Every once in a while in the world of music, we can see clear times of transition between a past way that has fallen into decline and a period where people are searching for what will be the next thing, with various niche songs and niche acts finding temporary favor before a new wave of sound and production sweeps away the old and leads to new dominant voices that lasts for some period of years. For whatever reason, 2022 appears to be such a period of transition. Streaming, sales, and radio are all in a period of decline and catalog songs have become increasingly popular, with people listening to familiar songs that they like and have liked for months and largely rejecting most of the new songs that are released. Yet nothing is enjoyed to a great degree and as a result all of the points that songs gain from consumption suffer because consumption overall appears to be down. It is unclear at the moment what the next sound will be, but whenever it comes it will likely sweep away what is going on at present and provide us with whatever we will be listening to (whether we like it or not) for the next few years.
It is not only with regards to music that we find ourselves in an obvious time of transition. Quite strikingly, we are in a time of transition within our own contemporary political scene in the United States and around the world. This transition appears increasingly dangerous, but the general mood of malaise and crisis that we find in the United States and indeed around the world suggests that we are awaiting what the next thing will be, unhappy with present options and with the misrule of contemporary elites, but where it is not clear where the next dominant authorities will come from given the widespread dissatisfaction with the options that now exist. Nor, given the history we have regarding such times, do we have a great degree of confidence that the transition between our contemporary malaise and a future is necessarily going to make things better in the short term.
Times of transition are often times of great danger. We may be dissatisfied with the present, but fail to imagine that there may be things far worse than the present. Let us consider, for example, that in the last couple of years we have witnessed things that had not been seen for decades. We have the highest inflation for more than 40 years, going back to the days of the stagflation of the Carter and Nixon presidencies. We have the most unfriendly geopolitical situation since the same time, with Russia’s aggression against Ukraine being not dissimilar to their aggression in Afghanistan during that same era. We have come out of the worst public health response to a disease since at least the 1918-1919 flu. Our own society is deeply divided, and that deep divide is mirrored in many countries around the world, with strong regional divides in places like the UK, Spain, and other countries. We may be unhappy about what is, but it is easy for things to get far, far worse.
Why is it that in our longing for progress we often neglect that progress is elusive in a world where regress is often far more common? We can visualize progess, imagine progress, and see how it can happen to make things better than they are now. But we think of the way things are as a baseline, and when we find out that the future can bring more severe challenges than the past, we are often surprised because we took it for granted that things were either toing to remain the same or get better and we did not consider that they could get more dangerous until they do, and we are surprised to find out that we had not properly begun to judge the world correctly.