2007-05-24 / Sam Bari

Back in the old days

By Sam Bari

You can't beat a system you can't understand You can't beat a system you can't understand The term, "old days," has different meanings to each generation. The definition is usually determined by the age of the speaker. For instance, people in their forties and fifties don't remember before rock 'n' roll. Why? Because rock 'n' roll was already at its peak when they were born.

The popular music genre was going down in the history books as the most inventive and major cultural influence of all time. The legends of rock were living icons that defined the way we dressed and styled our hair to the way we thought. Rock 'n' roll was not a by-product of the invention of electronic instruments; it was a worldwide movement that restructured the order of society. It was a cultural happening that took years to develop.

Those of us who were around to see the rock 'n' roll era take shape think it was an incredible period. It was the "old days." Those who were born into the established rock culture and take it for granted, the beginning of rock 'n' roll is just history.

My father talked about the "old days" as being before jet planes and television. Les Paul was in his early teens back then and had yet to make the term "electric guitar" a household word. My parents saw the atomic bomb as a new invention that was intended to be used to save the world. Now, atomic weapons are perceived quite differently.

Their parents saw a world that would be described as unlivable by today's standards. Ask any teenager if they can dispose of their cell phone and function well in a household where everybody shares one telephone that requires dialing and waiting for a party line to clear. They will just look at you as if you are delusional and come from another planet. They don't even know what a party line is.

However, that is not the case in much of the world. We often forget that we are in a highly industrialized society and that many people on this planet have never experienced a conversation on a telephone of any kind. That is difficult to imagine for those of us born in 20th and 21st century America, or any other modern culture.

The last 75-years have been more inventive than any time in history, with more modern conveniences and advances in technology than ever before. It's surprising how technology has continued to develop at such a breathtaking pace. New products on today's market are obsolete the day they become available in stores. The computer industry is a prime example of instant obsolescence.

Advancements in technology will continue for as long as Madison Avenue can create a perceived need and inventors have an imagination. Technology rarely digresses. It moves forward at breakneck speed. That being said, let us take a moment to look at the cultural differences in our society from generation to generation.

Those of us who formed the rock 'n' roll culture of the fifties and sixties were perceived by our parents and grandparents as rebellious and irresponsible, with no respect for authority, decency and wholesome values.

We were rebellious, without a doubt. We questioned authority figures who used their positions of power for manipulative purposes and personal gain. For instance, in today's government, a J. Edgar Hoover of FBI fame could never exist. He had a position of power in the government that could not be questioned. Now, that would not be tolerated.

We questioned everything from politics to ethics and morals. We redefined our freedoms and rights, and created watchdog organizations to make sure that our rights were not violated - ever. We even questioned ambition and the distribution of wealth. The days of the flower children, hippies and communes, though long gone, embraced a simpler life that appreciated nature and minimized consumption and waste.

The hippie culture was more relaxed and advocated fun and the pleasures that the world and nature had to offer as opposed to the rigid work ethic and ambition of our parents. Now, the proverbial pendulum is swinging the other way, and the generations following the hippies are experiencing the perils of competing in a society bent on accumulating personal wealth, while religious fanaticism and intolerance of diversity is being felt around the globe.

The most noted change is that the children and grandchildren of the founders of the rock 'n' roll movement that freed the world from oppressive fanatics criticize us for our questionable work ethics, morals and lack of responsibility. Usually, every generation criticizes the next for not living the way they should. This generation, it's the other way around. It's just another reason for believing that we live in a system we'll never understand.

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