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The evolution of cultural trends and their impact on society


Costume festival  in Houston. These attendees dressed as ShakespeareansFile photo by Joseph Earnest


by Joseph Earnest March 20, 2015


Newscast Media HOUSTONAs Spring Break is underway, several students across the country have made preparations to travel and experience the wild side of life after being immersed in academics since the beginning of the year.


An  annual American tradition, the Spring Break calendar varies, but the hiatus usually lasts one week before school commences in time for the summer holidays.


Some schools have it between March 7-March 14, others have it between March 14-21, while others may have it between March 21-28 or March 28-April 4.


While college life shapes how students adapt to society, it is actually "culture" that plays a determining role in shaping each generation. We will take a break from the Spring Break narrative, and return to it after exploring other aspects of cultural trends and their impact on society.


If we look back to the 50s and 60s, we see an era where society used the little it had to make the best out of every situation. Poor people were able to blend into society without even being aware that they were poor because during that time, the people had a collectivist mindset.  Neighbors trusted each other and even though it was a period that highlighted racial tensions, people had time to set their racial differences aside and celebrate their similarities,  while attempting to embrace their differences.


In regard to fashion, which is also part our cultural trend, perhaps the best dressed generation was between the 50s and the 70s where both men and women put a lot of thought in the clothes they wore. Looking at photos of that era, one can see how classy the women were who loved wearing lace, while the men wore mostly double-breasted high-waisted suits with prominent pleats and suspenders.


One big influence was the jazz and Motown cultural phenomenon that consisted of sharply-dressed performers, who imparted a sense of style upon that generation. The mob, primarily Italian migrants, also shaped the way non-Blacks approached fashion, inasmuch as they too brought their fashion sense from Europe into America.


Yet there was a counter-revolution during that time that started in the 1960s, sometimes referred to as the "hippie generation." It was a time when men let their beards and hair grow long, women had thick eye brows and  preferred to stay "natural" in the full sense of the word. The idea of having a bikini wax was pretty much non-existent to that generation.  The clothing was characterized by flowery shirts and bell bottomed pants that eventually ushered in platform shoes. Rather than button and tuck in their blouses, women preferred to leave about three of the bottom buttons open, and then tie a knot with both sides of the blouse above the belly button to expose the new-growth of public hair above the stomach as a sign of emancipation from the norms of society.


With popular artists like Janis Joplin, the Mamas and the Papas, Fleetwood Mac and also the influence of Woodstock, the sex revolution was birthed through this hippie generation.  The elite, not wanting their kids to be part of the growing cultural phenomenon of the time, sent their kids mostly to Africa, either on mission trips or to work as volunteer teachers.


While the news of Jimi Hendrix's death due to an alleged drug overdose made national headlines, it did not prevent drugs from infiltrating that generation. Some did drugs for recreational purposes, as another cultural era arose in which it was determined that it was possible for one to have fun without having to do drugsit was the disco era.


Afros were the rage in the 70s that even white people would shape their hair in such a way to simulate the Afro. Groups like the Beatles and Rolling Stones that had previously dominated found themselves having to compete with disco artists whose music emphasized a catchy dance beat meant to send the listener to the dance floor.


With both men and women sporting feather boas, tilted hats and platforms, this was an era that would shape the music industry in America and across the world. Jeans, which this writer has always said will never go out of fashion,  were worn in such a way that the thighs were tight, while the lower end spread out like a bell covering most of the shoes. Long dog-eared collars were common place, as for suits, the neck-tie was usually missing since the collars were worn to sit on the collars of the jacket. It was also fashionable for men during this time, to open the first two or three buttons of their "colorful" dog-eared-collared shirts to either expose their shinny jewelry or hairy chests. This period went on until the early eighties, and Al Pacino in the movie Scarface, typifies the way most men dressed during that time.


Just like the hippies' generation grew their hair long as a form of rebellion, in the Black culture, the resistance was expressed through Reggae music that was dominated by Rastafaris who had their own movement. Reggae music highlighted the injustice and oppression Blacks faced in America and throughout the colonial era. Smoking "Mary Jane" as they called it (weed) became part of the Rasta experience, just as cocaine and heroine were part of the hippie movement.


