There is a word, “Zeitgeist”, which literally translates to ‘time spirit’ or the spirit, attitude or mindset of specific time period as reflected in its literature, philosophy etc.
In just the last fifty years alone, during which period I can claim to have been there and observed these transitions, our culture has undergone some dramatic changes.
In the 1960s when I was growing up, overt prejudicial bias of people of different ethnicity, that is, black skinned, yellow skinned or otherwise, was evidenced all around me. People were not treated on equal ground.
Children could be abused in the home and there were no real child services to intervene or to put pressure on parents to man-up.
We lived under the constant threat of nuclear war.
The cold war had the world divided.
We used to recite the Lord’s Prayer every day and sing our national anthem at the start of our school class.
Human rights was largely something one heard about in peripheral literature or esoteric writings.
Spirituality was monopolized largely by organized religion and the idea that man was anything but three cents worth of chemical and water was considered cultish in nature.
Kids who carried hand-held calculators were nerds.
A lot has changed in that short period of time.
Today there are countless movements across the globe dedicated to bringing about equality of people and championing the human rights cause. Racial slurs and racial profiling are becoming more and more spotlighted and eliminated. Children are better protected from abuse, although the influx of child drugging through psychiatric agencies cannot be included in this. The threat of nuclear war has more or less disappeared and communism is seeing its dying days, with its last stronghold in China – which although posturing on a capitalist platform is still inherently a communist and an oppressive regime. Spirituality is no longer just the domain of organized religion and the very idea that man is more than just a body has permeated the society. And if you don’t have a Smart phone today, you ARE the nerd.
We have seen a lot of changes in our culture in just half a century; none of which takes into account the quantum leaps in technology, because in that same time period, our technology has sky rocketed. Step back to exactly fifty years ago and you may as well be on another planet, the changes are so radical.
So, which came first – advancement in technology or in the humanities? I would like to think that they were hand-in-hand. On the simple premise that the closer that we achieve a proximity to our true potentials as human beings, the more able are we to dream up and to create an improved culture.
I know that historians and anthropologists like to say that man advanced from cave dwellers up to our current advanced state, in a matter of some twenty thousand or so years, which I highly doubt. To even buy into that “theory” one has to accept that just twenty-thousand years ago our minds were animal in nature and that is pretty ridiculous. We see the classic picture of some hairy caveman suddenly striking a rock or flint and making fire or discovering the wheel as the milestone for human advancement. I doubt that. It’s a nice story but I think our advancement, culturally speaking, probably came from our increased ability to respect one another, to act with civility, to grant other people rights and to grant that others had as much entitlement to life as one did. THAT would have marked the real advancements in our culture. Whether that happened in the caves or elsewhere, that would have to be one of the prime causes for civilization.
The Roman Empire ruled by force of hand. The mantra Pax Roman (Roman Peace) lasted only a short time and after that, one either toed the line or one was the enemy. When Rome fell, most people were happy to toss the baby out with the bathwater and to forget everything associated with Rome, in spite of all their technology – because force and military tyranny are not a good basis for developing cultures. Cultures are made by the co-action of people, not by bullets or swords. Although, understandably, as history proves, sometimes the only thing that some people listen to is the sword.
Our culture today has come a long way since the post World War II era when the little man with the quirky moustache tried to take over the world.
But there is still a LOT of advancement to go in our culture. Smart phones is not the apex of human development, not by a long shot. For instance, we still have some twenty-five million or more slaves, today, largely in the human trafficking and sex trafficking arena, around the globe; more than at any time in our recorded history – according to recent studies. Millions of people are starving EVERY day, and yet we have the food sources to feed every man, woman and child on this planet and the technology to develop even more, and still we let them starve.
These shortcomings, and the fact that slavery and starvation are still with us today are red flags and they show that we have not yet advanced, culturally speaking, up to the point of being responsible for our world. Borders are still defined and the “them” and “us” mentality still rules above our inherent sense of humanity.
Naturally, the population of Earth is higher than ever, having doubled in just the past fifty years alone and it is expected to double yet again by 2025.
Our cultural zeitgeist is more important now than it has ever been in our history. Because of the magnitude of the dynamics which are in play as we speak we cannot afford to maintain old-school ideas about humanity. Ideologies such as communism must, perforce, become a matter of historical record.
We will be challenged by our greatest hurdles in this next decade, for the simple reason that our rate of growth as humanity will hit record highs. Our ability to sustain ourselves as a species will become our greatest concern. Maintaining our environment and not destroying the infrastructure of earth, that is, its oceans, its air, its forests et al, will not be just the call-sign of environmental protection groups, but will become a matter of critical survival for all of us.
The development and distribution of adequate food to ALL people will become essential. In the next years it will not be a matter of humanitarian groups trying to keep countless millions from starving, country to country, but it will become a question of ensuring that our food sources are adequate to feed a global population which is increasing by a count of one billion people every five or so years.
Epidemics and pandemics will become a major concern, and unless people are fed and provided with the essentials of survival, it will have effects on ALL people.
The zeitgeist of our current culture today, that is, the generally accepted mindset or spirit of people, is our greatest motive force today and it is the brightest star on the horizon of humanity. We are more and more outraged at violations of human rights and we are demanding equality, transparency and accountability from our governments and our leaders, unlike ever before.
The “old days” are gone. And while there are vested interest groups still in power, those who want the perks of the “old days” to stay around for their own private and power-based welfare, the general movement of mankind is towards an equalization of the playing field. It’s not good for major international banking cartels who operate on a different platform, but necessity will force the matrix of our society to change, in spite of them.
This is no pitch for socialism or communism. Those ideologies belong in the toilet, their highest value, at best. The minds of good and social people, working towards HIGHER levels of civility and humanity, can always come up with something much better than the Marxist crud which was pawned off on man over a century ago.
We are in a new age. That age is the brightest we have seen in recorded history. We have luxuries, we have greater peace, we have less fears, we have greater securities, but most of all, we have MORE of ourselves being demonstrated and applied than ever before. As individuals and as a society it behoves us to keep this zeitgeist on the up and up, and in spite of vested interests, we must determine a course which ensures greater equality, the provision of food and the means of survival for all, and the preservation of our world – while continuing to advance our education, or knowledge and our technology.
If we do that, our culture is guaranteed to leap to the next and obvious level where we can traverse the stars and even eventually make contact with other civilizations around this immensely huge cosmos. But to do that, we have to demonstrate our ability to be humane enough within ourselves in order live by the same sense of humanity towards other completely different and potentially radical cultures out there amongst the myriad of galaxies spinning around our own.
That jump from Earth to the Cosmos will require that our very backyard is in good shape and that man has advanced beyond the point where he is constantly bickering over land grabs, withholding food from millions and shutting our eyes to the fact that there yet remains a very large segment of our populace who do not share the equality and rights that everyone else takes for granted on a day-to-day basis.
Réal Laplaine – Author & Motivational Speaker