And… Counterpoint!

As Joel Klettke stated in his article last week, we are living in the “era of the mundane, of the mediocre.” Never before have things been quite this bad, and woe is us to have been born into this sad state of affairs. All we can do is hope and pray the next generation has things better than us because the way things are, it really couldn’t get much worse. Everything from pop-culture to politics to intellectualism has reached a level of stagnation that makes it unlikely this decade will be remembered as anything other than an absolute waste.

Truly it’s a shame our generation hasn’t found a “defining movement,” as the article laments, “just a bunch of sub-groups, misfits and elitists.” After all, the ’60s had the hippies, a group of teenagers who thought that psychedelic drugs, sex and plenty of music would lead to massive political change. The ’70s was doubly lucky, as it got both the coked up disco hounds and the heroin-addled punks. The ’80s already did the whole greed thing, and the ’90s took the last of the heroin and mixed it with apathy and flannel. Where does that leave those of us who aren’t content to be part of a sub-group? Being an emo kid is ok, but wouldn’t it be nicer if we could dress, act and think exactly like an even larger group of people? Curse you, passage of time, for depriving us of that opportunity.

For proof of this decade’s shabbiness, one need only look at the popular culture of today, and compare it with decades past. If only this were 1995, when the charts were dominated by Hootie and the Blowfish, Michael Bolton and Silverchair; or 1985, when Wham, the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack and the We Are The World tribute topped sales charts on the strength of their timeless appeal. Who could forget Styx and Sugarloaf back in 1975, or Herman’s Hermits in 1965? What a shame that, unlike decades past, the masses are using their dollars to vote for passing fads rather than works of true quality.

Television is clearly suffering too. Shows like Lost, Arrested Development and House hold their own small appeal, but lack the cat-eating aliens that elevate a series to greatness. What’s become of daring classics like Home Improvement and The Real World in ’95, or the always provocative Knight Rider from ’85? Where can audiences turn for programming of the caliber of 1975’s Hee-Haw and Hawaii 5-0? It’ll be a cold day in hell before we reach level of socio-political commentary found in a typical episode of ’65’s Beverly Hillbillies, or the incisive wit of that year’s Gilligan’s Island.

The decline of society is apparent everywhere you look. Politicians lying and embezzling, an unsatisfied populace, musicians and movie stars with no political experience lecturing the world on proper behavior. You can be sure that none of the Beatles would take uninformed, overly naïve stances on complex and controversial issues. Things have sunk so low that an actor holds a prominent position in the American government. For God’s sake, an actor! This could never have happened in the Reagan era, when marriage meant marriage and women knew their place in the kitchen.

Oddly enough, Klettke isn’t the first to complain about the decline of modern society. Way back in the 1930s and ’40s, jazz music, with its sexual rhythms and its association with drugs, was cited as proof positive that America was crumbling. Of course, we now know that was nonsense, and jazz is hailed as one of the few true American art forms. The beatniks, punks, mods, new wavers, discoers and new romantics, and goths were thought of as elitist fringe groups, but we’ve thankfully realized those were actually defining movements. Of course, we can be sure hindsight will never elevate any culture from our decade.

We should just count our lucky stars that in a few years time we’ll be old enough to settle into comfortable ruts, become an active part of “the man” and pass the torch of rebellion on to the next generation. Judging from the blogs of melodramatic youngsters, they’ll probably think they have it pretty rough. Well, let them say what they want. We’ll know the truth. Oh yes, we’ll know.

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