The other day my seventeen (eighteen in April) year old daughter confided that she was 'blown away' by a certain Pink Floyd song from their Animals album. She called 'Dogs' up on her laptop (Youtube) and we listened to it together. 'How does he make his guitar sound like yelping dogs?' she queried excitedly. 'The way the synthesizer sounds like a pack of barking hounds. And the lyrics. Freaking genius.' I smiled, knowingly. You see, I'm slightly familiar with this particular tune. Listened to it possibly a thousand times when I was my daughter's age. In fact, I used a quote from Dogs for my senior entry in my high-school yearbook. This seemed a good way to bid adieu to my childhood :
And after a while you can work on points for style
Like the club tie and the firm handshake
As sudden look in the eye and an easy smile
You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to
So that when they turn their backs on you
You'll get the chance to put the knife in.
I was a cheery optimistic lad.
Apparently, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
I'm thinking about this because of a provocative Vanity Fair article arguing that every twenty years or so American society has traditionally regenerated itself with new styles, new fashion, new design, new entertainment. My taste in music (Pink Floyd) was radically different from my mother's taste (Frankie Laine). My dad called the jeans I wore on a daily basis 'dungarees'. The renewal of style has not only distinguished fathers and mothers from their offspring, but has kept the economy pumping at a healthy clip. In the last twenty years, say, from 1992 to 2012 we've stalled, according to the article. The median wage hasn't changed, and the music hasn't changed that much either - Lady Gaga is just a spruced up (and younger) version of Madonna - same with the fashion and even the politics. It would stand to reason then that parents my age, would have a lot more in common with their kids, then those parents had with their parents, which seems to be my experience. I'm not sure that we're in a holding pattern per se, but the rate of cultural change does appear to have slowed. The distance between me who was born during the civil rights revolution and came of age during the heyday of disco, and my parents who were pre-war babies seems transcontinental culturally-speaking. In my day we called it 'the generation gap'. I doubt if my kids would inherently grasp that concept the way we did. So, same old, same old, right? Well, not in one very obvious and important way: technology. All those devices that were science fiction when I was young that are now ubiquitous, commonplace and indispensible. The 'transponder' used by Captain Kirk to order Scotty to 'beam me up' is what we now call a cellphone. The desktops and laptops and i-thingamajigs and Blackberries and video games and Facebook and Google have all undoubtedly shifted the cultural parameters. Styles and eras don't seem to matter nearly as much as they used to and one can argue that it is precisely because of our obsession with gadgetry and the internet which makes us feel as if we are living virtual and a-temporal existences. The internet makes all cultures of all eras immediately present and accessible. We travel through space and time with a mere click of a button. Style, as we used to understand and live it, is irrelevant. I mean, do you really have to care about the clothes you wear, or how you wear your hair, if you live, play, shop, do your banking, go to school, and socialize through a screen?