Meanwhile, on the East coast, a Caribbean immigrant who gave himself the street name of "Grandmaster Flash" had developed a technique that would be borrowed and incorporated into an impending cultural wave that would soon sweep the nation, and to this very day, has been able to endure. The technique is called "scratching" in which a vinyl record is spun in reverse to produce what is referred to on the streets as the "wiki-wiki" sound, most famously rapped about in the song "Jam On It" performed by Newcleus.


Street acts started popping up particularly in Los Angeles when rap music was gaining popularity. The most famous act was poppin' that is associated with LA while "B-boying" was associated with New York. The latter involved ground moves while the former concentrated  on waves, pops, locks and gliding moves that were invented by former Shalamar member Jeffrey Daniel wrongfully referred to as Jeffrey Daniels.


Despite Michael Jackson being crowned perhaps the dance king of pop, it was actually Michael Chambers also known as Turbo or Tony in the movie Breakin' and Jeffrey Daniel who taught MJ everything he knows about dance. The music of the time was  wholesome. In his Thriller video, Michael Jackson even portrayed dead folks popping, which is actually some of the best popping ever demonstrated to date. In our time, the best popper, in this journalist's opinion, is Poppin John who is also a master of the "dub step" dance style. Dub step combines robotic moves with pops and waves.


If you're unfamiliar with Poppin John, the video below is just a sample of some of the sickest moves he has created. Amazingly, he's been around for so long, yet he really hasn't received the recognition he deserves.


Poppin John doing his thing solo displaying raw talent


One of Poppin John's most impressive collaborations  


From the early to the late 80s leather jackets were in vogue and also the Jheri or Jelly curl. Even during this time, people still had a common sense of decency and avoided doing shameful acts in public. Lyrics were intelligently written with correct grammar and sentence construction. Songs had story lines. Movies did not concentrate on pushing a particular agendathe writers focused on a plot and developed it from there without attempting to corrupt or poison the minds of their audiences. Today, almost every movie has a hidden message that is meant to influence the minds of the audiences using subliminal themes.  It is the reason movies have ratings like PG-13 and so forth, yet today's PG-13 is equivalent to an R-rated movie of the mid-90s.


The media, no doubt, is the most powerful medium in shaping our culture because the messages are crafted by the most dangerous people on earthbehavioral scientists. These people, while one would expect them to work in the field of Psychology, are in the fields of advertising, to get you addicted to their products, they are in the media, to desensitize the minds into accepting that which was unacceptable decades ago and they are also in politics controlling the message delivery of those they handle. What once was abnormal is slowly becoming normal. Where people were once embarrassed, they are now losing their shame because television, the movies, Internet and ads craft very clever messages, that over time become acceptable to even the most educated mind, unaware that it is being manipulated using what is referred to as "neurolingusitic" programming.


Any graduate of Psychology will tell you that if you want to get someone addicted to something, expose it to him or her for 30 straight days. Even a nun who is exposed to pornographic images for this amount of time, will eventually be drawn to such images once the material is withdrawn from her and put in a different room. Likewise, if one watches a sitcom that for 30 straight days that shows a behavior that is deemed unacceptable being glorified, the viewer will embrace rather than condemn such behaviorand left to his or her own devices, may actually indulge in it.


It is the reason why parents should be careful about exposing their young ones to violent video games because acts like bullying or hurting small animals will emanate from the child's exposure to prolonged acts of violence. Eventually as an adult, these people become oppressive toward others as a result of a learned behavior that was acquired during childhood.


As people enjoyed an age of innocence in the 80s, the artistic burst of creativity continued to soar and around the late-80s the "New Jack" culture was born.  Some people thought that dance had reached its zenith between the early to mid-80s, but with the New Jack culture came New Jack Swing music. This was perhaps the most culturally creative period for Blacks in America.  The Black American became the most imitated person in the whole world since Blacks became trend setters in fashion and entertainment. Blacks had already invented "cool" that has evolved into "swag" and even on Ivy League campuses, students dressed fashionably to avoid being called "geeks" or "nerds" because they wanted to fit in with the cool crowd.


The hairstyles that came from the Black community ranged from crew cuts, to high-top fades, or even German dishes (a Tin Tin-like haircut in which the hair slopes upward from the back, made famous by Glenn Goldsmith in the song Dreamin').


