The Times They Are A Changin
This is the Transformation Decade a name I coined on 01/01/10. The dictionary definition of transformation is “ a change in form, appearance, nature or character”
Given the current political, social and economic climate in America and the world today, this description certainly pertains. Most institutions, certainly businesses are actively going through some form of transformation. In my career as a futurist I have found that profound change is something that makes most people apprehensive, fearful or upset. As I wrote in “Entering the Shift Age” years ago:
“That is why people get so upset by change – it threatens their point of view or world view,”
To counter this, I have often quoted Bob Dylan, now Nobel Laureate of Literature:
“Those not busy being born are busy dying”
This is from the same song “It’s Alright, Ma [I’m Only Bleeding” that has the line, gleefully shouted by demonstrators during the Nixon Years:
“But even the president of the United States sometime must have to stand naked’
The Trump presidency and the massive demonstrations in response to all the early executive orders certainly point toward a time of upheaval. As a futurist/historian it is clear that the future is often held back by the status quo, by legacy thinking and the entrenched vested interests trying to hold on to power. Ultimately the future rushes in, often causing intense disruption and creative destruction that, at the time feels disorienting until it becomes clear that a new path has been set.
This is one of those moments.
Read the verses of the song, written around the time of Dr. King’s march on Washington in 1963, that is the title of this column and you will read a description of now in America.
One of the things that most jumped out at me as I watched all the demonstrations was that there were no anthems of protest, just chants, and lots of shouting. Music is perhaps the most emotive of the arts and, through history, movements and revolutions, it has served as a soundtrack of protest.
The civil rights movement had “We Shall Overcome” and “Blowing in the Wind”. The anti-Vietnam protests had the Buffalo Springfield song “For What It’s Worth” [please listen as it sounds like a commentary of today. Also take a look at Neil Young and Stephen Stills as young men], “Street Fighting Man” and many other songs as it was the late 1960s when music was at the front of the anti-war movement. People came together around music. Music was a common thread. Where is the song track of the demonstrations of today?
I receive dozens and dozens of in bound email newsletters across all topics. One of the ones relevant here is from Bob Lefsetz, a prolific writer who was introduced to me as being ‘the futurist of the music industry’ some eight years ago. He often speaks about the future and how industries, companies and artists live in the past and need to face the future that is now rapidly arriving.
Last week after I had written a good bit of this column I found that Bob had also had the same reaction I had about the lack of a movement anthem. [Just as I was posting this weekly column for publication I found that he had also had thought of“It’s Alright Ma, [I’m Only Bleeding] within a retro review of the album.]
As a futurist and an election junky I have, like many of you, spent hundreds of hours over the last 18 months watching panels of talking heads stating their opinions on primaries, the election and the transition. I simply can’t do it any longer. I have to take a break. I recently wrote about main-stream media.
Given that the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Economist have greatly improved their digital offerings, I can spend 30-60 minutes a day and get all the political and issue news I need. I no longer need the constant, breathless, “reporting” of every single event going live on all the cable networks. I must redeploy my attention.
However, now that we live with always on media and the omnipresence of social media it made me realize that one of the great protest songs of the 1960s with The Last Poets and the 1970’s may not be exactly correct. Gil Scott- Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, ending with the line “the revolution will not be televised, the revolution will be live!” is no longer true. The revolution will be both live and televised.
We are passing through a major transition from what was to what will be for humanity. It will be painful. It is dangerous. It will be looked back upon as a transit from the 20th to the 21st century. Since I wrote the column about the Transformation Decade I have said that the 2010-2020 decade is the first decade of 21st century thought, as we have powered into this century looking at it through the filter of last century’s thinking. We are now creating 21st century thought. Staying with the music theme of this column, it was often stated that the 60s really began with the Beatles in 1963. So there is usually a lag time between the numerical beginning of a decade or century and when the definition of that time frame begins.
It is an incredible time to be alive. We are shaping the future daily. How about some music worthy of the times.