Posted byat 24th November, 2008
I can feel it. It’s like when a low-pressure area comes into the region; there’s a sort of mild static electricity that cleans the air before the cloudburst.
Once again, the times they are a-changing. Rapidly. It’s coming from all directions, and we probably won’t recognize the prevailing winds for a while. We can have a beautiful, sunny new day; we can have a tornado rip through our society. But that shift is happening.
Much of it is fueled by the optimism of the Obama administration. Sure, Barack brings a strong sense of change and has generated a feeling of hope that I haven’t seen since John Kennedy. But make no mistake about it: at the crest of this wave is the absolute certainty that our long international nightmare is over, and the NeoCons lie broken in defeat. They’re not dead, nor should they be: the confluence of ideas is critical to our health. But they’re not holding us back; they are not robbing our middle class any longer.
What they have left in their wake is a global Katrina’s worth of disaster. The NeoCons have plunged the world into recession, and with deflation going viral we are at the brink of depression. Obama can’t stop that in time, but perhaps the optimism he has inspired might.
So we have this vortex of emotions playing havoc with our culture. We know we’re going to have change – present unemployment levels will distress the already-distressed worlds of books, music, theater, dining and tourism. The Great American Car Culture is history – nostalgia not unlike the comic book fan that lost interest in the medium when it went larval 15 years ago.
The so-called free entertainment media (and for the purpose of conversation, I’m including cable teevee and the Internet) are in deep, deep trouble. They are advertising supported. Advertising dollars are shrinking. Virtually every major department store chain but three are gone; so are most local chains. Car dealerships are closing left and right. Car manufacturers are a death rattle away from Chapter 11. All that stuff pays for much of what you see on television, hear on the radio, and view on the Internet.
If we look back to the last depression, we see an awesome explosion of culture. Some believe movies were never better; certainly, 1939 alone saw more stellar films than we’ve ever seen in the medium’s history. Music? Well, through the free, advertising supported medium of radio we took regional forms and spread them across the nation. The urban flurry of the 20s went global in the 30s.
Look at the major recessions of 1938-39, 1960-61 and 1981-82. Each brought about major, fundamental shifts in our culture. Each was preceded by an underground culture that came to the forefront.
We can feel that happening again. For good and for bad. It will be shaped by what we do, what we support, and how our attitudes allow for the acceptance of change.
Each of those major recessions was followed by a major escalation of war – respectively, World War II, Vietnam, and Lebanon/The Falklands/Iran-Contra. It just so happens we’re at war right now in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The President-Elect has pledged to accelerate the latter. His challenge is to do so without increasing Pakistan’s involvement, which would likely expand the war to both global and nuclear levels.
The challenge is to figure out how to get back on our feet without encouraging apocalypse. Our work’s cut out for us.