Senior Project: Modern America David V.

Kimball ³World view´ is a phrase which comes from the German word Weltanschauung, coined from Emmanuel Kant¶s Critique of Judgment, written in 1790. As an Enlightenment philosopher, he believed human beings use ³reason alone to understand the meaning of the world and of our place within it.´1 In Germany during the Idealism period, Friedrich Schelling believed Weltanschauung underscored mans longing to address the deepest questions of life, existence, and the nature of the universe.2 Anthropological linguist Orville Boyd Jenkins explains worldview, ³We all develop expectations based on our early experiences. . . . expectations are also greatly affected by all kinds of experiences. We formulate expectations from previous experiences, guided by the society around us and by our own analytical faculties.´3 Thus worldview is deeply embedded in our culture. The postmodern age is a product of our culture¶s individualistic worldview. In the United States during the 1920s, F. Scott Fitzgerald¶s The Great Gatsby had been emphasizing individualism, and had mocked the idea of an all-seeing God. In the story, George Wilson¶s musings address the idea of God¶s omnivision briefly but he soon dismisses it, leaving the reader with the impression that Wilson is delusional. 4 "He tells us, µGod sees everything¶, and then proceeds to kill the wrong person."5 This absurd act on Wilson¶s part tried to portray such an idea as irrelevant. In the 1940s, writers such as Jean-Paul Sartre had argued for subjective,
Michael W. Goeheen and Craig G. Bartholomew, Living at the Crossroads (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2008), 11-12. 2 Ibid, 12. 3 Orville Boyd Jenkins, What is Worldview? (Orville Boyd Jenkins, on-line:, accessed May, 2011), 1. 4 Ibid, 195. 5 F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (Charles Scribner's Sons: New York, New York, 1925), 123.


individualistic morality. Sartre wrote ³Man simply is. . . . Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself.´6 And ³Man is himself the heart and center of his transcendence.´ 7 These ideas crept their way into the world views of the French, and had already began infesting the epistemologies of Americans. These ideas mirrored the worldview for an increasing number of Americans. People¶s individualism elevated what could be experienced through the senses, and they began to dismiss more and more the existence of the metaphysical. Society has began to reject the biblical story, and dismissed any claims contrary to their materialistic view of the world as merely ³religious.´8 This is the age we live in now, and these ideas are highly reflective in the majority of culture¶s worldview.

The Turbulent 60s With the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 19639 and the death of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968,10 the 1960s maintained a growing undercurrent of dissension and agitation throughout our culture, but especially prevalent among young people.11 With America¶s involvement in the Vietnam War, and the lack of clarity of the US¶ role in the conflict, emotion began to bubble to the surface, as teenage and college age youth began demonstrating on

6 7

D. Bruce Lockerbie, Dismissing God (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998), 212. Ibid, 213. 8 Goeheen and Bartholomew, Living at the Crossroads, 7. 9 Stephen Feinstein, Decades of the 20th Century The 1960s: From the Vietnam War to Flower Power (Berkeley Heights, New Jersey: Enslow Publishers, 2000), 36. 10 ibid, 42. 11 Joy Hakim, A History of US: Book 10: All the People 1945-2001 (Oxford University Press, 2003), 122.


campuses and in some cases even rioting.12 And meshed within the conflict was a growing sense of rebellion against long-standing traditions and values. The youth were disenchanted with authority and began writing protest songs and songs dealing with drugs, sex, and anything their parents might find objectionable.13 Songs such as For What Its Worth by Buffalo Springfield and One Tin Soldier by The Original Caste reflected the growing ³antiwar´ and ³anti-establishment´ mood. Rock music became a powerful cultural force, and possessed an air of juvenile delinquency. Elvis Presley, previously a truck driver from Memphis, became a national sensation and introduced a sexual aspect in music (which, at the time, was a new dimension in art). With a beat, use of drums and base guitar stirred aggressiveness more than before.14 People began to express their protests through other mediums of art as well. Poets and writers such as Robert Bly, Robert Duncan, and Allen Ginsberg were active in protest as well. Often, their pieces depicted the tragedy of war and the anguish in life between the United States and Vietnam. Filmmakers such as Jerry Abrams, Lenny Lipton, and and David Ringo created films in a documentary-like fashion which possessed actual footage from the actual antiwar marches to raise awareness about the opposition movement and the war. Theater was also used as a way to portray the thoughts of playwrights Robert

Timothy Keesee, Ed.D. and Mark Sidwell, Ph.D., United States History for Christian Schools (Greenville, South Carolina: Bob Jones University Pres, 1993), 573. 13 David Elkind, The Reality of Virtual Stress (Framingham, Massachusetts: CIO Special Issue Fall/Winter 2003), 44. 14 Keesee and Sidwell, United States History, 574.



Lowell, Grant Duay, Sam Shepard, Kenneth Bernard, and Megan Terry on the Vietnam War, which usua lly used satire to show the horrible affects of war and comparing them with the casual, mundane circumstances of home life. Regardless of medium, antiestablishment and antiwar artists ranged from pacifists to violent radicals and forced Americans to think about the war more seriously. Using art as war opposition was popular more early on, but soon died down as political activism became more prominent in opposing the war.15 Furthermore, the force behind this movement spurred the ³New Left´ political group. Their largest group, The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had a total of over five thousand members on more than two hundred campuses.16 They organized modern ³lecture-anddebate´ sessions to teach students about the Vietnam War.17 However, their protests weren¶t adequate to begin an entire antiwar movement. The majority of their complaints were directed towards the president, Lyndon B. Johnson, the prime symbol of authority.18

Embracing Nonconformity The 1970s entailed a departure from materialism and the embrace of a philosophy of selfexpression, love, and sharing.19 ³Hippies´ (people who claimed to be aware of current attitudes and tastes) were the prominent symbols of nonconformity. However art took a temporary turn away from abstraction and more traditional mediums such as painting were given more attention. This also applied to poetry and prose, and a quick turn back to traditional writing about presentAlexis Greene and Barbara Tischler, Sights on the Sixties (Piscataway, New Jersey: Rutgets, the State University Press, 1992), 149-161. 16 Keesee and Sidwell, United States History, 573. 17 Stephen Feinstein, Decades of the 20th Century The 1960s: From the Vietnam War to Flower Power, 36. 18 Keesee and Sidwell, United States History, 573. 19 ibid, 575.


day concerns occurred. 20 Women¶s liberationists began to emerge from the counterculture of the 1960s.21 The second-wave feminist movement flourished throughout the 1970s, and the role of the female as housewife began to decrease. This lead to a great transformation of the household, as women began to seek opportunities to work themselves, and abandoned their responsibilities in the home. Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique (1963), urged women to choose careers and avoid being a mother. But later in 1981, she reexamined her ideas, "The equality we fought for isn't [livable], isn't workable, isn't comfortable in the terms that structured our battle."22 Germaine Greer felt similarly, and sought to correct the misunderstandings in her own book which also supported feminism, ³In The Female Eunuch I argued that motherhood should not be treated as a substitute career: now I would argue that motherhood should be regarded as a genuine career option«´ She now ³mourns for her unborn babies,´ and believes that the ³immense rewardingness of children is the best kept secret in the western world.´23 As a result, students in the 1980s were individualistic and self-centered. Their days were pleasant, comfortable experiences with the pursuit of their own career paths and other future plans in mind.24 Potential devastating problems, such as a nuclear war was barely thought of by students, as it did not affect their immediate lives. Calumniates worthy of attention are not always made note of--such as a possible nuclear war or

Tim Healey, The 1970s (North Mankato, Minnesota: Sea-to-Sea Publications, 2006), 42. Neil A. Hamilton, The 1970s (New York, New York: Facts On File, 2006), vi. 22 Peter S. Cook, Feminism, Childcare, and Family Mental Health: Have Women Been Misled by Equality Feminism? (The Natural Child Project, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 1. 23 Ibid. 24 Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), 83.



devastation in a third-world country--and a great distinction is made between private and public concerns.25 Authority from parents had been greatly reduced in the 1990s-2010s, especially when students left for college.26 The existence of social security and retirement in general allows the following generations to not have to worry about providing for their parents. This gain of independence has done nothing but push the prominence of individualism all the more. The lines are more blurred than ever between ³childhood´ and ³adulthood.´ Neil Postman uses television as an example of this ever-diluted distinction in his book Conscientious Objection (1988): Television erases the dividing line between childhood and adulthood in two ways: it required no instruction to grasp its form, and it does not segregate its audience. Therefore, it communicates the same information to everyone, simultaneously, regardless of age, sex, level of education, or previous conditions of servitude. 27 However in other ways, technology has created an obvious generational boundary. Not only has independence from parents emphasized individualism, but it places a great dependence on peers for support rather than going to the previous generation. Cell phones and instant messaging have ³continued to worsen the divide between parents and children.´ 28 A dramatic shift in their minds had occurred from a transcendent authority to the idea of an individual authority.

Ibid, 84. Ibid, 86 27 Neil Postman, Conscientious Objections (New York: Vintage Books, a division of Random House, 1988), 155. 28 Elkind, The Reality of Virtual Stress, 44.