While overalls were looked upon as outfits mostly worn by farmers and old men, Blacks made them fashionable in London, Africa, New York and across America. Combat boots that were mostly worn by soldiers and police, all of a sudden became in vogue, and to this very day they have retained their popularity. With brand names like Doc Martens, Timberland and Harley Davidson capitalizing on the phenomenon, it is evident that the culture of the time had a cross-over effect in the non-Black community.


Across the pond in England, Pete Waterman and Stock Aitken were cooking up something that was a cross between house music, techno  and disco that was referred to as "Eurotechnodisco" to counter New Jack. Acts like Kylie Minogue, BlackBox, Sonia, Sinita and many others released a string of dance  music with memorable baselines that sent New Jack into oblivion.


Songs like "Pump Up The Jam" by Technotronic were played at basketball games in America, giving rise to domestic acts like "Snap" famous for The Power, and Oops up! There was also C&C  Music factory (Gonna make you sweat) Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam (Let the beat hit 'em), Samantha Fox who was produced by Full Force was famous for two catchy hits: Naughty Girls Need Love and I Wanna Have Some Fun,  and many other dance acts that kept one on one's feet. Girl bands like Seduction, Sweet Sensation, Expose and Cover Girls released some incredibly sensational tracks that can still be used today as "workout music" to get one hyped up for exercise.


Even with house and techno, there were still acts on the hip-hop scene that countered house music in the early 90s with something called "hip-house" which is basically hip-hop fused with house and can be danced to.  This era was led by the group Kid 'n' Play, and if one wanted to learn how to dress or was looking for an idea for a fancy haircut, all one had to do or has to do is watch the movie House Party. Virtually every imaginable haircut is in that movie. Even eyebrows were styled with lines to make one look hip.


As we exited the early-90s, the entertainment industry saw how much of an impact the performing arts were having on our culture and it was time to destroy that positive image by introducing gangsta rap.


If there is one society that knew how to use culture to bring about change in society, it was the Romans. As Rome was declining, an emperor by the name of Diocletian rose to the throne on November 20, 284 A.D. and realized the empire was too vast for one man to rule effectively.  


Diocletian did the unthinkablehe decided to break Rome apart in order to save it. He split it into the eastern and western realms ruled by a Tetrarchy (rule of four).  These included two Augusti, and two Caesers. Diocletian himself was to be addressed as Dominus or "Lord and Master."


In the East, the enlightened Emperor Constantine concentrated on spreading Christianity by issuing the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D. This legalized Christianity which spread like a wildfire.  He then built what was referred to as Constantine's "polis" or Constantinople which became the capital of Byzantium, and is currently called Istanbul. While the western part of the empire was self-destructing in decadence, the East used its culture to influence the generations of that day.


Perhaps the most influential ruler next to Constantine, was the Emperor Justinian whose goal was to build the largest edifice in Christianity, that would exalt the Christian doctrine throughout posterity. To build the greatest edifice in Christendom he did, and called it the "Hagia Sophia" or the Holy Church of Wisdom. That edifice still stands today in Turkey as the greatest of its time, but has since been converted into a mosque.


What made Justinian an important cultural figure was not so much the architecture or doctrine he supported—it was the collection of codes he gathered that he named the "Justinian Code". From this code arose the laws that are used in modern courtrooms across the world today, simply because one manJustinian, understood how important it was to affect a generationnot politically, but culturally, in order to bring enduring transformation.


When one reads opinions of seasoned judges or motions of  effective lawyers, one can see the Roman influence in modern law by the use of Latin phrases embedded in the opinions. Phrases like ab initio (from the beginning), sua ponte (on one's own) respondeat superior (let the master answer) de novo (starting afresh) and many others are derivatives of Latin which was a Roman "code language" Christians used to prevent those outside the church from understanding them. The fact that this old language is still used in courtrooms, speeches and church services in our day, shows how the Roman culture penetrated society and even an entire continent called "Latin America" that is named after the language and the influence Catholicism has had on that particular region.


Roman culture also affects modern Mathematics and language with the use of Roman numerals and italics.  It affects our chronology because the Vatican determines when certain seasons like Easter will be celebrated.


While the modern calendar we use is called the Julian calendar named after Julius Caeser, it was actually introduced by Africans but had 365 days.  During his affair with Cleopatra, Julius Caeser became fascinated with the way Egyptians mapped time and adopted the African calendar, but made his a little more accurate with 365 and a quarter days. It wasn't until Pope Gregory perfected it to the current calendar we use that all seasons were in perfect harmony with the science called Astronomy which is the study of the planets.


