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February 9, 2004

"It was 40 years ago today"

In the Beatles song "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," Paul McCartney sings "It was twenty years ago today Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play." Lately the news is stating that "it was 40 years ago today" that the Beatles acted as catalysts for tremendous cultural and social change.

Modern society in early 1964 was generally uniform, regimented, and restrained—artistically, intellectually, culturally, socially, and politically. In short, western society was in a state of cultural and emotional repression.

To me the Beatles signalled that it was okay to express, to try something new, to take a chance, and to question things. Believe it or not, The Beatles' long hair was a huge part of that, and the anthem of the times became "why not?"

Here's a typical post-Beatles family conversation:
"Mom, I want to grow my hair."
"You can't."
"Why not?"
"It's just not proper!"
"Why not?"

And so, young people began to question everything—racism, sexism, child rearing, morality, religion, education, traditional medicine, media, waste, pollution, food production, human rights, economics, politics, and war.

The Beatles may have screamed with joy and shook their hair, but one of them was eventually shot with a gun. The Beatles may have encouraged us to challenge authority, but corporate globalization and political fascism threaten to take away our right to dissent and our free expression. The Beatles may have been catalysts for change and freedom, but the work itself is far from over.

John, Paul, George, and Ringo sent a shiver of excitement, a wave of feeling, and a breeze of change through a grey, conformist society. Let's keep it alive and make every year 1964.

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