Category Archive 'Change'

25 Feb 2013

The Country Changed

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Raul Duke, The Last Cowboy

You used to ask, out of politeness, for permission to light your cigarette, and the conventional reply was “It’s a free country.” When’s the last time you heard someone say that?

Fred
explains how what used to be small towns and the country got changed into extensions of the city, and everything went to hell. And that’s where gun control comes from.

Things… changed. The country increasingly urbanized. So much for rugged.

It became ever more a nation of employees. As Walmart and shopping centers and factories moved in, the farmers sold their land to real-estate developers at what they thought mind-boggling prices, and went to work as security guards and truck drivers. Employees are not free. They fear the boss, fear dismissal, and become prisoners of the retirement system. So much for Marlboro Man.

Self-reliance went. Few any longer can fix a car or the plumbing, grow food, hunt, bait a hook or install a new roof. Or defend themselves. To overstate barely, everyone depends on someone else, often the government, for everything. Thus we became the Hive.

Government came like a dust storm of fine choking powder, making its way into everything. You could no longer build a shed without a half-dozen permits and inspections. You couldn’t swim without a lifeguard, couldn’t use your canoe without Coast-Guard approved flotation devices and a card saying that you had taken an approved course in how to canoe. Cops proliferated with speed traps. The government began spying on email, requiring licenses and permits for everything, and deciding what could and could not be taught to one’s children, who one had to associate with, and what one could think about what or, more usually, whom.

With this came feminization. The schools began to value feelings over learning anything. Dodge ball and freeze tag became violence and heartless competition, giving way to cooperative group activities led by a caring adult. The female preference for security over freedom set in like a hard frost. We became afraid of second-hand smoke and swimming pools with a deep end. As women got in touch with their inner totalitarian, we began to outlaw large soft drinks and any word or expression that might offend anyone.

Thus much of the country morphed into helpless flowers, narcissistic, easily frightened, profoundly ignorant video-game twiddlers and Facebook Argonauts. …

Serving as little more than cubicle fodder, they could not survive a serious crisis like the first Depression. And they look to the collective, the hive, for protection. The notion of individual self-defense, whether with a fist or a Sig 9, is, you know, like scary, or, well, just wrong or macho or something. I mean, if you find an intruder in your house at night, shouldn’t you, like, call a caring adult?

The echoes of the former America linger in commercials in commercials for pickup trucks with throaty bass voices and footage of Toyotas powering through rough unsettled country that almost no one ever even sees these days. Mostly it’s just marketing to suburban blossoms. The number of vehicles with four-wheel drive that have actually been off a paved road is not high.

Many who grew up in the former America, and a good many today in the South and west, substantially adhere to the old values. They won’t last. We live in the day of the Hive, and in the long run there is no point fighting it.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

22 Jun 2010

Cognitive Surplus

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Clay Shirky, in a new book titled Cognitive Surplus, maintains that the post-WWII age of suburbanization was one of those eras of abrupt, dislocating social change which left Americans morose and seeking for self-medication just like 18th century Englishmen driven by economic change from the countryside to the city.

They used gin, a new, potent yet inexpensive distilled spirit, whose method of production had arrived from Holland as part of the the fashionable baggage accompanying William and Mary. Americans used television.

Shirky contends that the Internet is bringing about the end of the age of self-narcotization via sitcoms and game shows. Leisure time sucked down the television time sink, the cognitive surplus simply wasted previously, will instead be transferred to more useful and communitarian activities (like writing Wikipedia entries and blogging) and a wonderful new era of transparency, creativity, and productivity will bloom.

Hmm. I wonder if he has ever heard of World of Warcraft.

Barnes & Noble review.

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Jonah Leher brings formidable Friedrich Nietzsche to television’s defense.

I would disagree. In some peculiar way, if I hadn’t watched and re-watched The Sopranos then this sentence wouldn’t exist. (And I would have missed out on many interesting, intelligent conversations…) The larger point, I guess, is that before we can produce anything meaningful, we need to consume and absorb, and think about what we’ve consumed and absorbed. That’s why Nietzsche, in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, said we must become a camel (drinking up everything) before we can become a lion, and properly rebel against the strictures of society.


William Hogarth, Gin Lane, Engraving, 1751

01 Feb 2009

Change

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Hat tip to Bird Dog.


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