Monday, January 23, 2017

Word Power: Part One: Introduction

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "to talk of many things."

It's not the opening line to Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky, but most of us are familiar with it.  And if we don't know all the words, we know from the title of the poem that it's probably going to deal with nonsense.

Perhaps we need to relearn how to deal with nonsense.  Perhaps we, like Alice, have walked through the looking-glass into a world of alternative facts.

There has lately been much talk -- by way of such cyber-print entities as Facebook and Twitter -- of the classic doublespeak in George Orwell's 1984.  We know that Ayn Rand's alternative reality of Atlas Shrugged has had a profound influence on current affairs, just as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle did almost a century ago and even Uncle Tom's Cabin long before that. 

What many of us seem to have lost sight of is the enormous power of popular culture to effect serious social change.  While it may be said that movements give rise to culture, the cross pollination may also be necessary to produce fruit.  How much did the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s owe to the folk rock music of the era, and vice versa? 

How much of the normalization of a potentially dystopian future is owed to the proliferation of dystopian fiction?  How much acceptance of gun violence is due to acceptance of gun violence in video games?  How much violence against women is related to misogyny in advertising?  How much of rape culture is perpetuated through romantic film and books?

By education I am a sociologist, but I do not claim expertise.  I do, however, believe that if we are to avoid the repetition of the worst of our species's recent history, we need to take a much closer look at how popular culture influenced it in the past, and how it can do so in the future, for good or evil.

That's what I'm going to do here.  Comments of course are welcome.  I'll be back shortly.