Great minds like Copernicus, Galileo, Isaac Newton, and later Voltaire, used Astronomy to determine that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the universe, and the planets revolved around it, not the other way around. This science, Astronomy, should not be confused with Astrology, which is the worship of the stars that involves divination and witchcraft often used by wizards and fortunetellers.


Hollywood understands the same reality about culture. Impose it on people and get them to accept iteventually it will shape their mindset. Gangsta rap glorified pimping, violence, illiteracy, disrespect, lack of protocol and being locked up in jail or prison. It gave what has been referred to as "street cred" meaning one had credibility and respect among his or her peers for having a checkered record. Because this lifestyle became glorified in rap videos, Blacks who were once trend setters, started to lose influence in the culture war. The sense of fashion and style including the creativity evaporated gradually. Placing importance on getting a quality education became secondary because Black women in America bypassed the college-educated for the street thugs, giving rise to the brokenness we see in Black America.


While Whites have the justice system on their side and can escape even the most violent crimes they commit simply because of their race, Blacks have been ensnared by the culture of violence, and Bill Clinton made it worse with his "Three strikes you're out" rule. Moreover, as Black American women were exposed to the gangsta lifestyle through the media, they actually falsely believed it was glamorous to be in relationships with men who had reputations of criminality, and the result is self-evident in Black America.


When the new millennium rolled around,  the Internet created its own culture called the "dotcomers". These were people who were considered "geeks" and "nerds" and rejected by their peers, but had since found a new way to use information technology to benefit themselves financially. As Tony Montana played by Al Pacino said in the movie Scarface, "In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women."


Internet savvy men and women saw an avenue that gave them not only access to money-making ventures,  but also through dating sites, people could pick and choose the qualities they wanted from a mate. Online dating has since created a distorted view of relationships, and most women or men have complained that they find out quickly after meeting the other person, that he or she lacks interpersonal communication skills to sustain a substantive conversation or relationship.


eBay, the first and oldest social network, gave way to others like MySpace and LinkedIn, which is actually a social network where professionals connect with each other. We then got YouTube, Facebook and other social applications like Skype that allow people to connect in real time. This is currently the culture that we are in, also called the digital age. It has the ability to influence political undertakings, a person's reputation—for better or worse, or to even create revolutionary movements whether they are harmful or productive.


Social media also gives people a false sense of identity.  These days there aren't any ugly people anymore.  An  ugly woman posts a picture on her wall, and immediately all the thirsty men compliment how great she looks, hoping that somehow this flattery will help them get lucky  after going through a "dry spell." These absurdities have caused people to have a sense of entitlement based on a false narrative that they are being fed.


This is why I would now like to return to the aspect of Spring Break. While the digital age creates virtual relationships that are superficial and shallow, what Spring Break does is recapture the human aspect of building and celebrating relationships, if people approach such occasions with objective and mature minds.  Yet some have abused Spring Break to indulge in secular humanistic activities.


Some of these activities have included "girls gone wild" in which women, especially White girls, were at the time being encouraged to act like whores while being taped. The mastermind of girls gone wild was eventually prosecuted for corrupting the youth. Blacks had their own version called "Hedonism" which is some sort of a cruise whose final destination is the Caribbean. Every year you have Hedonism I, Hedonism II and so is still unclear whether after "girls gone wild"  was shut down, "Hedonism" suffered the same fate.


Even when you look at regions like Africa, Western culture is quickly replacing the native culture, partly because of an apathy toward the local visual and performing arts in Africa, and also because the leadership is too busy robbing the citizenry that the native culture is being allowed to disintegrate and implode instead of expanding and being exported overseas to attract tourism.


While it is most true that scientists (political, behavioral, medical, information technology) make the best politicians since they are constantly applying critical thinking to their professions, embracing and respecting traditional and cultural constructs makes for a well-rounded individual.


As the picture above depicts the attire that was worn particularly in the Shakespearean era where clothing made the manfashion, music and the liberal arts which are: Grammar (the science of language), Oratory (the science of rhetoric), Dialectic (the science of logic), Arithmetic, Music, Geometry and Astronomy, will continue to shape our culture and its influence on society—as opposed to politics.  Add Comments>>

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 culture newscastmedia.comPart II: The evolution of cultural trends and their impact on society










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