Future Shock

Published: March 15, 2017

Almost 50 years ago, author Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Future Shock that postulated that most individuals and societies could not handle the increasingly rapid changes in technology and society. For example, Toffler’s daughter went to shop in New York and she couldn’t find a shop in its previous location. Thus, for her, New York became a city without a history. I can remember thinking how brilliant this book was when it was released (yes, dear readers: I was alive and reading stuff like this back then).

This morning I received an interesting email from my cousin, who’s 10 years my senior, that quoted an article (“The FUTURE is approaching faster than you can handle”)  from a capital company named EmergingGrowth.com with some quite shocking factoids about what is happening now and will happen in the near future. If these facts don’t boggle your mind and create a modicum future shock, then you must not be human.

Both of these writers talk in broad terms about what our workplace and society will be like. But what about our culture?

In the EmergingGrowth article, the advice was that if you had any sort of idea and it didn’t work on a phone, then forget it. Does this mean that unless we can experience culture on a “device” it won’t be sustainable?

Don’t scoff.

Have you ever watched the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage broadcast on AXS? As someone who really loves Jazz Fest but who can no longer push my way to the front of the crowd and stay out in front of the stage for six or seven hours to wait for a favorite band, I can tell you that AXS might be the next best thing.

Hell, we might even moving towards technological forms of romance vicariously (ever seen the film “Her”?).

I think what’s more immediately worrisome, though, is the fact that the traditional music and culture of New Orleans is on somewhat of a negative trajectory because people (especially those who may have moved to the city because of its much-vaunted “hip” factor) tend to put these cultural influences into an historical box rather than consider them to be a vital part of what makes New Orleans hipster heaven in the first place. Our history is our future.

Over three decades, I can certainly affirm that the music scene in this city is vastly different than it was just a decade ago. Musical tastes and live music consumption is changing. Ten years ago you’d never have imagined a Buku experience in New Orleans. EDM in New Orleans? Wha? I think this is because so many parents have not exposed their kids to the New Orleans music and cultural experience; it’s just not that important to them. When I read Tom Sancton’s book “Song For My Fathers,” I was so impressed by his father’s diligence in exposing the youngster Tom to the Preservation Hall musicians (this had a profound impact on his life). The most unique thing about New Orleans culture is how it’s been passed through the generations so that that historic thread permeates our culture, and also just what this city is all about. When the history isn’t appreciated or passed on, well, the culture Is going to possibly vanish.

There was a time when everyone you knew in New Orleans was “from” here. No longer. There are so many immigrants now (those people we used to call “outsiders” and “carpetbaggers”), and they’ve brought with them (necessarily) their own perceptions and cultural biases and appreciations. That’s not a bad thing, per se, but unless a concerted effort is put forth to educate young people who’ve moved here on why New Orleans is so cool, will the city’s culture be able to persist? In a city populated by newbies and an environment where ya mama ‘nem don’t live, will newcomers truly be able to realize what a treasure we have in New Orleans?

We’re different, and we’ve always liked it that way, and prided ourselves on being strange. But will we be in the future? Or will New Orleans be just another quirky-yet-mostly-homogenous city in the South without a history?

That’s future shock, for sure.

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