~ I recently finished reading a biography on Louis Armstrong the famed jazz musician of the 20th century. It struck me as nothing short of amazing when the biographer noted that 1920 New Orleans culture involved being able to hear jazz music anywhere within the city, “No matter what neighborhood you were walking through, you were sure to see and hear jazz bands and various musicians playing on their porches, the street, or in any assortment of cafes and saloons; you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing live music in New Orleans” (my paraphrase). What a different world it was back then!
Could you imagine walking through any of America’s great cities and seeing teenagers sitting on their porch playing music in our day and age? Instead, if you walk through St. Louis, Atlanta, Des Moines, or wherever, you are more likely to see young adults walking around with large obnoxious head phones or staring at their smart phones.
During the prohibition era of the 1920’s, according to a different historian, it was quite common to be sitting in a speak easy or saloon, and for the entire room of people to suddenly break out singing a song, just for the hell of it. Public singing with strangers was common fare back then. Could you imagine sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings and joining in with the entire crowd of people in a rendition of a Beatles Song; such a thing doesn’t happen in our society anymore.
Prior to becoming famous as the woman married to the President, Nellie Taft was a well known instigator of intelligent discussion and music; throughout her teen years and much of her marriage to William, Nellie would hold weekly “salons” at her house in which she would lead discussions based on literature, current events, politics, music, and the arts. How often does this kind of thing happen in our day and age?
The late 1800’s and early 1900’s in America was a time in which people spent massive doses of their life in community with each other; playing music, talking philosophy, and merely hanging out living life together was how people spent their free time when not working on the farm or the newly invented assembly lines and factories.
However, in 1919 the radio became a massive technological breakthrough in American culture. Prior to 1920 less than a few thousand people owned radios, but by 1929, millions and millions of Americans owned radios and sat spell bound in their living rooms listening to the latest news, music, or various variety shows that the networks offered.
We know the rest of the story. Over the course of the 20th century the radio gave way to the television, then came Nintendo in the 1980’s, and by 1999 we were then introduced to the massive wave of the Internet which would finally seal the deal on our connection to the world that once existed before technology.
The simple fact of the matter is that technology has all but destroyed the world that once existed. Consider for a moment the fact that prior to the industrial revolution, “unemployment” didn’t exist. In fact, “unemployment” didn’t even exist as a theoretical idea. There was no “unemployment” in the preindustrial world because there were no factories, no assembly lines, and no electronic technology.
The world used to be agrarian; prior to the Industrial Revolution, 97% of Americans were farmers. If the weather was bad one year, instead of being “unemployed” you merely migrated to a different part of the country to hunt for food, fish, or gather berries. You see, prior to the Industrial Revolution, people lived off the land and provided for themselves…….there was no dependence on “the man” for a job.
The Industrial Revolution changed everything, and then the wave of technology in the 20th century changed the Western World from a more communal culture to an isolated individualistic society. In fact, prior to the 1920’s, using the word “community” in the context that we use it today (social interactions, relationships, friendships, conversations, etc) didn’t even occur, because that kind of community was a given.
But by 1920 sociologists were realizing that the world was changing, and they began studying the psychological effects that being disconnected from “community” was having on people. One study theorized that a lack of “community” in a person’s life contributed to a higher likelihood of deviancy, depression, and even crime.
As we sit here in the year 2015, we have all but obliterated the America that once existed. In some ways that is good (no more slavery), but in other ways it has devastated our society. Depression, anxiety, and other psychosomatic mood disorders have reached epic levels. 70% of ALL Americans are on prescription drugs, and 1/3 of ALL Americans take more than 3 different kind of pills every day.
Technology has directly contributed to the rise we have seen in bi-polar disorder, depression, and other psychosomatic mood disorders.
Technology has also contributed to the greatest plague we have seen on the earth since the Bubonic Plague, I call it the Ford Plague. Over a five year period in the 14th century, the Bubonic Plague killed an estimated 25 million people, and while that seems like a lot, consider the fact that last year the Ford Plague killed 1.3 million people, this year the Ford Plague will kill another 1.3 million, and next year it will kill another 1.3 million…more than a million people a year and nobody even talks about the Ford Plague!
Every day an estimated 3,247 people die from the Ford Plague; and unlike the Bubonic Plague which eventually fizzled out after five years…the Ford Plague is with us for years to come. Unless we all stop driving automobiles, the Ford Plague will kill another 50 million people in the next 50 years). An estimated 20-50 million people are injured or disabled EVERY YEAR from the Ford Plague. Thus, over the next 10 years, we will see over 11 million people die from the Ford plague, and nearly 500 million people injured or disabled!
Auto Accidents are the unprecedented king of killers. The Ford Plague is Gods curse on the USA. We invented technology that enabled us to get from one place to another in a metal box, and the result is that a million people a year die because of it.
Technology has contributed to the rise we have seen in Mental Illness
Technology has contributed to the break down in community and relationships
Technology has created the greatest plague the world has ever seen
Technology has created pollution and nuclear weapons that could bring more destruction
What is so great about technology? Some people say technology should be praised because we have saved so many lives via modern health care. Such people are merely self-deluded in their ignorance since they ignore all of the destruction that technology has wrought via modern war fare, pollution, mental illness, and the Ford Plague.
The only hope for Western Culture is if Aliens show up and turn our electricity off. Until then, perhaps you might join me for a cup of coffee in Costa Rica.
Categories: Culture & Society