Skip to content

From the Bard to the Sun King: It’s Always Something.

November 27, 2012

The following is a revised portion of my post in the internet publication sponsored by “Smart + Connected Communities Institute. It is entitled “From the Bard to the Sun King: It’s Always Something.”

My friend Peter Grenell is director of the San Mateo Harbor District and a keen observer of history as well as an accomplished raconteur. He also is a musician who plays in several bands made up of mostly quite aged music makers. Sometimes he even sings. My favorite is when he sings, “The Old Hippie.” Ain’t it the truth.

In a discussion I had with him recently* about the speed and scope of change in the world today, he reminded me to:

“Never forget It was just 35 years more or less from Shakespeare to Louis XIV ; From the French and Indian War to the Louisiana Purchase ; From ‘Et Tu., Brute’ to the kid in the manger; From Fred Allen to Laugh-In.”

We tend to look back into history and see social change as a slow process when we view it through the prism of technological transformation or the speed in which the changes are disseminated. But as Peter so sagely observed, those born into the frugal world of the Bard died in the extravagant age of the Sun King. Many of those that heard the cheers or jeers that accompanied the imperial pretensions of Julius Caesar, ended their days hearing the whispers of a new king born in the East. Social change is generational. What makes it appear more rapid at one time then another when we look back on it, is its scope and reach. It is the scope and reach of social change that are often dictated by the technologies of the time. For the serf in the field at the time, it made little difference that the world changed from idolizing an ink-stained wretch in tights to obsession with a bewigged sex maniac whose idea of a good time was having a bunch of people watch him take a shit every morning.

The Allen's Alley cast (l to r): Fred Allen, K...

The Allen’s Alley cast (l to r): Fred Allen, Kenny Delmar, Minerva Pious, Peter Donald, Parker Fennelly. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Social change is also reflexive. The reaction to the changes also changes things, often in ways that cannot be predicted. That is why even the most perceptive among us are constantly surprised by the effects of these changes. This is also why your financial advisor is always wrong.

Tomorrow’s urban areas, that are being impacted by modern communications technology, will not be the same as the urban areas of today. The Cities of our fathers or grandparents that were the smoky chaotic centers of industry and trade were not the same as the urban areas of our time. Today they are uncertain places, slowly decaying as motorized transportation takes people, industry and commerce away to less stressful environments. The Cities of the future, fashioned in part by the effects of the communications technologies being used today will be different still, probably in ways we cannot imagine. These new cities will be neither as bleak as feared or as paradisiacal as hoped. In my opinion, the experience of those changes and how we accommodate them are much of what life is all about. As it has always been, it will be both frightening and exhilarating. Unfortunately, more often than not, it will be as boring as it always has been.

Publicity photo of Gene Autry and the vocal gr...

Publicity photo of Gene Autry and the vocal group, the Pinafores, who appeared with him on his weekly radio program The Gene Autry Show. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

* This is not true. It was in an email he sent me. When we get together to talk it is usually about sex for the aged, the variety of ways to achieve apotheosis and Gene Autry singing “Happy Trails to You.”

In contemplating the world of the future Peter also surmised:

“…in the 19th century west of the Mississippi, people lived on the frontier. Space migrants will be an obvious new variant. But these App-People — call them App-Licants, perhaps are a new breed. Maybe just Apps. Do Apps do laundry? Do Apps have solar implants that get recharged when they take their morning constitutionals? End of electricity issue. Meanwhile, is a new sub-species agglomerating, consisting of those who power, run, life with/in the underground key facilities, like the Visa Central in Virginia, bank/computer complexes hidden wherever, NSA Maryland, USAF Colorado Springs, CERN/Switzerland, the secret central Greek kitchen serving all Greek restaurants everywhere, etc.”

Note: Except for Peter’s first quote many of those portions in italics above as well as in the (* ) did not appear in the original post.

Advertisements
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: