I have been thinking a lot lately about the too rapid passing of time. This morning, which is Friday for me, I flipped another page of the calendar and looked straight into another year's end. Where does the time go? Where do the years go? I don't mean to sound melancholy but as I finish a term teaching about contemporary political issues, I am given to a great deal of reflection about history and contemporary culture and the state of the world.
And, well, I guess I feel my age.
Over the course of the school term I tried to provide a narrative for thinking about the world we live in. We read contemporary scholarship on the fate of liberal democracy and the impacts of globalization and the rapid rise of technology. Personally, I am fully situated in the era that included the so-called end of the Cold War, and the rapid integration of the world economy and email, and iPods, and iPads.
Born at the end of the baby boom, I have grown up into an adult feeling the blaze of an accelerated world that has made it seem much smaller (through technical innovation) and yet much farther apart, not because of the rise of individualism as once was argued, but because we now seem to seek deep connections with only likeminded people. Our current political climate and social interactions seem to involve cutting out people with whom we disagree and grouping ourselves around those with whom we have shared views and values. It gets harder and harder to watch the news and to see the divisions in society so starkly laid bare.
In my reflections on the rapid passage of time, I also realized that 20 years can suddenly slip past. When I was younger I don't remember thinking about recent history in big chunks of time. Although my graduate work was in political science, my undergraduate degree was a double major with history. We did these great long survey courses at Western and they were fascinating. We covered hundreds of years: wars, revolutions, scientific discoveries etc. We covered the Greeks and the Romans and the history of political thought. We did all of this study to see the evolution of the way we have lived together over time. But recently, and particularly during this semester and while attending a beautiful Remembrance Day ceremony, I began to wonder what it must have been like in that short 20 year period after the Second World War when the world seemed to change so rapidly. For those readers who are older than me, I am sure that you remember this time quite differently than I do.
Living now with the rapid changes of technology which seemingly drive the new acceleration of time, I think that then it must have been the rapid acceleration of popular culture that was blazing the trail into a new time. Just look at photos from the end of the war in 1945 to images of popular culture in 1965. They reflect such enormous changes in dress, lifestyle, public morality, and, yes also, technology.
This reality of the change of the times hit me again when I turned on a PBS documentary about the Beatles (Eight Days a Week) and I was struck by just how much change had occurred by the time they emerged on the scene in the early 1960s. One line in the documentary has captured my thinking for the last few days. I paraphrase, but it was something like: at that time 14 year olds were such a large demographic and they were just waiting for something like the Beatles to come along. The four lads were new, fresh, and stylish and their sound and looks captured so many. Liverpool embraced them as their own. The documentary shows thousands of men singing She Loves You together in a stadium - the same stadium where otherwise football would have united them.
And then, again, in such a short amount of time the Beatles went from singing "I want to hold your hand" to "you say you want a revolution..." and the world changed again.
But many good things arose from that time and so I have found that reflection has helped me to put contemporary political issues into perspective.