Posts Tagged youth culture

Revolution 14

After watching the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Beatles coming to the U.S., I’ve come to the only logical conclusion: we suck.

Today’s pop stars have nothing on Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, and the juxtaposition was actually a little painful to watch.

Of course, music is a subjective thing. Some poor lost souls will always think Katy Perry is better than the Fab Four, and they are entitled to their opinion.

However, there is one part of the Beatle legacy that is undeniably missing from today’s cultural scene: revolution.

People celebrate the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Beatles in the U.S. because it marked a major shift in American culture. They brought rock n’ roll to the mainstream, and became powerful advocates for political change.

Today’s music is many things, but it’s not revolutionary.

Yet the connection between music and political protest is still viewed as important. After all, shouldn’t there by a ’60s-style mass cultural movement for gay rights, or against the hegemony of the One Percent?

The idea of perpetual revolution has always been an important part of American political philosophy.

Thomas Jefferson believed that a revolution should occur every few decades, if for no other reason than to remind leaders that true power rests with the people.

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure,” Jefferson said.

However, I feel that’s been difficult for the generations that came after the Baby Boom, because there’s a pervading sense that all of the revolting has been taken care of.

Younger generations share more values with previous generations than the Boomers did with the “Greatest Generation,” which won World War II, but was also intensely rigid and bigoted.

Like most things in 21st century America, the battle has become hopelessly nuanced in discrete, with no zeitgeist to unite different elements behind a common front.

Epochal cultural shifts like the emergence of rock n’ roll, or the political awakening of the 1960s don’t happen very often, which might explain why looking at today’s crop of artists, it’s hard to spot another Paul McCartney.

Then again, revolutionary ideas wouldn’t be very revolutionary if they arrived punctually. If we want social change, we need to do the best we can to make it happen in whatever way we can.

That way, we can brag to our children about how much better our generation is than theirs.

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Keith Richards meets a hipster

Since I first saw one smugly slurping a Pabst Blue Ribbon, I have sworn eternal vengeance against hipsters. Why concentrate so much negative emotion on such a silly segment of the population? Hipsters are like the gray blob of nanomachines that some theorists say will eat all matter if unleashed: they take everything people find enjoyable and reduce it to a basis for irony and petty judgment.

Hipsters choose their favorite music based on the number of people that haven’t listened to it. If you genuinely like anything, even the air you breath, don’t ever tell a hipster. They’ll tell you that a 78.04-20.95% nitrogen-oxygen ratio is too mainstream.

I’m given to bouts of cynicism and irony, but I still think basing one’s entire existence on negativity makes for a pretty horrible person. Hipsters think they’re just too cool to be human.

Recently, I found some solace in the fact that this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. I’ve been reading Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, and in it he describes what could be proto-hipsters.

As a teenager, Richards hung out with other young blues enthusiasts, some of whom were such purists that even actual blues artists couldn’t meet their standards:

“None of these blues purists could play anything. But their Negroes had to be dressed in overalls and say, “Yes’m boss.” And in actual fact they’re city blokes who are so hip it’s not even true.”

Like today’s hipsters, the blues purists sought an art that was so authentic it didn’t actually exist. In this case, because it was more than a little racist. Hipsters don’t subscribe to an antiquated racist view of culture (at least, I hop they don’t), but it still seems like reality isn’t good enough for them.

When an artist creates a piece of music it is what it is, regardless of how many people like it or whether it meets some critic’s standard of authenticity.

What kind of a world would we live in if people were too afraid of appearing unsophisticated to like anything? That is why hipsters, past and present, are such an irritant. At least they’re nothing the world hasn’t dealt with before.

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We need to teach our parents some manners

Technology is a wonderful thing (this blog wouldn’t be possible without it), but it does come with some drawbacks. The combined heat of the world’s iPad 3s is probably contributing to global warming, and some say the Internet is just one big distraction. Regardless, one thing is certain: high tech gadgets make people incredibly rude.

People seem to think that smart phones and other devices excuse them from behaving properly. They let them ring at the most inappropriate times, and discuss things in elevated cell phone voices that not one needs to hear. Suits with ear pieces look like they are talking to themselves. People carry on conversations with friends while texting other friends.

A few years ago, this type of behavior would have been unthinkable. Now, people are so engrossed in what is happening on their tiny LCD screens that they ignore the people around them. Is this the future of human interactions? Perhaps not.

I may sound like an altacocker, but I’m actually part of the young, tech savvy generation ad men dream about. This isn’t the 1950s, where an older generation decried youth’s supposed lack of morals. This time, parents (and grandparents) are listening to rock n’ roll. Unlike past cultural phenomena, the technological revolution is not generation-specific.

A common stereotype is that all young people are very good with computers, while their Baby Boomer parents just can’t figure them out. That’s often true, but that doesn’t mean older people are not using computers, smart phones, or tablets. In fact, that’s the problem.

A lot of older people have smart phones, but they may not be comfortable using them. They see other people being obnoxious, and assume it is part of the brave new smart phone culture. These people probably don’t even know how to set their iPhones to “silent.”

Consequently, it’s up to teenagers and 20-somethings to teach their parents some manners. This generation has grown up with the annoyances of technology abuse, so they know how to use their devices without making everyone within a 15-foot radius want to kill them. Youth is also much better for marketing: no one takes an old person complaining about manners seriously, but what about someone in their 20s? For once, parents should listen to their children.

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