Thursday, February 06, 2014

Fruits of Earlier Times

I read an interesting article by Ira Chernus, at Smirking Chimp, yesterday:
When Did "the '60s" Begin?
When, exactly, did the era of radical ferment we remember as "the '60s" begin? Exactly one half-century ago, PBS tells us in its recent documentary titled "1964," kicking off a year when we'll celebrate the 50th anniversary of a host of memorable events....(which Mr Chernus lists) and goes on to say "Connect the dots, the PBS show's talking head historians all say, and you'll see a year that changed America forever. "The 60s" had begun!

There's just one problem with this story: Hardly anybody in 1964 was connecting the dots.
And later
That's what historians do: look back and see things that people at the time couldn't see. It's a job well worth doing. But it's equally important that we don't confuse the early seeds of a major political, social, and cultural change with the substance of the change itself............................

Historians face a methodological problem here. If you're going to decide that the key to understanding any historical era is to track down its roots -- as '60s scholars so often do -- where do you stop? Everything that happened in 1964 -- or any other year, for that matter -- was the fruit of things that happened earlier. It's well known by now that the roots of "the '60s" really lie in the supposedly so opposite era of "the '50s."

In fact, just out of curiosity, I took a look at the year 1950, to see whether I could build a case for it as the year "the '60s" really began. It turned out to be a quick easy job. In 1950:
(he lists again)

He ends with:
For historians the conclusion is this: We absolutely should trace the sources of change as far back as we can. But we should also make a clear, careful distinction between when the earliest root of any change took hold and when that change became truly significant for society at large.

For society at large the conclusion is this: Never forget how rapidly big changes, sometimes for the better, can happen. And never forget that the sources of the next big change are already gathering all around us.

While reading the article I kept thinking of a brief archived post of mine about something an astrologer had called "culture lag". It related to another way of "connecting the dots", or sometimes forgetting to do so. Here's the post:
Astrologer Bill Sheeran's article:
Generational Themes draws attention to an important point. Groups of individuals born with outer planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto in similar positions are thought to have common characteristics, as a generational set. What we have to bear in mind though is that the people born into any given generational group have no perceptible effect on the world at large until they achieve adulthood. Not until some point well into adulthood will any member of a generation reach a position of influence or power (of one sort or another). Mr Sheeran calls this "culture lag".
Thus there is what I call a culture lag between the initial emergence of astrologically associated themes, and a flowering of expression of the same principles decades later. In my opinion, this explains why an author might write a book which is very much of its time, but being of its time it is inherently novel and therefore radical. It may have initial impact, and then slide out of view. But years later, many of those born when it was being written will experience a resonance the contents. Astrologically, the book and those born when it was written have something in common. The later generation ‘get it’, and the writer’s work re-emerges into popular consciousness.
I've tended to overlook this rather obvious fact at times, crediting the astrology of a certain era as significant in that era's "flavour", or in what was popular then. It must take a few decades, though, for things on the ground to catch up with what the generational planets indicated at a given time.
Mr. Sheeran ends his article thus:
This way of looking at the issues is a bit simplistic - there are many inter-related factors involved in unravelling the picture. But I do think it is important, especially in mundane or collective level astrology work, to bear in mind this culture lag aspect of astrological dynamics. Apart from anything else it helps to make sense of the tensions which can arise between generations. Or illuminate political dynamics.

“The seeds of the past bear fruit in the present.”
~ Patrick Rothfuss, "The Wise Man's Fear"

The illimitable, silent, never-resting thing called Time, rolling, rushing on, swift, silent, like an all-embracing ocean-tide, on which we and all the universe swim like exhalations, like apparitions which are, and then are not.... ~Thomas Carlyle.


mike said...

Your post today is a bit like the basis of karma and reincarnation. Everything prior influences the present and the present will determine the future.

There is a tremendously interesting PBS series by James Burke, "Connections" and several spin-offs. Here's a Wiki quotation:

"Connections explores an "Alternative View of Change" (the subtitle of the series) that rejects the conventional linear and teleological view of historical progress. Burke contends that one cannot consider the development of any particular piece of the modern world in isolation. Rather, the entire gestalt of the modern world is the result of a web of interconnected events, each one consisting of a person or group acting for reasons of their own motivations (e.g., profit, curiosity, religious) with no concept of the final, modern result to which the actions of either them or their contemporaries would lead. The interplay of the results of these isolated events is what drives history and innovation, and is also the main focus of the series and its sequels.

To demonstrate this view, Burke begins each episode with a particular event or innovation in the past (usually Ancient or Medieval times) and traces the path from that event through a series of seemingly unrelated connections to a fundamental and essential aspect of the modern world. For example, the episode "The Long Chain" traces the invention of plastics from the development of the fluyt, a type of Dutch cargo ship.

Burke also explores three corollaries to his initial thesis. The first is that, if history is driven by individuals who act only on what they know at the time, and not because of any idea as to where their actions will eventually lead, then predicting the future course of technological progress is merely conjecture. Therefore, if we are astonished by the connections Burke is able to weave among past events, then we will be equally surprised to what the events of today eventually will lead, especially events we weren't even aware of at the time.

