Saturday, January 19, 2013

Hitch-hikers Guide

I had picked it up partly as a cultural document, expecting it to evoke an era and attitude I no longer shared, but remembered with some fondness.  It was fun, but I was reminded of some negative aspects of that culture as well.  Little things, but this is why we read primary documents - they are unconsciously products of their culture.  The author makes assumptions about shared youth culture - tastes in clothing or music he is sure the hitchers will be part of, in contrast to virtually all older people, who will be put off by such things.  I had forgotten how quite automatic the idea of a generational war was.  We believed it was the natural order of things for children to rebel against their parents values.

Some do, some don't - both have a lot of historical support.  But we didn't think so at the time.  The younger generation, rather self-righteous in their confidence that they (we) were leading the world on to a better way, also saw music and clothes as essential parts of the struggle.  I doubt that feeling is as strong today. 

The book was fun for the introductory, general information about hitching and the readers' comments that closed each chapter.  I read about 50% of the info on the UK.  I was curious what would be said about the Eastern European countries, especially Romania - essentially nothing.  About a page each, mostly warning you about the penalties for black market dealings and noting what was cheap or expensive in each.

So I turned to the Scandinavian countries, and was treated to four pages of rhapsody about how they had gotten this socialism thing right, and how wonderful and sane these countries were.  From a guy whose field of economic and political expertise is how to mooch of others and get things for free, sometimes in illegal or deceptive ways (though only as a last resort, of course.)  I had forgotten how, to a certain type of mind from 1965 - present, it was simply part of the culture to know that the Scandinavians have got it right.  Making these statements was obligatory, to show you understood about Stuff, and The World.

I didn't bother with the rest.  I've got the Culture Shock books to do that better for me anyway. Yet I still did like the parts I read.  If anyone local would like to borrow or have the book, let me know - or watch for it at the next Bethany yard sale.

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