We Have Met The Future
Alvin Toffler has died. Those of us from a certain generation know the name: He was the bestselling author of Future Shock, a treatise on how the rapid changes in global culture and technology would create a new, unrecognizable culture as we approached the 21st Century.
Toffler wrote that these changes would be — and already were at the time of publication — extremely stressful to people. I don’t recall him mentioning this in his book but I can name one specific change that has stressed out pretty much everyone in America. That is, with the advances in personal computing, television recording, and cell phones, adults are no longer the primary disseminators of knowledge. For millennia, moms and dads and aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, and even unrelated elders of the community explained and decoded the world to kids. It followed, therefore, that the young ‘uns understood this was a world they were being welcomed into, one they had to grasp, that if they wanted to change it, they’d have to go through the long process of familiarization and understanding it. Adults were the tutors; kiddies the pupils.
T’ain’t that way anymore. I don’t remark upon this to characterize it as either good or bad, only to observe that it’s freakin’ the bejesus out of all of us.
See, people older than the median age can deal with laptops, TiVos, and smart phones, sorta, sure. But it takes them a long time to get it. And the process is frustrating for everyone involved, teacher and student.
The teachers, by the way, are daughters and sons, nieces and nephews, granddaughters and grandsons, and even the little shit who lives next door. The most important and vital devices we use in our everyday lives are the comfortable province of the young. We old bastards tiptoe into that realm as if we’re terrified we’ll step on the cat’s tail, crush a dozen eggs, or trip a landmine.
It’s a reversal of the young/old relationship that humanity has enjoyed since the first Africans crafted tools and the ancient Middle Easterners learned to place seeds in the soil.
Despite their superior knowledge of and comfort with tech devices, kids still want to be guided into this strange as hell world. Rebel though they might, sass though they must, they need older folks to hold their hands through the scary process of getting to know the ins and outs of Homo Sapiens sapiens. (The irony, of course, is no one ever really gets to know all about our worldwide clan, no matter how old we grow.)
We as a species are so hungry for an older, more mighty docent — a parent or elder, in other words — that every single culture in history has created an invisible daddy-o in the sky, one to whom we can beg for relief or forgiveness, who’ll protect us from tornados, and who’ll bestow a shiny new Toyota Camry upon us before our current old beater falls apart in the middle of the roadway.
Kids demand all those things from their elders (including the set of wheels, although not a Camry — one of those hot-looking Mustangs, more likely).
The problem today is if parents and elders and all the rest can’t be trusted to know what they’re talking about regarding new tech, if they must be led like kindergarteners through the thickets of megapixels and Super AMOLED screens, then how in the hell can they possibly guide us through life? They can’t, is the conclusion our kids come to.
Followed by, Damn, mang, we’re alone in this world.
And we flatulent, saggy, balding, paunchy fossils can no longer pretend we know a thing or two, justifying our presence here despite our crumbling bodies. The kids know it all, fer chrissakes!
Nobody’s winning at this point in our history.
June 30th Birthdays
Man Mountain Dean — Born Frank Simmons Leavitt, he was a professional wrestler who first grappled under the moniker Hell’s Kitchen Bill-Bill, suggested to him by Damon Runyon. He wrestled to mediocre results early in his career and actually went to work as a policeman until he was married in the early 1930s. To that point, pro wrestling was still a fairly straight affair with participants employing holds and strategies seen today in high school matches. Leavitt’s new wife advised him to become a showman wrestler and take the name he made famous. Man Mountain Dean became so popular that the entire sport of professional wrestling changed, becoming the passion play it is today.
Lena Horne — A Cotton Club jazz singer early in her career, Horne went on to movie and record success and eventually became a respected spokesperson for civil rights. Throughout her career, she refused to perform before segregated audiences. She was blacklisted when her name appeared in the communist-baiting mag Red Channels. She disavowed her earlier associations with leftists and communists in 1952 and with the help of Ed Sullivan was allowed to perform again in movies, on TV, and in “reputable” live venues.
Dave Van Ronk — Fabled folk singer who played coffeehouses and underground joints in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s, Van Ronk is said to have been profoundly influential on the first wave of neo-folk singers in the 60s including Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul and Mary; Phil Ochs; and Joni Mitchell. His story was fictionalized in the Coen Brothers movie Inside Llewyn Davis.
Yngwie Malmsteen — Born Lars Johan Yngve Lannerbäck in Sweden, Malmsteen is a heavy metal guitarist idolized by stoner suburban white boys, ergo per the Onion:
On this day in 1984, Lillian Hellman died. Playwright and screenwriter, Hellman gained fame as the author of the plays The Children’s Hour, Little Foxes, Watch on the Rhine, and The Autumn Garden. Her leftist sympathies and her longtime relationship with suspected communist Dashiell Hammett led her to be subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee where she told her inquisitors she would gladly testify about herself but would not name names or say anything to damage the reputations of others. She famously said, “I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions….”
Hellman & Hammett