physical world is its limited nature. We each only have such a brief period in which to live that it is so very, very sad.