Mass Culture No Mas

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Can We Just Go Back to the ‘90s?

By J. Jeff Toler for Shenandoah Christian Alliance

  • For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

If you think about it, many, if not most of us older than 40 or 45, are nostalgic for the last time we were financially and administratively responsible for own lives—or anyone else’s life for that matter. In this way we pine not for the lack of preparedness, but for the end of an era when we had a lot more in common with our friends and neighbors than we do now. As our memories are fading, we struggle to find the options to repair our fractured culture.

Michael Brendan Dougherty, writing in National Review, “We Are Stuck in the ’90s Again” [] “There is a sense in which our culture has been frozen since the 1990s. The internet and paid cable TV really got to work on resegregating, silo-ing, and deconstructing what had been a common, mass popular culture.” Frozen maybe, but we were too busy to notice with the clamoring distractions of cable TV, satellite dishes, smart phone, and social media.

Could this explain why there are so very few office water cooler discussions about the latest episode of Seinfeld? Or fill in your favorite ‘90s show. For the Gen X cohort—and certainly so for every generation following, Yetis and bottled water have replaced them. Regardless, both the office, and the office work force has changed since the ‘90s. 

In a comparison study by The Visual Capitalist titled, “Visualizing the American Workforce as 100 People,” [] we can see how things look today by occupation, identifying 61 of 100 people and their occupations. Interestingly, health jobs account for the second largest segment of job holders.

Notably, another development is the shift in employment rate among the sexes. In 1994, married women in the labor force with children under 6 years old accounted for 61.7% participation. [] In 2020, that figure climbed to 70.4%, while unmarried mothers accounted for 77.7% of the labor force! [] This is because they have no real option not to. These are but a small indication that the nuclear family has been devastated, and along with it, the mass culture we for so long took for granted.

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Graphic from Visual Capitalist 

These disparate statistics are illustrative how much has changed in how this country goes to work in just one generation. If we want to really see how much has changed, here is another statistic: The labor force participation rate of married women with children under 6 years old in 1960 was just a “mere” 18.6%.

Everything in life is either become specialized, fractured, or altered beyond recognition. We could see it happening right in front of us, but we weren’t really looking.

As we look at only these statistics, evidence begins to emerge that will show how enormous are the issues confronting anyone hoping for a return to the more unifying shared life and work experiences that existed only 25 years ago. These were artifacts of unity through mass culture. We can long for the “good old days,” if there ever were, but this much we can say: diversity has only served to destroy the American mass culture—or what we can call popular culture. 

The only difference between mass culture and popular culture is the means of transmission. Concerts that don’t require personal attendance because streaming, broadcasting, and recording their performances on DVDs makes them part of mass culture. John Fiske described popular culture as the process of generating meaning inside a given social system.

But something else should be evident: by taking only women with children into the equation, the household looks nothing like it once did, and from this insight alone, it should be obvious that our children are unlikely to have any idea what normal used to look like. This is the fundamental transformation Barack Obama promised us he would deliver. We didn’t question him because we were too preoccupied with the dazzling distractions Silicon Valley and the mainstream media were offering us.

Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus in The Matrix 

One of the things we hear about a lot from among conservative thinkers and influencers today, is the metaphor—or meme—about being “red-pilled.” Even in this, is a borrowed artifact of the ‘90s—from the blockbuster film, “The Matrix.” The red pill—and its opposite, the blue pill, are a popular cultural meme, representing the choice between knowledge, freedom, and the brutal truths of reality (the red pill), and security, happiness, and the blissful ignorance of illusion. (the blue pill)

The brutal truth of reality, is, I think, why some people I know hate to dwell on the current events. They are too painful. But since evil dwells among us, we must face it; not to make ourselves ill with anxiety, or angry and shaking our fists at what’s now broadcasting on the TV, but instead, shake off our stupor, and strive to make things better. It’s perfectly okay to push back.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has declared this is the time for The Great Reset—seizing upon the remarkably coincidental COVID pandemic. They are telling the blue-pilled among us, “Now, it is up to leaders in the private and public sectors to seize the moment and help create a more equitable and sustainable society.”  Well excuse me, but it’s the priesthood of believers who are to declare the real reset.

  • “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9)

As Gerald R. Thompson writes in “Civil Disobedience in the Age of Tyranny,” America has an unparalleled [documented] history of petition after petition, mostly directed to Great Britain, naming grievances, seeking redress or relief, and in general attempting to resolve the differences between the American Colonies and England with diplomacy. If you just trace the scope of grievances, basis claimed for relief, and the form of redress threatened from the Resolutions of the Stamp Act Congress (1765), up through the Declaration of Independence (1776), you will never see a series of petitions more thoughtfully presented, logically written, and masterfully constructed than these. But the responses of flight and petition are wholly inapplicable today. First, as to flight, there is simply nowhere left to go. There is no more “New World.” 

Maybe not, but there will be a new Heaven and a new earth. Give yourself permission to fight back while we are here now with the power of words. Words reserved for spiritual warfare.

With that said, go watch Paster Rob McCoy of Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Newbury Park, CA preach: “Pushing Back the Darkness.” [] You’ll be inspired.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

About the Author

Shenandoah Christian Alliance
Shenandoah Christian Alliance is a Christian organization devoted to the promotion and education of biblical truths, faith, and spiritual equipping. We believe in the sanctity of marriage as defined in God’s revealed word. We oppose the practice of abortion, and respectfully object to its funding and facilitation as currently promoted by our elected leaders. We understand homosexuality to be something that God—whom we worship and honor—does not approve among his creation. Our faith in God as revealed in scripture is not something we are ashamed of, or for which we must apologize.