The second and third corollaries are explored most in the introductory and concluding episodes, and they represent the downside of an interconnected history. If history progresses because of the synergistic interaction of past events and innovations, then as history does progress, the number of these events and innovations increases. This increase in possible connections causes the process of innovation to not only continue, but to accelerate. Burke poses the question of what happens when this rate of innovation, or more importantly change itself, becomes too much for the average person to handle, and what this means for individual power, liberty, and privacy.

Lastly, if the entire modern world is built from these interconnected innovations, all increasingly maintained and improved by specialists who required years of training to gain their expertise, what chance does the average citizen without this extensive training have in making an informed decision on practical technological issues, such as the building of nuclear power plants or the funding of controversial projects such as stem cell research? Furthermore, if the modern world is increasingly interconnected, what happens when one of those nodes collapses? Does the entire system follow suit?"

Twilight said...

mike ~ Hmm - karma - yes, another strand of it. :-)

I remember watching James Burke on BBC TV long ago, in the 1970s or 80s - I don't recall detail of the actual programmes, but I would, I'm sure, have seen at least a few episodes of "Connections".

Good connection, mike, thanks! :-)

I investigated DVD sets of the series, but they're way beyond my price range. There's a book too, but I settled for a later book of Burke's: "Circles" and have ordered a used copy from Alibris for 99cents plus postage.

We ought not to be surprised about examples of these "delayed action" effects coming about over time, but they do get overlooked in the flurry of change. The "effect" holds true universally nature, science, history, astrology, and karma, as you mentioned.

Twilight said...

mike ~ I see Common Dreams has the piece by Ira Chernus up today too. Most commenters, so far, are concentrating more on the 1960s question rather than seeing the bigger picture. You ought to go put 'em straight! ;-)

mike (again) said...

If you can stand to watch documentaries on your computer, the "Connections" series is available on youtube for free viewing. Perform a youtube search for James Burke or "Connections".

Here's a link that has them organized and provides the youtube links:

Have you and anyjazz considered a Roku streamer? It allows most anything viewable on TV, cable, or the internet to be viewed on your own TV. The HD version is $99, but the non-HD can be had for $39. It is possible to eliminate cable with a Roku device, if you subscribe to Netflix, Hulu (Hulu-plus is $8 per month), or some other. Many stations like PBS and History Channel are free and not particularly associated with a service plan. Local news and weather can be viewed with an airwave antenna. I don't have one, but many of my friends and neighbors have gone that route and love it.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Very useful link - thank you! I have watched a couple of other documentary series on computer before - it's fine as long as taken in limited "bites" - too long holding head in one position and I get a stiff neck. :-/ Doesn't happen with TV, probably because it's further away from the viewer.

I've watched the first episode of "Connections" already - enjoyed it. Will go on to watch at least one episode a day.

James Burke is another Carl Sagan in his easy-going style... perfect lite-teaching style for me. :-)

I'd never heard of a Roku streamer, will look into it. We intend doing something of the kind eventually, when we relinquish some or all of our cable "package".

DC said...

wow...informative informative informative !! :))
thanks Annie and thanks to the info from mike on the ongoing cable TV options available these days. It's been a couple of years since I've (watched TV or) dealt with the cable TV companies.
Interesting depiction of pattern developments for sure, especially in the post , and the comments from mike(i.e. the "evolution of cable pricing haha) as well.

Twilight said...

DC ~ Glad it was all of interest!
I shall definitely be locking heads with the husband, trying to work out whether our TV is of an age that's up to coping with a Roku.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ I keep meaning to say that if you'd like my nice clean hardback copy of "The Giver" I'd be very happy to pass it on if you let me have an address - here's a spare e-mail address of mine, from which I'll respond from my regular one (which I'm wary of placing on the blog):

mike (again) said...

DC - You said that you haven't watched TV in a couple of you watch programs on your computer, or do you avoid all?

Twilight, thanks so much for your kind offer. I found "The Giver" available for download in several formats online for free from several sites. Here's one:

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ Oh - ok - good ! - I hope you enjoy the read. :-)

ex-Chomp said...

To tell the truth, anything in world is fruits from earlier times, the “depending origination” of Buddhism.

I do agree, the End of the Fifties was the origin of many changes we underwent along the Sixties, especially the second half, but society at large had to wait.

DC said...

mike....I basically stick to youtube and movies.....I live in Istanbul so there aren't a lot of choices tv wise....but it's common for people here to avoid tv, and that's fine with me :)

Twilight said...

ex-Chomp ~ Yes, put like that it seems obvious, but somehow it gets overlooked. I'm ignorant about the principles of Buddhism so looked it up and found this 4-line in-a-nutshell explanation of dependent origination:

When this is, that is
This arising, that arises
When this is not, that is not
This ceasing, that ceases.

I realise it goes much deeper than 4-lines, but that'll be enough for me, for now. :-)

The sixties in the USA, it seems, were quite a bit different from the sixties elsewhere, though some elements of the USA version were exported to the UK and Europe. Other countries would hardly feel a change though. I think that has to be taken into consideration too.