Friday, January 8, 2016

Cultural entropy -- whatever is happening, it can't be good

This photo was taken 20 years ago. Any one of these people could walk down the street today wearing the same clothes and hairstyles and no one would bat an eye. Imagine people in 1990 saying that about a group photo taken in 1970. Or people in 1970 saying that about a group photo taken in 1950.


"Is some sort of cultural entropy homogenizing us?
As novelist Douglas Coupland has pointed out, ordinary people in photographs from 1993 are indistinguishable from people in photographs now. Can you name another 20-year period in modern American history when this is true? 1900-20? 1920-40? 1970-90? His analysis: There's not much geist left in the zeit.
Things don't make a difference. I think the last novel to have must-read impact on American culture was "The World According to Garp" in 1978, 35 years ago.
Now I go to New York and look at a work of art in Chelsea and say: "Oh, that's one of those." (Dripping, elephant dung, monochrome, squalor, scribbling.)
Facebook enshrines banality. "Am I the only one who hates her kids' birthday parties?" "Go outside RIGHT NOW and look at the moon."
The media have lost authority and audience—people want to know less about the world around them.
Or: We've lost our sense of possibility. Incomes decline, pensions vanish, love dwindles into hooking up, we're not having enough babies to replace ourselves.
No arc, no through-line, no destiny. As the British tommies sang in the trenches of World War I, to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne," "We're here because we're here because we're here because we're here."
I don't know what's going on. I doubt that anyone does. Is our democracy turning into a power vacuum? What will fill it?
What a strange time it is to be alive in America. It can't stay this way, can it? Or can it?"

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