Cultural Connections: Old world and New World mentalities

I have considered for a while that we at Noumenal Realm need to start serialised posts, or thematic posts. As such, I have considered introducing at least three potential streams of serialised posts. One on “Reading Kant” (since this blog is heavily Kant-themed, plus I’ve also started reading the First Critique); another will be “Character profiles”, which will be a view on (usually) fictional or quasi-real personalities. The other serial I have considered, and for which this post will inaugurate, is “Cultural Connections”, where my attempt will be to relate my “Old world” to my “New world”. This will form the basis of my post.

To live in the contemporary world is also to accept one or more cultural and social narratives. We must accept that cultural narratives construe our life experience as individuals as well as collectively. Earlier this year one influential figure in my life, my Piano teacher had passed away, and it made me realise about the breadth of life experiences of any given person alive today. It also reminded me that with his passing shows the slow and eventual end of certain memories and cultural events.

I find it interesting for instance to imagine how during the 1930s-50s in the United States, there may have been people alive who still remember the abolition movement. The ripples of abolition affects culture and society in a myriad amount of ways, even after the initial generation had been lost. I’m also curious as to how the children born of this decade and maybe the last would probably be ruling the country by the time I’m (making a reasoned estimation) nearly dead in the 2050s, I better not peeve any of them!

There is a generation of people who are now declining that remember the Second World War, there are fewer still who remember the First ‘Great’ War. The emergence of youth culture and cultural groupings (normally oriented for the purpose of social analysis, cultural commentary and advertising) has created a shared identity with groupings and identifications such as ‘Generation X-ers’ (I think that’s people born between Late 1960s – early 1980s), or particularly Baby Boomers (those born in a global population increase during the post-war period), as well as the increased innovations and propagations in communications media, from Radio to Twitter, or the very recent Google+. I find the distinction of an ‘old world’ and a ‘new world’ as a neat heuristic.

I haven’t yet defined a notion of an ‘old’ or ‘new’ world yet, perhaps because I don’t really have a good one. I feel that I am stuck between both. The ‘Old’ world is one where traditions and values stayed as a thing of stability (at least relative to the new world), the old world needs a cutting point, maybe the Second World War, maybe the emergence of Youth Culture in the 1950s or 1960s, maybe even the emergence of recording technologies from the Pianola to the Edison Coil. The point of an old world is that there may be people living today who have lived through so many vast cultural changes that the world, its values and even social makeup may seem completely alien. The New World by contrast is an embrace of the present, and perhaps by implication, the future. The Old world is a conservative mindset which sticks with established notions, even if they once were radically new. To some extent, I suspect that many people transition from New World minds to Old World, where their notion of ‘contemporary’ begins to show some critical distance, or idealise some specific notion of the cultural past.

If I were to speak of having an old world, and its ‘really’ old. The point where I thought things really changed would be long before I was born, and probably around the time my grandparents were born, or my dearly missed piano teacher would have been born. Skip to Europe in the 1910s, the world was vastly different, so much so that it would implode, not just by two world wars and countless revolutions and periods of international civil unrest, but the powers of politics would radically shift. Culturally the theme of the great art of the time was despair, Schoenberg was the great radical over more conservative yet established Viennese acts. Representational arts, and poetry embraced Modernism. In the United States, popular musical forms such as Crooning and Jazz are soon to emerge and radicalise the way that culture is propagated.

To speak of Schoenberg today is to be classed either as a classical music buff, or some aged old radical still holding a candle for musical and social ideologies which seem completely distant from the dominant discourses of today. I still hold a candle, and the intention of my ‘Cultural Connections’ series is to be a way of mediating my inane interests, with the greatness of the old.

To construct a distinction between an old world and new world mentality is suggestive that they are incompatible. I contend that they are, and they are not. In any given instance, there is a mix of old and new world mentalities, each finding a way to speak to the other, or respond to and mediate a response to the other. The next topic of discussion will be regarding a related issue: High and Low culture.

Michael

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