Several posts down there is a home movie that was shot in my neighborhood in New York. Made just seven years before I was born, it shows a world that is completely alien to me. In the accompanying text, I wondered what might have caused such a huge change. Maybe I have an idea.
Let's use 1960 as the year I really got my wits about me. (I do remember things from the early 1950s, but it's all anecdotal and fragmented.) The film was shot in 1941.
In 1920, the population of America was 100 million.
In 1940, the population was 130 million.
In 1960, the population was 200 million.
By now, the population is 320 million.
That is a staggering growth rate. Between the time the movie was made, and the time that I became really aware, 70 million souls had been added, almost doubling the population.
So maybe it's possible that at some point during explosive population growth the societal rubber band cannot stretch anymore, so it just snaps. The ruinous changes that have occurred in America over the last thirty years may have been caused by the overloading of all systems simultaneously, everything from government to police to medicine to entertainment . . . everything.
Plus, people are stressed out by the crowding. In 1920, even the big cities in America had a population density more like a small city in Kansas. (As if there were any other kind!) By now, it's more like the Ginza in Tokyo out there, and not just in the cities. The density, and the traffic, are murder everywhere.
Long ago everyone knew everyone, even in the cities (by the neighborhood, of course). Even in the big cities, you probably knew the name of the cop on the beat. He was a regular fixture in the neighborhood. Now, nobody knows anybody else.
It's true that the changes in the communications world have had a huge impact as well. From the onset of TV in 1948*, right on up to the triumph of the Internet and mobile phones. People have been driven into their own little worlds, and they no longer have a need to actually get together and do things in groups. One way or the other, people are more isolated and alienated than ever before.
Yeah, the population. Where's that train going to take us? It's' still roaring ahead, full blast. When are we predicted to hit four hundred million? And what will happen then?
I hope that all of you youngsters are ready for a wild ride. I'll be leaving y'all to do the worrying at some point.
*Sure, there was TV before 1948. But between June and September of 1948 the number of TVs in private homes jumped from about 25,000 to more like 250,000. (Extra points if you knew that they all wanted to watch the Milton Berle Texaco Theater.)