‘Parenthood’: The Irresistible Human Tendency To Normalize Revolutions

Many recognized and accepted theories in a variety of disciplines today are based on a fundamental concept: Change comes through a series of strains, or upsets, from a situation of stasis or equilibrium. The disharmony arrived at in this way is only half the change because it never lasts long and the system always finds a way of rebalancing itself, and during this process overcomes the — so to speak, revolutionary — elements, changing them into the parts that make up the new system.

A revolutionary or unstable element, if you will, naturally cannot be part of a system without losing its deep-seated nature as a revolutionary element, but when, for example, a system manages to structure per se the unstable elements of hydrogen or oxygen, it reaches an extraordinarily stable form.

It’s not a new concept that there is a resemblance between biological, intellectual and social processes, but it’s always something extraordinary to note when one encounters it. What the Restoration did to the principles of the French Revolution is well-known, as what contemporary culture did — and is doing — to the 1968 revolution is something many have noted. What seems noteworthy in these last few years is, however, the predominance of the didactic element, over a form, that is, of restoration founded on an explanation of the process itself. We are not dealing with cheating the masses today, hiding the truth and distorting the messages; this is no longer the way to return to a state of stasis within the system. Possibly in the form of a story or fairytale, today, the real meaning of the revolutionary elements that have built the modern world are explained to us, in such a way allowing us to stabilize ourselves as permanent parts of the system.

There is a TV series, “Parenthood,” which is important in many aspects, one of these being precisely this extraordinary didactic imposition. This fiction, which makes extensive use of Bob Dylan’s classics, tells of a family that lives in Berkeley, three generations of those conventionally considered the revolutionary elements of the American population. The last series finished with an episode whose last five minutes were a series of serene images, gratifying and peaceful, of the family in question, all accompanied by a particularly gentle version of Bob Dylan’s revolutionary hymn “The Times They Are a-Changin.’” The effect that this episode was able to have was that of having completely twisted, reinterpreted and recontextualized Bob Dylan’s words. The text, which speaks of destruction, flood and Biblical curses has become a song that sings of the changing times as a natural life process.

Yet again, the tone we use to say something conveys more of its meaning than what is actually said. For this reason the modern system lets us talk about it, only asking that we do so through its channels, thus, in its own way.

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