To begin by saying that the modern era simply sucks would be too crass, so I shall specify. I, as most of the readers, cannot comment nor compare the modern era to that of the 1920s or 1950s or 1980s as I did not experience them first-hand. The only perception we garner of those decades is how they are portrayed in film and television, where likely those who actually experienced it give their input into bringing the decade to life through appearance and feel and overall tone. More often than not, these “interpretations” if you will are glamorized, as the only word to base it on is the memory of those who lived through the time period, which is likely over-hyped due to the effects of fond memory.
Or is it?
While I wasn’t born until 1995, I can recall the 1990s (and early 2000s really, as many trends continued past the millennial mark with enough momentum to carry them another year or two). Seeing as I was roughly seven when the trends of the last nineteen-hundred decade finally faded, I can’t speak candidly about world events or international conflict. If history books serve as any testament, the turbulence in the Middle East and other foreign countries similarly mirrors that of today. Terrorism still existed (i.e. the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center) and America was still on its toes. America may not have been as paranoid as it is today, but doesn’t that only propel that argument that yesterday was better than today?
As far as culture goes, the vulgarity and unscrupulous behavior is only inferior to the acceptance and encouragement of such. The society of days past hardly stands on a moral pedestal; this trend has continued for decades, centuries, since the dawn of time perhaps. Not just Americans, but all people have become less and less moral and less and less disturbed by the lack of morals. I’m no mathematician, but I believe a negative slope means the previous value was higher than the current value. Don’t even get me started on the future values.
When it comes to music or television, it depends on what’s trendy at the time. Media responds to society, and vice versa. However, most of it can be ignored with nothing more than a passing wave. If something is truly fantastic, then it can escape the bonds of societal trends and become timeless. Look at how many shows, how many music artists are known and enjoyed today, despite the fact that they may have been in their heyday a decade or two ago. Now look at today. Really look at it. How many shows or songs or artists today will be known and enjoyed twenty years down the road? Exactly.
Technology doesn’t take that long to explain. Yes, we’ve come a long way, and our advances make the world a better place. But for every life it saves, it ensnares dozens more. We’ve grown dependent on the Internet and our cellular phones (as they were once called). Technology has only ensured that we keep up with the trends, with what app or social networking site or hashtag is popular right now. In fact, this only speeds up the trending process, as what is popular now gets stale by the end of the month. We glue our eyes to the devices in front of us, and ignore the world around us. We’ve become zombies. And like I said before, television responds to societal trends. Just don’t count on seeing seeing The Walking Dead re-released for a twentieth anniversary years from now.
It is a simple task to denounce the age we live in. Overt pessimism is at a peak, nostalgia is running unchecked in the streets. Why? Why is the modern age always derided in comparison to those of the past? Why must the 1920s or the 1950s be the pinnacle of American culture? Because we are afraid of today.
The events of 9/11 permanently shattered any idea of a stable decade. Paranoia set in and, in response, we locked our doors. The television became our only window and responded only to what we wanted to hear. The news, a former friend, turned ugly, and focused on all that is wrong: terrorism, hate, vulgarity, partisan conflict, shootings, violent death. This has almost singlehandedly shifted our view of the past 13 years into the negative.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the modern era. We, as a people, are smarter than ever before. Technology is always progressing, most importantly in the field of medicine; though issues will arise from a longer lifespan, the world would certainly be better without Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s – diseases which, at our rate of progression in the medicinal field.
Contrary to popular belief, American culture is in no danger of being overrun by the vulgar and badly written. Though fragmented and, depending on the medium, hard to find, good art is plentiful. Best seen in the television medium (though an air of “I don’t watch television” has been hanging around lately), the problems and philosophies of the modern age are being properly represented in works like “Breaking Bad,” “True Detective;” the books of Jonathan Franzen, Michael Chabon, and Karl Ove Knausgaard; the films of David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson; and a huge music scene, full of bands too numerous to list in one article. Really, this is a fantastic time – it shouldn’t be governed by paranoia.
(cover photo courtesy averiados.blogspot.com)
What do you think? Which is better, the past or the present? Tell us below!