"I believe what really happens in history is this: the old man is always wrong; and the young people are always wrong about what is wrong with him. The practical form it takes is this: that, while the old man may stand by some stupid custom, the young man always attacks it with some theory that turns out to be equally stupid." - G.K. Chesterton
"Tune in. Turn on. Drop out." - Timothy Leary
I ended my last post on this topic with this observation; "Individuals sifted and separated from family, community, geographic and religious ties are far easier to work with, far more predictable... except when they aren't.".
This is only to say that people have a way of confounding the experts and acting like human beings, even when they are treated like cattle in a pen or cogs in a machine. I won't attempt to trace all the ways in which people resisted the Industrial Revolution as it happened, there were many reactions to it, small and large, well- and ill-advised. But the protesters were considered the Old Guard; grumblers, obscurantists. All the momentum was with Progress, Industry and Science. So what if a few yokels here and there didn't approve?
Not being a student of history (more's the pity), I'll focus on the protest I can remember; the Hippie era. There are many ideals of the hippie movement with which I'm still very sympathetic; the movement toward nature, toward a more organic and less wasteful lifestyle, the emphasis on creative individuality, the rejection of conspicuous consumption and what they saw as an oppressively homogeneous society.
I'm for all of that, and in my younger days was even somewhat hard to tell from a real hippie. They had pretty well gone the way of the Model T by that time (1980, or so), but certain impressions had been left behind in their passing. Naturally, all the worst ones stuck. As Malcolm Muggeridge put it,
"...students are the ultimate beneficiaries under our welfare system. They are supposed to be the spearhead of progress, flattered and paid for by their admiring seniors, an elite who will happily and audaciously carry the torch of progress into the glorious future opening before them.. . All is prepared for a marvelous release of youthful creativity; we await the great works of art, the high-spirited venturing into new fields of perception and understanding - and what do we get? The resort of any old slobbering debauchee anywhere in the world at any time - Dope and Bed"
The hippies (and those they influenced), sensing that people were increasingly being viewed as raw material - dependable labor for the factory, or malleable proto-citizens in the school system, or reliable consumers for the shopping mall - didn't bother to look at the origins and causes of the problem, the philosophical dissolution of the Enlightenment (oh, the irony of that name!). They made the mistake, many of them, of thinking that things were so bad, anarchy couldn't be worse. Just throw the chessboard in the air, and it must come down in a more sensible order than we see it in now. So rather than engage the system and do the hard work of figuring out the real nature of the problem and attacking it, they simply knocked the props from under the system (or thought they did) and withdrew into their micro-busses to sulk. They ended up raising the most materialistic and vain generation of children our nation has seen since the 1920s, and that's saying something. There are hopeful signs for their grandchildren, though. One last word on the hippies; they made the mistake (in their haste) of lumping the Church in with the World, because they both had something to do with their parents, and that was bad. But how much of the responsibility for that lies with us, when people can't see where the world stops and the Church begins?
There is a sense, of course, in which withdrawing from the world has great and glorious precedent in Christian history and spirituality. Some really are called to the cloister, or to something a lot like it. But most are not. We are called to be salt and light to the world, and for most of us, that means staying right where we are and engaging the world with all the love and energy we can muster. It means taking the time and trouble to sort out where we should withdraw, where we should engage and influence, and where we should do battle. As Chesterton put it; "None of the modern machines, none of the modern paraphernalia. . . have any power except over the people who choose to use them.".
No one is holding a gun to our heads and making us get cable or drive cars (and I'm not saying these are bad things, in themselves). We make culture as much as we are made by it. We do have control over how much we will allow ourselves to be experimented on. The idea that we are mere victims of a blind and inevitable process is a note of despair and comes straight from hell. Satan would love for you to believe that, well, there's not really much you can do about things... that life is just something that happens to you, rather than something you do, something you can shape.
In terms of the culture, the question isn't so much "Why is there so much ugly and diabolical music?" but, "Why aren't we (Christians) writing more beautiful music?". We ought to be making the movies we want to see (and the good news is, some of us are). We ought to be the ones creating the humane technology that we see lacking. Let's show the world how to do it right, if we think it's wrong.
In terms of our relationships and our lifestyles, we have to be willing to challenge the Way Things Are and to pay the price for doing so. In my own case, my wife and I refused to put our little babies in day care, so I quit my job (a well paying job, too) and worked freelance out of our house. I sometimes fell asleep at my work table. I probably could have done better, both at my work and at child rearing, than I did, but I did it. My career suffered. Our finances were positively tortured, but our babies were not left in the care of strangers. The time we had together can't be valued in money.
Naturally, all the tools and toys that we have that can make life so fascinating nowadays can be misused as easily as they are used. There really is, in the culture, more deadly poison within easy reach than you ever dreamed of under your sink. Now, more than ever, we have to be "wise as serpents, and harmless as doves". But we have more support and more resources than ever, too, so we shouldn't shrink from the fight. In all this, prayer is absolutely essential.
Find support where you can. Question common assumptions. To invoke Chesterton one last time, "Break the conventions. Keep the commandments". This is the most thrilling kind of lifestyle one could hope for.