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The Big Answer


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The Culture Consumers: A study of art and affluence in America

a book by Alvin Toffler

(our site's book review)

Toffler says “The issue posed by the elitists, therefore, after all else is rinsed away, is whether art should address itself solely to the elite in each discipline, whether it should ignore everyone else, whether, in short, there should be a re-polarization into High Culture for the elites and Crap for the rest of humanity.” How refreshing it was to find ourselves rolling on the floor after experiencing Toffler’s great sense of humor. Without a doubt, that’s the funniest thing we’ve ever read in a nonfiction book. Later he goes on:

High Culture
High Culture
Crap
Crap

“Today it might be said that the first drudgery of providing for the material well-being of most Americans is also, historically speaking, pretty well over, and that a maturing nation is beginning to concern itself with the quality of existence. That is the meaning of the rise of the culture consumers.” In other words, look at all the great potentials in our lives since affluence has become so common now.

Six years later, more Toffler-think would be published in a blockbuster—Future Shock—about the new potentials our lives can have because of the rapidly accelerating change occurring in modern lives. Sixteen years later, more Toffler-think would be published in another blockbuster—The Third Wave—about the new potentials our lives can have if we embrace the irresistible tranformative forces of the Third Wave rather than running from it or hiding from it. Twenty-six years later, more Toffler-think would be published in another tour de force from the masters (his wife Heidi is co-author of most of his works) of futurism—Powershift, which is the conclusion to his massive synthesis about the 21st century and the conflicting waves of change that brought us there.

This book shows us the potentials our lives can have if we join the “fast” civilization rather than remaining mired in the “slow” First and Second Wave civilizations. The Third Wave brings power shifts, including a shift in the nature of power itself, and it invites us to use more high-quality power—knowledge—and less lower-quality power, like force and wealth, in order to live better ourselves and help others do the same. Those who deny reality and try to drag us back into the simpler and meaner Dark Ages may end up wrecking life’s potentials for the rest of us—so we’d better be vigilant (and the Tofflers have yet another book to cover the subject of war—it’s called War and Anti-War).

The Twilight of American Culture is a book whose author, Morris Berman, shares with such people as Alvin and Heidi Toffler a keen interest in the reconstruction and/or transformation of a disintegrating culture. But while the Tofflers have Third Wavers helping civilization benevolently transform via knowledge rather than mere force or wealth, and Robert Reich has symbolic analysts as the knowledge workers that he wants to invest in cultural preservation and progress for us all—as opposed to continuing their virtual “secession” from the non-knowledge worker culture, Berman has monastic monks of the past and cultural preservationists of the present saving the good values, ideas, inventions, art, literature, knowledge and truths of the past and present for future generations.

Morris Berman has monastic monks of the past and cultural preservationists of the present saving the good values, ideas, inventions, art, literature, knowledge and truths of the past and present for future generations
Morris Berman has monastic monks of the past and cultural preservationists of the present saving the good values, ideas, inventions, art, literature, knowledge and truths of the past and present for future generations

On one plane, what the Toffers’ works represent is a kind and brilliant couple—the Tofflers—leading a chaotic and confused world by the hand through the foggy darkness of a world seemingly gone mad, a surreal world where up is down and down is up and, like in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, everyone has to run twice as fast just to stay even.

Alice running twice as fast just to stay even
Alice running twice as fast just to stay even