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Culture as background to our writing

When I reflected on why I wasn’t working on the novel, except being overwhelmed by work, I realized that I didn’t have a firm sense of the culture we are living in.

It certainly isn’t the culture I grew up in during the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s.

I nearly gave a speech at high school graduation that the American Dream would die as a result of the Vietnam War.  But the administration wouldn’t let me speak.

So I wasn’t surprised to learn that the high point of the economy was 1970 and we have slid from then.  And everyone knows about the gap between the insanely wealthy and everyone else, although Americans underestimate the gap, according to studies.

But I do have more of a grip on the culture haven’t read Zygmunt Bauman’s book on ethics in a consumer culture.  He describes the world as isolated, distrusting, that all CEO’s want disconnected people will to do anything– no morals at all.  JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon who has been implicated in the Libor scandal, where with a consortium of US and European banks, rigged the interest rates costing ordinary people billions of dollars in excessive interest fees.

Bauman says the culture is also fluid with fewer bonds between people.  Certainly the self-help programs are less unified and social then thirty years ago.  In many ways, they are different programs altogether.  I am not as close as I was to friends decades ago.  In my book group and other voluntary organizations I belong to, people mostly come and go, with a handful of steady members. Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone describes an emerging trend that has become universal in American culture.

This has got to be the environment in my novel(s). A stable world with deep relations is a world that has largely vanished.  This is a world so fragmented that ISIS can attract lots of members from all over the world.

I do not want to accept this world-view although I believe it is accurate. Until I can  accept it I think I will be blocked from writing the novel.  Another facet of writer’s block.


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