Mass society fragmented and thereby stabilized

Monday, December 10th, 2018

In high school, Steve Sailer and his classmates were assigned Alvin Toffler’s 1970 bestseller Future Shock, about how the ever-accelerating waves of change would soon overwhelm us — but it didn’t happen:

Instead, mass society fragmented and thereby stabilized. My cousin, for example, remains a hippie, and he’s recently talked his mother into wanting to go to Burning Man. Today, nobody much cares: Burning Man seems less shocking than funny.

Yet when I was a small boy, virtually every male in America, except perhaps violin soloists, had short hair.

It’s difficult to make clear just how big a deal hair length was in the 1960s. When I was six in 1965, my family went to England. We were sitting around at Heathrow waiting for our flight back to the US when a young man with collar-length hair walked into the waiting room. “It’s a Beatle!” screamed a girl. The excited crowd surged toward John, Paul, George, or, possibly, Ringo. I dispatched my mother to get the Beatle’s autograph. She returned bearing the signature “Peter Noone,” the lead singer of Herman’s Hermits.

The point of this anecdote is that in 1965 so few males had hair covering two-thirds of their ears that transatlantic travelers assumed that anybody who did must be a rock star. (And we were right.)

“Perhaps Ecclesiastes got it right.”

I can pin down when rock fans started to let their hair grow. Buffalo Springfield’s remarkable single “For What It’s Worth” (“Stop, children, what’s that sound?”) is usually thought of as an early Vietnam War protest song, but it was actually inspired by the Sunset Strip curfew riots over the planned demolition of the Pandora’s Box nightclub. Even in November 1966, however, a mob of protesting Los Angeles rock fans looked clean-cut.

That must have been the last time they got their hair cut. In the summer of 1967, some visitors wanted to “go see the hippies,” so my parents drove us over Laurel Canyon to Sunset. The Strip was jammed with us tourists agog over the longhairs.

After a while, though, you got used to odd new social phenomena like this sweeping the world. In fact, soon everybody expected it. A decade after 1967’s Summer of Love, for instance, the media were all primed for punks to take over. After all, an entire ten years had gone by! (That was 35 years ago.) In 1979, everybody was told to dress in 2 Tone black-and-white clothes and listen to ska, but diminishing returns were visibly encroaching.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Isegoria needs to get out more. Short hair for men is the norm once again.

  2. Buckethead says:

    The best sf treatment of future shock I’ve read is John Brunner’s Shockwave Rider. Fairly prophetic in many ways, and the story was a lot more grounded than Toffler’s book.

    I need to read that one again.

  3. Kirk says:

    Toffler was another one of those self-anointed “experts” that pronounced so widely and authoritatively on things they had actual zero understanding of.

    I read his seminal work, Future Shock, at about the same time I read The Lord of the Rings, and at a precociously early age, before age 12. I can only plead that there wasn’t much else laying around my Dad’s place when I visited after the divorce, ya know?

    And, frankly, while the whole thing made ever so much sense and held together while I was reading it that first time, I am gonna have to tell you that after the initial spell of fascination, it wore off rather quickly. The central argument, that “things were changing too quickly for human adaptation…”? Well, once you stopped and thought about it, the whole “change” thing is human-driven, no? If the rate is “too fast”, then… What is the most likely thing? Oh, yeah… We’ll slow it down. Because, y’know… We’ve got our hand on the metaphorical rheostat. The rate of change that confused Toffler was that he was unable to adapt–Everyone else was doing just fine. Think about how rapidly uptake for things like the Internet came on, and how different it was before. Now, we’ve got devices in our pockets that have more raw computing power than we used to go to the moon, and… What are we doing with them? Oi… We’re looking at cats.

    Thing is, the cultural adaptation will lag the actual implementation of change, every time. I would tell you that, in my opinion, we still haven’t really taken up the fact that female mortality is far lower than it was, classically, or that we’re not bound to lose women to childbirth at a horrendous rate. Culturally, we’re still about five-six generations behind that news, and there are similar things throughout. The problem isn’t that people can’t adapt, it’s that the institutions and cultural values/mores can’t quite keep up, on a societal scale.

    Follow me, on this–Women’s place in society used to be predicated upon their incredibly high mortality rate, and the fact that we needed to keep the survivors focused on bearing children. That changed, mmmm.. When, precisely? Oh, yeah… Turn of the 19th Century. Have we digested that fact, yet? LOL… Go look at the draft laws, for an example; we’ve given women all the privileges and prerogatives of the male, but have in turn demanded none of the responsibilities. Cultural lag.

    Mark my words… When enough men get tired of the BS, there’s gonna be a reactionary response to the whole issue, and the repercussions will ring throughout society. It’s already started, and the feminists haven’t even noticed. The adaptation to this fundamental change in circumstance are still working their way through the system.

    Individually, change ain’t an issue. You take what comes, and either adopt it, adapt to it, or otherwise cope. Look at how the elderly use modern tech like Skype or smartphones (some of them…). The individual ability to adapt is astonishing, and the thing is, the individual takes up exactly what that individual can cope with–Or, they don’t make the change.

    Society, though? LOL… Dude, we’re still socially living in the late 19th Century, here in the US. Cultural adaptation takes generations, in some things. In others, change is swift–And, predicting and/or modifying that which changes is a difficult thing. The current veneer of tolerance for the LGBT BS is just that–A veneer. My guess is that the actual situation is that the LGBT community is going to push hard enough, and far enough that the counter-reaction is going to come harder and faster than they ever collectively thought possible. It’s a change that I think was artificially imposed, through artificial means, and because of that, it hasn’t really penetrated or permeated things all that deeply. I won’t speculate on what will start the backswing of the cultural pendulum, but I will point out that the weight has been moved far, far from center–And, that when it starts, there’s no telling where it stops. If it does.

    You’re seeing a predecessor to it all, in France, right now, and in real time. Macron pushed too hard, too fast, and against the grain of the actual majority of his country. Same-same with Obama, but he never really reaped the repercussions.

    Mark my words, though–When the Democrats start playing with fire by subjecting Trump to an impeachment whilst ignoring all the criminal shenanigans by the Democrats that Mueller is studiously ignoring? Can you say “Conflagration”? I knew you could…

    Societies change on a generational scale. Cultures take even longer, and sometimes the surface changes can fool you into thinking everything that went on before, like the ethnic hatreds in the former Yugoslavia, are forgotten. Instead, they’re actually all the more dangerous because they’re invisible to you, and because you think they’re done with.

    Which is what’s going to happen to the gays–Enough Hasterts and Weinsteins build up, and the pervs are going to find themselves filling mass graves, while the “decent folk” go back to pretending that such things don’t go on. Of course, once all the pervs are dead, the incidence rate will no doubt go down.

    I keep remembering that guy I knew, who was victimized by his parish “youth counselor”. Dude was broken, and dangerously so. Outside of a Jewish survivor of the concentration camps, I’ve never met anyone else who was so incandescently enraged, and with so much hatred for those he perceived as having been his victimizers. Which, BTW, included pretty much the entire Catholic hierarchy…

    Create enough men like him, and the openly gay are going to wish they’d never come out of the closet. Not to mention, the Catholic hierarchy.

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