What Happened to Our Collective Consciousness?
I remember reading an anecdote a while back in a book about the days of Old Time Radio that said something like: When Amos and Andy were on, you could walk down the street in Anytown in America on a warm summer’s day and you could catch the whole episode wafting out of every window of every home.
My father, who passed away at age 75 this past February, used to quote things from The Shadow. “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay. The Shadow knows!” And he’d tell me about Fibber McGee and Molly and this closet Fibber had that was crammed to the gills with crap and when it was opened, everything would tumble out.
I’m sure that if you asked anyone my dad’s age, they’d all have the same recollections. As a nation radio then was part of the shared collective consciousness. Nearly everyone was terrified by Orson Welles’ radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds..
Ask someone in their 60s and they probably all remember the same events that occurred during the early years of TV. Everyone watched I Love Lucy, or Milton “Uncle Milty” Berle. Many of the guys will certainly remember Annette! from the Mickey Mouse Club.
People in their 50s mostly likely all share memories and theme songs of Get Smart!, Wild, Wild West, Star Trek, Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and Bonanza.
People in their 40s might remember the shows of the 70s.
But as we reach younger and younger ages, America’s shared collective consciousness starts to develop memory loss. Cable, satellite, and an increase in regular over-the-air stations all conspire to splinter the viewing habits we once all shared.
As a child, we had 4 stations: ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, and on UHF station that was always fuzzy. Odds were good that if I watched Rat Patrol that night, the next day I could go and talk to my friends on the playground about it.
Now if I go to work someone will inevitably ask, “Did you watch Such-And-Such?” And I’ll say, um, no, I watched something else. In fact, I can’t think of many shows on regular over-the-air TV that I even watch any more.
And most of my co-workers are the same way. They all watch TV, but the market is so segmented, so splintered, so diverse, that it’s rare to run across someone who watches the same thing.
In my mind, the last shared collective conscious memory many of us had was Seinfeld.
And I personally think America as a nation is poorer for it. The less we share, the less in common we have as a people, the less we care about each other. Maybe it explains why it’s so easy to be callous to the plights of others. Maybe it explains why violent crime seems to be getting even more violent. Maybe that explains the anger and hatred expressed by many during the recent Presidential campaign and election.
We no longer have anything in common. There’s no Amos and Andy for us all to listen to at the same time in every town across America. We no longer share laughs, or tears.
We’ve all become islands adrift in a sea of heartless, uncaring, insensitivity.
Where have all the good times gone?