Does your life run in cycles?
Thoughts on the apparently kaleidoscopic patterns of history
FUN THEORY: 60's was like 90's 70's was like 00's 80's is like 10's Ever feel we're just going round in circles? pic.twitter.com/RvJE8Pseb6
— Nick Margerrison (@NickMargerrison) June 19, 2013
There is a theory that history moves in cycles. But, like a spiral staircase, when the course of human events comes full circle it does so on a new level. The ‘pendulum swing’ of cultural changes does not simply repeat the same events over and over again.
"Does God Play Dice?: The New Mathematics of Chaos", Ian Stewart.
The 60's was consciously imitated by a lot of my generation during the 90's. The haircuts, the music, the fashions and the eventual dominance of left-wing lite political philosophy. Clinton and Blair were our 'trendy new rock and roll politicians, not unlike JFK and Harold Wilson.
Oasis are a good example of the mirroring I'm writing about here. Their hero worship of The Beatles was part of the act, it was a promotional tool which made them more popular because it tapped into a certain widely felt cultural mood.
As they allowed themselves to be used by Blair for political gain, with Noel Gallagher being invited to tea at 10 Downing Street, so too were The Beatles associated with Harold Wilson in the 1960's. In the latter's defence they were drawn into the belly of the beast with the bribe of an MBE.
What, precisely did Oasis have to gain?
This brings us to one possible reason why trends, particularly cultural ones, might appear to replicate a little over time. It's in the evolutionary interests of primates to imitate their adult role models, subconsciously copying your parent's generation makes sense in that context. If you and your generation, at the age of 25, imitated the popular subculture of your parents at the same age, it would follow that we'd see patterns moving to an approximate 25 year time scale.
In practical terms Gallagher, like the pop music anorak he is, knew and was deliberately copying the template set down by his heroes Lennon and McCartney. Many of the bands of his era said the same, they were deliberately imitating the 60's. Finding your Dad's awesome vinyl music collection was common for me and my peers. So much so that the 'alternative' subcultures of the 90's and 00's mockingly labelled acts like Oasis and their contemporaries as "dad rock".
The 70's is often described as the crushing hangover which followed the more optimistic 'sixties summer of love'. Certainly as the planes thundered into the twin towers a very different note was struck... ... only to drop us into the current era where economic recession and "austerity" drives leave a bleak cultural backdrop, not unlike the one I remember as a child in the 80's.
"The magical view is that time is cyclic and that all processes recur. Even cycles which appear to begin or end are actually parts of larger cycles. Thus all endings are beginnings and the end of time is synonymous with the beginning of time in another universe. The magical view that everything is recycled is reflected in the doctrine of reincarnation".
- Libre Kaos, Peter J Carroll
These assertions are necessarily subjective and can of course be flatly disputed.
No way, every decade mentioned was unique. Just look at the cars and listen to the music.
— David Howard (@DavidAHoward) June 19, 2013
Events in time are all by their nature unique and I am not arguing we are seeing precise patter replication here, I'm suggesting the time periods are merely alike. To an extent this blog entry is an attempt to strike an intuitive chord within. If there's sense to these words maybe you can articulate your version of it further in the comment's section?
Without question there's more to be said, the blunt divisions provided by the use of a decimal system to measure the time periods in between cycles may be confusing the issue. For example, when precisely do the trends that define 'the 60's' as a cultural phenomena start? The Beatles, only get underway in 1963 in the UK, '64 in the US. This perhaps strengthens our observation on one hand as Oasis only get going in '94. On the other, it means we're dealing with a theory that paints in generalisations and very broad brush strokes. It won't be a theory suited to all and what I'm saying here needs refining.
I appeal to your subjective judgement, does the 90's really begin in terms of popular music on the date of January the 1st 1990? Or do you listen to the music recorded in that year and feel it is still overhang from the 80's? From my perspective badly produced, poorly recorded, drum effects and synthesisers still seem to dominate the top ten in that year, as they did most of the previous decade.
Despite the apparent revival of this style, accounted for by our theory, in my opinion both the 80's and our current era are relative wastelands in terms of the dominant mainstream pop music trends. To me, the actual music produced by 'The X-Factor' is alike to the awful Stock, Aitkin and Waterman nonsense we now look back on as being, at best, kitsch.
In our era the notion of a 'rebelious popstar' is frowned upon. Characters such as Lady Gaga can enjoy huge notoriety with relatively tame, superficial, acts of rebellion, as Madonna did in the 80's. The more commonly profitable pop star archetype at the moment is the slick clean cut teen star. This iconography dominates now, as it did in the 80's and furthermore, (appropriately another thirty years prior) throughout the 1950's.
Cliff Richard, Buddy Holly and even Elvis Presley carry all the sheen of the safe clean cut 'good guys' you saw being churned out in the 80's and now in the current time. The likes of Gary Barlow and the acts he recruits with the help of Simon Cowell would not be unsuited to success thirty or even sixty years previously.
That the divisions and edges of these time periods are difficult to precisely locate does not mean they do not exist as distinct parts. Just as the precise length and size of these cycles is a red herring as regards the existence of the phenomena we describe and the cyclical, fractal nature of time and human history.
The current, directly observable, universe expresses itself in a fractal and kaleidoscopic shape. The orbit of our planet is more accurately described as a spiral as it does not precisely replicate its movements but instead, with each year, the circumference of its route gets slightly tighter. As a side note, this could suggest the cycles we're writing about also get smaller with each spin. It's the patterns we're watching. Just as planets are varied in size, from a distance, their shape is usually only fractionally distinct. Again, if you lived through the 60's and 70's it is unlikely to be difficult for you to point out differences when you compare them to the 90's and 00's. This would come with detail.
This brings us to the fact we may only be speaking of a phenomena related to human perception. These patterns might just be a result of how humans process information. As a kid I believed my life story was locked into a certain pattern of events that tended to repeat. I'd even decided it took approximately 7 years for me to get through a complete "cycle".
@NickMargerrison are yes, that's another. 7 year cycle, every cells in body is replaced in that cycle
— seirraoscar147 (@seirraoscar147) June 20, 2013
This happens in childhood partly because of the shift from primary to secondary school and then onto University. When you interact with a new set of people there will be an occasionally consistent pattern in their behaviour which is driven by your unique character traits. If you're an aggressive person it will be the case that over time people will react to that, usually there's only a limited number of ways that will manifest, hence similar situations repeat for you as you are introduced to new social groupings. This is why the maturation of these relationships often takes you through those stages over a similar time period.
@NickMargerrison there is also 2 year cycle too. I heard this mentioned by a few people.
— seirraoscar147 (@seirraoscar147) June 20, 2013
The subjective nature of the observations in this piece means I'm keen for contributions from others to either back up the theory a little or knock it to the ground entirely.
Comments can be posted easily and I rarely reject them. Any grammatical errors or spelling mistakes you notice, pop a note in there and I'll correct them.
Please forward this idea about a bit, further to that aim of encouraging the input of others...
*Or perhaps I should say 20/06/83? Or '53?