Friday, October 21, 2005

A Wash Post Befitting Cultural Dilution

Lance wrote a beautiful post Playing Dead in it he starts by reminding us how we used to play dead when we were kids (remember?) and continues by asking how many of us still do it. Play dead, that is.

Having the emotional complexity of a donkey, I took what Lance said to mean something slightly different than what he did, and only realized this as I continued reading his post. While Lance talked about our personal emotions, I thought of society's.

I mentioned pop-culture and art in previous posts, touching-not touching on the subject of cultural dilution. I also always promised a post on the matter but never actually wrote one.

My reasons for never writing one, you ask?
a) I was still trying to decide whether the perceived dilution is a generational thing rather than an absolute thing (as much as absolute things exist).
b) I lacked an angle.
c) I felt inadequate, ill-equipped and definitely not knowledgeable enough to tackle the matter.

Reason 'c' still exists and probably will never go away.
Reason 'a' - jury's still out.
Reason 'b' was solved. Lance gave me the angle - is our society playing dead, pretending not to feel thus diluting our culture?

However, since I still feel inadequate to analyze, criticize and (most probably) judge our society, maybe you can help me to decide on 'a.' Personally, I feel the dilution exists, yet when I read new good books, watch new good movies, go to a new amazing art show, I wonder.

I have no doubt that generational dilution exists just as it existed in previous generations. I remember the story my mother used to tell me about the radio. When she was a child for example, her parents would not bring a radio into the house for fear of the kids getting hooked on it and other familiar reasons we would today attribute to, I don't know, Nintendo.

Similarly, while the artistic domain with its four basic forms of visual art, 'word' art, musical art and performing art remain, it spills over today into the entertainment domain, hence the dilution as the lines between art and entertainment get blurred (as per one of my favourite blogs).

But culture isn't just art. Culture is the comprehensive activities of society in the form of manners, morals, customs, laws and a whole slew of other things. Issues that I admit I have my (sometimes strong) opinions on but that alas are too many to list here.

The end result?
A very dissatisfying post that doesn't really say much and that feels more like a wash.

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Carter said...

In my opinion (which is certainly no more authoitative than yours):

Culture is not a static something that can be concentrated or diluted. Culture is dynamic, ever-changing. The perceived dilution is a product of an individual's culture, not that of society as a whole.

As societal culture changes, we tend to dig in and bemoan the way the younger generations are ruining our families/countries/world/lives.

I probably need to explore this in more detail and give it some more thought. Maybe I'll blog about it on NITA sometime soon.

melly said...

By all means, please do Carter, I appreciate your insight.

I think maybe you're right, but then again, it's enough to recall reality shows / Bach as ringtone / Led Zeppelin in a car commercial that I change my mind.
Or I think of the seemingly increasing rudeness I encounter / McDonalds / breast implants. See what I'm getting at?
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

But then again I think of what our parents might have said and what their parents said and I don't know anymore.

ME Strauss said...

Well, since I'm probably closer to your parent's age than yours . . . what I see is that there are many more things that entertain us and fewer occasions were we need to entertain ourselves.

I feel that people have trouble being alone with themselves without getting on a cell phone, in the airplane, in an elevator!!

It seems like we don't know how to imagine, i.e. "play dead" things. When imagination was what we did all day when I was a kid.

Cavan said...

My viewpoint - cultural dilution is just a short phrase for "changing attitudes of the media".

At some point in the game, when the media decides that portraying a more positive view of human nature is beneficial, we'll probably be talking about cultural concentration.

dog1net said...

A powerful summation you give here: "But culture isn't just art. Culture is the comprehensive activities of society in the form of manners, morals, customs, laws and a whole slew of other things."
Phil Collins (Another Man's Meat) in a recent post reflected along similar lines in regard to our culture today, and expressed our social malaise as a result of post-moderism. Working with young people, I am especially concerned myself, because what is becoming more evident to me is not their apathetic attitude toward others and life, but their total disaffection with themselves in terms of believing in any sense of a future. Thanks for stopping by the other day. I appreciate your kind response.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for allowing the seed to grow, I am so touched as something so powerful continues to grow for a broader audience.

Lee Carlon said...

I think this sort of stuff is always there as you pointed out with the radio example, there will always be something new and perhaps frightening, it's just that at different times we are more aware of it than at others.

I kmow some people think keeping a blog and exchanging ideas online is a bit weird, but everybody here (assumably) thinks it's a perfectly normal thing to do.

And I guess there will always be people doing things - mp3 breast implants and so on - that make the rest of us go, huh?

melly said...

Liz, I see what you're getting at even though you changed the meaning of my angle. Cute :)

Cavan, but culture isn't just what is portrayed in the media, it's all around us. Think of your fellow students, heck, think of pop music and how many songs nowadays are remakes.

