There was a lot going on, and, importantly, it was all coinciding with the heyday of mass culture. The news of the world was now everywhere, the trends proliferated, the horrors unshielded from the public eye. And it was all on a limited number of media channels. Everyone saw and experienced the same stuff. This made it possible for so many people of the same age to be on the same cultural and spiritual page. They’d all grown up in the same Campbell’s soup post-war America. They were all equally nervous about Vietnam.
These days, there is still a lot going on, but by now we are used to a constant barrage of shocking news and earth-shattering events. Nothing riles us up anymore. Plus, there are far too many channels with which to receive information. Everyone gets a different story. Our music and cultural tastes are infinitely more disparate than that of our parents’ generation. Everything about culture is personal and fragmented rather than public and cohesive. Aside from the YouTube viral video of the week, nothing is really shared anymore.
Something like Woodstock simply could not happen. 500,000 young people in this era would never be able to agree on a motivating cause, let alone a lineup of bands.
But that’s okay. It’s not like Woodstock changed much of anything anyway. Its lasting importance is mainly that of an American cultural artifact—a nostalgic celebration of a revolution that nearly happened but didn’t. That, and an amazing 4-hour concert DVD.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Solidarity of the past vs. Individualism of today
Brett McCracken recently wrote an interesting article entitled "Could Woodstock Happen Again?" In it he briefly analyzes the cultural environment of 1969, pointing out how 500,000 united for this epic event. If his analysis is right, it's pretty amazing how our culture today is so utterly different than it was just 40 years ago regarding community. The whole article is good, but his conclusion pretty much sums it up: