Seven Pillars of Popular Culture

Seven Pillars of Popular Culture

Seven Pillars of Popular Culture

Seven Pillars of Popular Culture

Synopsis

Marshall Fishwick acknowledges that the impression of popular culture as being full of fads and follies which change every season, sometimes month-by-month, is superficially true, but basically and historically incorrect. The essential features of the people, and the ways in which their basic needs are met, have changed little over the centuries. Fishwick's analysis highlights stasis and shows that most contemporary expressions of popular culture are extensions of traditional forms, values, and formulas.

Excerpt

And now to conceive and show to the world what your children en-masse really are.

Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas

Popular culture is people's culture--"your children en-masse." The First Pillar is demos: Greek for common people. If much of Western tradition stems from Greece, demos goes far back and beyond in space and time. Man is the end result of a process of change characteristic of all living creatures; when, where, and how he evolved is still a mystery. Homo sapiens remains the glory, jest, and riddle of the world.

Origin myths (like the Garden of Eden) abound. The science of paleo-anthropology blossomed in 1891 when the Dutch physician Dr. Eugene Dubois discovered "the erect ape-man of Java" (Pithecanthropus Erectus) which in the 1890s became the "missing link" between man and ape. When another Dutchman, Jan von Koenigswald, found huge molars in a Chinese apothecary shop (1935), scientists assumed it was in China, not Java, that our species emerged. Then evidence pointed to North India; in our own day, to Africa.

In 1972 Dr. Richard Leakey unearthed in Kenya the nearly complete skull of Homo habilis with a brain half again as big as earlier primates. Dr. Leakey speculated that habilis passed his genes along to erectus, who eventually evolved into modern man--Shakespeare's "paragon of animals." A few years later another expedition found remains of a female in Ethiopia (her assigned name was Lucy) who might have existed much earlier, going back three million years. As if that weren't enough, science-popularizers like Carl Sagan spoke not of millions but . . .

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