- Paradigm Blending— Let’s look at this era of paradigm blending[i] a bit. One example of paradigm blending in our culture can be seen in the early 2001 movie SAVE THE LAST DANCE. Set in urban Chicago, Sarah is a young white girl who has lost her mother in a terrible auto accident. She must now adjust to the hip-hop climate of a Black/Hispanic inner city culture. Sarah longed to be a ballerina and attend the Julliard School of Performing Arts. Instead, she found herself struggling to learn the moves of hip-hop in a club called STEPS. Coming to her aid is Darrell, an intelligent, street-smart inner city, black, fellow high school student who wants to be a surgeon. From Darrell, Sarah learns the intricatemoves of hip-hop. In the end, Sarah blends the moves of hip-hop with ballet training for a second Julliard audition that is truly incredible. Not surprisingly, Julliard accepts her.
Another surprise hit me in a 2003 visit to Macau, China. Once settled in my hotel room, I turned on the TV to find the Chinese (Portuguese, whatever) had their own version of MTV simply titled “V.” There, to my amazement, performed ENERGY, the hottest sensation representing American RAP music. (Again, go figure.) Paradigm blending at its finest!
- Music ‘n Stuff— Drawing together all of the above, two strains have emerged throughout Western society that are bonding much of both genX and Millennial cultures. They are music and consumerism. Through the rise of MTV and music videos a basic coupling, a paradigm blending, has taken place; sight and sound have joined to bring visual expression to what before was only audio. Before, people eitherread books, OR listened to music, OR watched TV. Now, these three media resources have blended into a single image-experience that moves conscious-thought into the realm of experiential stimulation. Reading once called on the reader to create the images: TV and cinema now create them for you. Listening to music, once drew the listener to heights of glory in classical inspiration or excited the senses in a hype/jive rock ‘n roll beat. No longer. Now, listening to music (on the radio, a CD, or through an MP3 device…, read iPOD) reminds you of the images in the video. People have begun to think in music; experiential blending has supplanted analytic thought. But Because music/visual images are beginning to replace mental assessment, it is also true that active analysis has given way to a more passive, music-reflective level of critical thinking (if you can even call it thinking); it is more like reactive thought versus proactive thought. Nonetheless, musical/visual reference points have displaced methodical, mental analysis.
Western music and video have permeated almost the entire world. All continents seem to be listening to common themes, and therefore mass-marketed ideologies, in music. Regional and national differences aside, there is now a worldwide homogeneity through music that is uniting a generation across national and even political boundaries. For example, in France, or the Netherlands, or Germany GenXers (who hate the self-definer) no longer think of themselves as French, or Dutch or German; they think of themselves as European. Hey, the EURO, remember!?
The other glue that is uniting generations, and even continents, is stuff. STUFF, STUFF, and MORE STUFF. Our world is becoming a global village of STUFF— consumerism. What is the saying? He who dies with the most toys wins. I remember watching a man buy a Cadillac; he was smoking on a mondo-big Havana cigar while the car salesman counted out his $48,000 in $100 bills— CASH. STUFF. There is a woman whom I know is on welfare and Medicare. She lives in state subsidized housing. She goes to Florida for a month every January and has a ball. How do I know? Because she tapes it on her digital Camcorder and shows it to me on her 42” HD flat screen TV. If these two illustrations don’t convince you of western society’s lust for stuff allow me to point you to The Robb Report, December Issue. Every year it comes out with recommendations for the world’s most elaborate gifts— like a $485,000 watch, or a $1 million special edition Mercedes, or an $8 million dollar boat (boat?). But there are also items for poorer types (like me, or you); a $10,000 fountain pen, for example (ink-well included, of course).
You can find inner city “poor” teenagers in $250 Cross-Training Shoes, or a back-bush Maasai tribesmen with his iPAD wandering the bush. Australian singer Olivia Newton-John (played Sandy, opposite John Travolta in Grease) put it best in her 70s song NEVER ENOUGH…, O it’s never enough, simply never enough. Why is all that we have simply never enough.”
STUFF. Never enough. God help us all.
[i] Paradigm, paradigm blending. The terms paradigm, paradigm shift were popularized by Thomas Kuhn in his 1962 work The Structure of Scientific Revolution. A paradigm is a way of perceiving life. A paradigm shift is a change from one way of thinking or perceiving to another. A paradigm blending is a cultural phenomena where varying approaches to viewing life are intermingled to form a composite.