Sex, Death, and Zombies Since 2000, a new emphasis has been placed on the themes of sex and death in art and media. Movies, TV shows, video games, books, music, literature, art, and other sources were becoming increasingly more violent in both areas. ³Zombies´, or living soulless corpses are prominent in video games, movies, television and books today. Resident Evil (1996-present), Left 4 Dead (2008-present), and ³Nazi Zombie´ mode in Call of Duty 5: World at War (2008) are notable examples in electronic gaming. The violent acts depicted in these games include firing weaponry at and trying to destroy zombies. A Smartphone/computer game, Plants Vs. Zombies (2009) takes a more casual approach to ideas of the living dead, described the scenario of the game as ³A mob of fun-loving zombies is about to invade your home, and your only defense is an arsenal of zombie-zapping plants.´29 Zombies weren¶t a creation of the 2000s, however. Examples in movies date back to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Night of the Living Dead (1968), and Dawn of the Dead (1978). These were horror movies that became very popular, and each used zombies to terrorize the audience. More zombie movies were being made, and the amount continued to increase, particularly from 2004 to 2010. Zombieland (2009) and Fido (2006) were comedic movies, poking fun at zombie horror films.30 An adaptation of the classic romantic novel Pride and Prejudice (1797) by Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2009), has become a favorite among
J D Biersdorfer, Best IPhone Apps (Sebastopol, CA: O'Reily Media, 2009), 119. Richard Greene and K. Silem Mohammad, Zombies, Vampires, and Philosophy (Chicago and La Salle, Illinois: Open Court House, 2010), i.
30 29


many readers. Authors Richard Greene and K. Silem Mohammad describe this trend, ³There's something about zombies per se that uniquely excites the contemporary imagination. It seems like these Undead creatures answer to some deeply-felt collective cultural fantasy on a visceral level (no pun intended).´31 Books such as the Twilight series have exploited America¶s fascination with death and sex, and as a result are exceedingly popular in our culture today.32 These romantic vampire-themed fantasy books written by Stephenie Meyer have consecutively set records as the biggest selling novels of 2008 on the USA Today Best-Selling Books list.33 One must note the distinction between vampires and zombies. Greene and Mohammad speculate, "The appeal of vampires is easier to guess at: they're suave, sexy, sophisticated," however, they go on to say, "Zombies are purely creatures of the id, dedicated to mindless self-gratification and nothing else.´34

Grotesqueness in Modern Art Much like the nonconformists of the 1960s, many of today¶s artists celebrate the unorthodox and bizarre. Innovation is seen as what¶s important: as long as something is new and different, it¶s beautiful. Art has been deemed ³neutral´ by today¶s postmodern artists, meaning virtually anything can be art. Most insist that art is simply selfexpression, and that "pluralism and diversity" are important factors in it.35 Spontaneity and

ibid, iii. Ibid, i. 33 Mary Cadden, New Star Authors Made, Old Ones Rediscovered in 2008 (USA Today, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 1. 34 Greene and Mohammad, Zombies, Vampires, and Philosophy, iii. 35 Michael Woods, Art of the Western World (Orangeville, Ontario, Canada: Summit Books, 1989), 323.



³directness of expression´ are preferred to traditional definitions of beauty in art.36 Aline Bouvy and John Gillis¶ painting, for example, Squirting Squares (2006) depicts two shapes in a psychedelic background. The squares are meant to represent neo-Constructivist and neoModernist practices, and the shooting liquid where the corners touch is supposed to represent pornography and add a strange sense that the shapes are crying.37 Bouvy and Gillis¶ Venusia, a 7 minute film of animated collages, displays art with ³a dark and opulent vision of a posttechnological future, influenced by 60s French photographer Serge Lutens. It is an animated collage of scraps from fashion magazines. Dealing with concepts of beauty, pagan ritual, sex and death, the work is a mystical vision of life and [desiccation].´38 Other postmodern artists such as Richard Carey believe in what they believe to be art as an individualistic philosophy on morality. He believes truth is relative, claiming, ³Beliefs are postulates, choices, or personal interpretations susceptible to either adaptation or rejection. They are subject to inquiry and change, as warranted. Belief and truth differ [from person to

Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, Art in Theory, 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, 1992), 1014. 37 Catrin Lorch and Andrew Hunt, The New Art (London, UK: Rachmaninoff's, 2006), 30. 38 Aline Bouvy and John Gillis, Portfolio, March 2008 (Aline Bouvy / John Gillis, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 8.



person]«´39 Some postmodern scientists argue morality is irrelevant, ³If human morality is an adaption from survival in human ancestral conditions, perhaps we should not take it quite so seriously.´40 Nevertheless, art continues to ³be neutral´ and begin to turn grotesque and bizarre. Immersion (Piss Christ), a photograph taken by Andres Serrano in 1987, depicts a crucifix submerged in what Serrano has claimed to be his own urine. He regards this piece of ³art work´ as a symbol of free speech, due to it having caused significant controversy. He intends it to live on by uploading it online, ³Freely circulating on the Web«´41 When the Tacoma Art Museum in Washington state celebrates its 75th anniversary, according to the News Tribune, ³«it plans to bring in the controversial µHide/Seek¶ exhibit of gay and lesbian portraiture.´42 Furthermore, this sort of ³art´ has gained significant support, all in the name of ³tolerance.´

