Shift, Swerve, Juke

January 24, 2015 A sharecropper sits on his front porch near Tunica Mississippi playing a song on his battered old guitar and launches the soundtrack to a cultural revolution played out by Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Paul Butterfield - the butterfly effect.

Every human life engages hierarchies of causation from nanoscale events far below the visual threshold up through the  small gestures that influence family and friends that may in turn lead to local trends and international effects.  Pick up mom’s guitar, look closely at the salamander and the stars.

Changes within a single person may cascade into larger effects, some are willful and many without intention.  Pete Townsend’s willful songwriting affected millions, and millions of people driving through the streets of London affect Pete Townshend. One million people buy a hit record and one million people buy a gallon of milk creating increasing tension at the farm- suburbia interface driving up rock star housing expense.

The general population buys automobiles - a generic item.  Advertising makes the generic specific.  I don’t just want a car, I want a Bugatti.

People crave wider effects than those available at the level of family and friends.  Adolescents want to control the world, old folks want to control their bladder.  As we grow up we discover hierarchies of our potential effect.  We strategize in arcs wide enough to make a living by providing society a useful skill - entertaining family and friends won't pay the rent.  Formal education is a conduit to the larger world where one earns a living.  After college what is my next challenge?  In science,  a small discovery will expand one’s influence, as in art, find a fresh way to convey the same ol’ same ol’.

Thomas Kuhn introduced the world to the nature of a paradigm shift in his 1962 classic “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”  In it he discusses change in scientific frameworks at a large scale: Copernicus, Newton,Darwin.  Imagine a hierarchy of revolution - a taxonomy of change,  the larger being the “shift” followed down the taxonomic scale by the swerve, the juke and then that smaller revolution that occurs once every two years in pop music - the jink.

Ideas cascade down and up the taxon, large affecting small and vice versa.  A gamma ray strikes an oxygen atom initiating a base pair mutation in a gene causing a woman’s IQ and EQ  to improve by ten points each.  She leverages her intelligence into the leadership of the free world.  A comet strikes the Earth and countless species become extinct.  An obscure, ugly little rodent-like mammal that eats snails and worms has been released from an evolutionary prison of total domination by dinosaurs and sixty million years later has evolved into humans.  After little rat,  we have ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Greece, Indus Valley, China and Rome - we have history.

There is a difference between paradigm shifts described by Kuhn that are within a single social realm such as science, not necessarily affecting art or religion - Newton in physics, Darwin in Biology, Freud in psychology. There are much larger changes in the zeitgeist as happened ca 1912 when eight different  paradigms shifted at once in art, physics, literature, music, dance, architecture, transportation (powered  flight)  and psychology.  Today as we evolve rapidly from our short-lived (at 100 years) Postmodern world,  to a Cybermodern society-we experience changes larger than a shift.  Searching for a single term  that would include many simultaneous paradigm shifters:  Braque-Picasso, Freud, Wright, Schoenberg, Joyce and Einstein in 1912 and that would need to define the Grove-Moore, Wozniak-Jobs-Gates and Google-Zuckerberg shifts that coalesced around in 2012.  How about Zeitshift?  then, working down the scale to the simpler single realm  shift, then down to the swerve, the juke and jink - OK.

A zeitshift is when the zeit hits the fan in every walk of life.  The entire game has been changed for everyone - for example,  the 1912 zeitshift from the 500 year epoch of The Descended Grid to the 100 year age of uncertainty known as Postmodernism and now another zeitshift from the Postmodern into the age of Cybermodernism.  Einstein’s 1905 “Theory of Relatvity” - iinitiates a paradigm shift in physics.  Picasso and Braque initiate a paradigm shift in Art.  Frank Lloyd Wright defines a shift in architecture - together, the combined mass of their innovation signals a zeitshift.

A zeitshift changes everything.  It was the 1912 Postmodern zeitshift, gaining wider traction in the 1960s,  that  allowed the Stephen Jay Gould-Niles Eldredge notion “Stasis is Data” to gain traction in the scientific community. The Postmodern zeitshift made it OK to think that the key force of speciation is cooperation not competition-Lynn Margulis.  the PoMo zeitshift shift,  codified by Susan Sontag in her 1964 essay “Notes on Camp” eased the way for gays - out in parades, occupying whole urban zones, many TV and movie roles, marriage, for blacks to dominate pop music with rap and hip hop, to make it OK to be the “other”, the  formerly ignired, the underprivileged, the underclass is recognized and even celebrated- see PoMo economics, history, anthropology, literature theory. Zeitshifts allow full respect and consideration for ideas that a previous zeit disallowed.

Zeitshifts now occur at a rapid rate.  They used to occur once  every 300-500 years now they’re every 100 years or less.

What are the analogs between organism genetic evolutionary causality and social causality?  How did / does Darwinism or Neo-Darwinism once localized in bio-science and geology,  widen its effect on public consciousness, a higher, broader level of the taxon.  How did Darwin effect lower, narrower levels of scientific inquiry in genetics, embryology, biophysics, geology, anthropology, mathematics, psychology?

Great thinkers who acted first on a lower taxon level and affected great change throughout the taxonomic hierarchy: Kingdom, phylum, class,family, genus, species and individual.  In politics see: Napoleon, Churchill, Stalin, FDR, LBJ

Trace the history of rock and roll from sub-saharan tribal African rhythms to slave chants, to Robert Johnson, Meade Lux Lewis,  Louis Jordan, Jackie Brenston, Bill Haley, Elvis,  Little Richard, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Stones, Zep, Iggy Pop The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Duran Duran, Metallica, REM, Nirvana et al. The skin- tonal transformation from black to white is interesting and now that whites have totally subsumed rock and roll, ever-inventive blacks juked again into rap and jinked into hip hop - now also subsumed by whites.