How we learn to deal with unrest

We live in very uncertain times. The globe is in an economic recession. Our country is in a war that fewer and fewer people support. As the Doomsday Clock ticks closer to midnight and international relations become strained, it seems as if another large-scale war is inevitable. Everyone feels it: we are on the edge of something, we just don’t know what yet. It may not necessarily be negative, it’s just … unknown. And we fear the unknown. It’s human nature. The problem with this is that by instinct, whenever we’re placed into a situation in which we are uncomfortable, we tend to overcompensate in one form or another. History has proven it time and again: the Salem Witch Trials, the Red Scare, the Manhattan Project. There is always a conservative reaction to any radical departure from comfort, and usually it’s for the worse.

I was thinking of all of this the other day and thought of the last time these elements came together. And I found America in the 1960s. Our country was facing economic trouble (boosted by—you guessed it—high gas prices), strained tensions with a foreign power (Cuban Missile Crisis, anyone?), and a war that the general population didn’t support (Vietnam). The only thing that it had, which we arguably don’t, were mounting racial tensions. Our country was thrown face-first into the Civil Rights Movement.

What about now? Is there a change in culture on the horizon? Well, that’s something I feel we’re approaching. If you look at the past year or two, some of the best albums of the decade—and possibly within the past half-century or so—have only been released fairly recently. And while it’s solely a matter of opinion on what one enjoys of music, in this case I am referring to music that concentrates on creating something different, whether it be from mounting global tension or a need to express creativity in a unique way. There are a few outstanding examples in my mind: Radiohead’s In Rainbows (as well as its revolutionary method of sale), Coldplay’s Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends, U2’s No Line on the Horizon, Jon Hopkins’ Insides, and Animal Collective’s monstrous Merriweather Post Pavilion all come to mind rather quickly. There definitely is a need right now among a small but growing number of musicians to create music that is truly inspired, different, and yet at the same time familiar and good, for lack of a better word.

And with globalization reaching its peak, we are constantly interacting with those elsewhere, both near and far. As the world continues to change focus and adapt, we both embrace and reject differences and nuances among others. But at the same time, we need to remind ourselves of where we come from—where our roots are, what we represent, and how we’ve come to the point we’re at now—while still keeping a mind on where we’re going. How we’re going to do that successfully, I’m not quite sure. But it will happen, out of necessity more so than out of will.

So, for the time being, I’m going to keep my ears and eyes open, not just musically, but also socially, politically, and globally. We must focus on what’s coming, while remaining mindful of our history. If we can do that, then I believe that society and culture will flourish in the most successful way, and hopefully continue to thrive in such a manner.