The Prevalence of Music in America Music is prominent in today¶s society, and the messages are loud and clear. In the current pop music realm, Lady GaGa¶s Born This Way encourages diversity and tolerance of sexual orientation. The bridge preaches, ³No matter gay, straight, or bi / Lesbian, transgendered life / I'm on the right track baby / I was born to survive / No matter black, white or beige / Chola or Orient made / I'm on the right track baby / I was born to be brave.´ Another prominent figure in
Richard Cary, Critical Art Pedagogy Foundations for Postmodern Art Education (Library of Congress Cataloging-inPublication Data, CIP: 98-29797, 1998), 5. 40 Kim Sterelny and Paul E. Griffiths, Sex and Death: an Introduction to Philosophy of Biology (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1999), 4. 41 Sven Lütticken, Sven Lütticken on The Return of Religion and Other Myths (Metropolism, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 1. 42 The News Tribune, Tacoma Art Museum Sports its 75 Years Well (Tacoma News Tribune, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 1.


music, Ke$ha, sings about excessively partying without considering the consequences in Tik Tok, ³Ain¶t got a care in world, but got plenty of beer / Ain¶t got no money in my pocket, but I¶m already here / Now, the dudes are lining up cause they hear we got swagger.´ Independent or ³indie´ music has grown significantly in popularity, and has introduced the modern indie/hipster culture. Indie bands do their own recording, publishing and performances and are independent from major commercial record labels. The Velvet Underground, arguably the first indie band, began playing music in 1964. Author Greg Aldrich describes the band¶s music style, which summed up the themes of most indie music: The music of the Velvet Underground was markedly different in message and in structure than that being produced by studios at the time; their songs varied from fast to slow, pulsating to melodic. Their messages switched from songs about drug use to individual takes on law enforcement. In short, they sang about everything everyone else did not.43 Lyrics, themes and styles in indie music vary drastically. Although independent artists dated back to the 1960s, bands such as Sire Records and Stiff Records invented and popularized the ³new wave´ during the 1990s.44 As indie music became more widespread, bands became to branch off from the genre even more, calling themselves anything from ³alternative´ to ³experimental.´ They even began to reintroduce music styles popular during previous generations, often with a modern twist. Current artists such as Colin Meloy from The Decemberists wrote songs about historical events and folklore in an

Greg Aldrich, History of Indie Music - 1960's (, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 1. 44 Mitch, History of Indie Music (Indie Update, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 1.


³abstract but oddly relatable writing style.´45 In January Hymn (2011), feelings of regret are eloquently described, ³Pale the winter days after dark / Wandering the gray memorial park / A fleeting beating of hearts.´ More experimental bands, like Animal Collective, wrote seemingly nonsensical lyrics in a music genre described as ³Neo-psychedelia´ or simply ³noise.´ Summertime Clothes (2009) describes living in a city during the summer, ³My bed is a pool and the walls are on fire / Soak my head in the sink for a while / Chills on my neck and it makes me smile but / My bones have to move and my skin's gotta breathe.´ While the more obscure bands are known by few, the internet has provided any artist with the opportunity to make themselves known. Through on-line social media services such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, artists can publish their work, share samples or whole songs with consumers on the internet. Online services such as iTunes and Zune have encouraged a wide variety of artists from all genres to produce music, anyone can purchase on the web. However, other online music-streaming services such as Pandora, Last.FM, and GrooveShark appear to be hurting the music industry, since music can be streamed and played for free.46 Songs are even downloaded illegally, and as a result total industry sales dropped from around $14 billion in 2000 to $10 billion in 2009.47


Bill Adams, Reviews: The Decemberists - [Discography] (Ground Control Magazine, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 1. 46 Patrick Foster, Music Industry Ready for Climbdown on Internet Piracy Demands (The Times, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 1. 47 Douglas MacMillan, The Music Industry's New Internet Problem (Bloomberg Business Week, on-line:, accessed May 2011), 1.


Postmodernism: The Age of Individualistic Moral Relativity Postmodernity is the age of moral freefall. People¶s individualistic worldviews have driven them to make their own decisions about morality. Young men and women in our culture are encouraged by society to choose for themselves what they believe to be right and wrong, and to refuse to obey a transcendent authority. It¶s revealed in our media: the popular movies, music, TV shows, books, fashion, literature and art out today have crossed all the boundaries, and if anyone is to point that out, they are condemned as ³intolerant.´ Anyone who claims to believe in absolute truth is labeled as a ³religious fanatic.´ College compasses and Universities across the US are notorious for possessing environments of partying, drunkenness and sex. Our only hope in this day in age lies in turning from our own way of living life--the ways of the world--and fleeing to Christ. Matthew 6:33 ³Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.´


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