Scot - Phil Collins the musician?
Your comment about today's youth: "their total disaffection with themselves in terms of believing in any sense of a future" - is that people have been saying starting generation Y. They respond to the perceied inevitability of Earth's destruction because of environmental concerns which they had nothing to do with and which they lack any real force to change. But that's only one part of it and you probably know more about it than I do...

Lance, see what you started? ;)

Lee, perhaps you're right. I hope you're right and yet I have this nagging feeling that it's more than just generation gap...

Cavan said...

I'd have to disagree. Unless you're living in the mountains with no electricity, you're inescapably influenced by the media from birth onwards. Our values are shaped largely by what we see reflected in society - and that, more often than not, is what the media shows to us. Therefore, it's the media's interpretation of society that we see, and that in turn shapes how we see the world. In our culture, at least, we've all grown up with this overwhelming influence. Even if we had parents who outlawed TV/video games/whatever, we still spend our life in contact with those who have been shaped by them, so it's altogether impossible to escape.

melly said...

I see what you're saying. Even if our influences were different, say more TV and internet for you, while no internet, a little bit of TV and a lot of print media for me, is still media influence even if it is different. And that influence has a circular effect.

So if the media is becoming "ruder," we do to.

It's almost a question of what comes first. Do we affect the media or does the media affect us?

redchurch said...

One of the fav things I've heard somebody say regarding 'dilution' in the last few years was this:

"They don't make em' like they used to... and they never did."

Point being, every generation has a set of things they feel they own, and when another generation comes up and starts to tear down the walls, the previous gen goes on the defensive, talking about how society is going to hell in a handbasket. See rock music in 50s. Elvis used to be the work of the devil. Now it's only grandmothers or fanatics who listen to him.

I hate falling back on the line "It's all relative" because that's such a cop-out in my opinion. So, I'd rather say WHERE and WHY it's all relative--because just about any segment of society, any generation, any subculture can look out upon the world in a defensive manner and see assaults coming from all sides.

Or, it's just a matter of pretending that everything is turning into crap. But then, why are there still new good movies? New good books? New good art?

Theoretically speaking, if it were diluted we'd never have anything new to enjoy or appreciate--which is the thorn to call your bluff if any.

I learned long ago to stop having those kind of defensive perceptions...

I will concede though... don't get me started on the post-modern thing. I do think there's a huge wash of nihilists out there, trying very hard to convince everyone how fiercely apathetic they are. Which begs the question; Are they really?

It only bothers me because individuals do themselves and others a serious disservice by pretending not to care, or making a mockery of everything.

Some of this is the ignorance of youth. When I was 18 I thought I knew it all. I didn't know anything. If there's a dilution going on, it's that culture seems youthfully naive. This isn't necessarily a bad thing except for the ignorance that goes along with it.

dog1net said...

Whoops. Funny how names can slip when your posting late in the evening. It's Phil Dillon, not Collins, of Another Man's Meat.

ObilonKenobi said...

My uncle always say that we call them the "Good Old Days" now but back then we called them "Hard Times."

What we percieve as better days of youth is mostly nostalgia. I remember playing pretend with my friends when I was young. We'd pretend to be the people we saw on TV and in Movies. We used it as inspiration.

Nowadays there is a prolification of media in all forms of electronics. I myself can't be without a cell phone or laptop even on vacation.

I think that it is more important to preserve those moments of pure imagination in life. I try to encourage my kids to turn off the tube or video game abd just play. Play sports, pretend, play with non electronic toys, paint and draw, go outside, whatever. Our duty as parents is the same as every other modern generation, try to teach our kids to live a well-rounded life. In that way we can save the future of culture and art.

I think that nothing has changed. Technology has no doubt made us healthier, longer lived and more comfortable and entertained. If used wisely and in moderation it is a benefit. Just like anything else: Moderation is the key. Along with diversification.

It requires more effort on our part to seek it out.

Melly said...

Redchurch, I must admit I had to read your comment several times. You took me on a journey of thoughts which was a lot of fun because it reminded me of my thought process. If so then so but how come so etc... :)
What isn't relative perhaps, I mean what is different for you the younger generation and the nihilist is that feeling of the approaching doomsday because of the environment. I think that has a bit effect on these uninterested people.

Melly said...

dog1net, I see. Forgive the ignorance but I had no idea what Another Man's Meat was, so I googled and found the blog. Thanks :)

ObilonKenobi, well put. Moderation is definitely the key (I preach it so often with regards to food :).
I loved this sentence of yous:
"Our duty as parents is the same as every other modern generation, try to teach our kids to live a well-rounded life. In that way we can save the future of culture and art."
I hope every parent knows that.