Everybody knows what the ’60s were like – it was a turbulent time not just in America, but around the world. And all that stuff that happened in the ’60s with “tuning in and turning on” led to huge changes in the next decade in terms of freedom of expression, kid power, women’s rights, you name it. That decade in turn led to the forward-looking ‘80s with power suits and incredible advancements in technology that were just sprouting from their roots in the free-thinking ‘70s.
Apple and Microsoft are only two examples of entities that changed the world as we know it. The technological explosions that occurred in the ‘90s and following aughts existed only because of the foundational enterprises that sprang up in that fertile soil of revolution.
If you’re a history buff, you might notice a little déjà vu when you compare our recent ‘60s to the turbulent ‘60s one century before. Consider the preceding decade in both cases. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the ‘50s were prosperous times. The middle of the 1800’s saw incredible growth, encouraged by the Louisiana Purchase and sudden necessity to create homesteads on all of that newly acquired land. All was not completely calm – there was also a need to settle some previously tabled discussions.
Fans of Hamilton might be familiar with the root arguments that came into play. In essence, the South had had enough of being told what to do by those pesky Federalists. Like a teapot that comes to a boil, southern hostilities forced action on the part of the United States, along with new considerations of what it means to be an American. You could say the only difference between the 1860’s and the 1960’s was the methodology used to fight our domestic battles.
Going back another century, we can see that the repressive Stamp Act of 1765 culminated in the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and, well, you know the rest. While it’s true that wars exist in every decade and country, a decade-by-decade review of each century tells us that civil unrest may well be a product of our own self-assessments. Each revolution was part of our natural tendency to judge our place in this world according to the calendar.
Let’s call this 7th hour thinking. You know what 11th hour thinking is, right? You hurry up to do something because you’re close to a perceived deadline (see my discussion on procrastination). The idea behind 7th hour thinking is that you’re more than halfway through the workday, you’ve assessed your progress, and now it’s time to do something. As a society we’re more than halfway through the year, or the decade, or the century. Something in humankind’s internal clock says we need to reassess and make changes…and so we do.
Maybe King George III, literally a rebellious twenty-something just coming into his own in 1760, decided to show his predecessors that he could do more with what they gave him. A century later the American conscience demanded an overhaul, and the century after that the American conscience was joined by the Beatles and Rolling Stones (newly defined royalty) who helped pull the trigger on our changing times.
So what does that say for us? Well, if the ‘60s keep repeating themselves maybe the ‘20s do as well. We’ll call this 2nd Hour Thinking. Looking back at previous centuries may help us understand the mindset we can expect.
In all cases, we find the flourishing prosperity that comes from a successful paradigm shift in innovation. This time last century gave us jazz and Art Deco, but it also gave us Prohibition from 1920-1933, which was apparently to balance out our decadence.
The 1820s gave us a blossoming London as the newly crowned largest city in the world. At the same time, the court became less formal and pulled back from supporting the arts. This led to society-driven changes, some of which took place among the intellectuals meeting at salons and coffeehouses. One coffeehouse group incorporated as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824. Meanwhile in the music world we find extraordinary contributions by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Liszt. There was repression in the UK, much of it repealed by the end of the decade.
Mary Shelley, having just celebrated success in 1820 with Frankenstein, focused the rest of the decade on writing for women about personal identity. Ladies’ clothing transitioned away from the shapeless empire silhouette made popular by Napoleon’s Josephine and toward the shape-flaunting corset and bustle. Men decided to wear trousers.
One hundred years before that, Isaac Newton aired his thoughts on gravity, and music theory was defined for the first time in 1722 with the Treatise on Harmony. Louis XV came of age, which is primarily significant because he dismissed the Duke of Bourbon, ending Protestant persecution in France. In the fashion world, women relaxed with lighter weight materials and colors while men decided it was about time to stop wearing tall wigs and high heels.
Do you see a trend? After the great surges in innovation that one expects in the dawning of a new century, 2nd hour thinking leads people to reflect to on how they want their personal lives to change. They make major decisions good and bad. Fashion and music takes entirely new twists and turns.
So what about our century? One telling trend is that a few innovative mothers are wiping the makeup off of hyper-sexual dolls and redefining life for their daughters, with homages to the likes of Malala Yousafzai. Look for a much-needed injection of brilliance into an admittedly stale music industry. Maybe, if we’re very lucky, we’ll finally dump the suit and necktie.