Friday, August 30, 2013

123.6 - What the world needs now is some of the '60s

What the world needs now is some of the '60s

For the rest of the show I want to talk about something else, because all this talk about the March and whatnot, I have to admit it has got me thinking about the '60s. "The '60s." Because the March on Washington, in a lot of ways we don't seem to recognize, it was a spark, it was a foundation for, what we think of as "the '60s" - which really started about 1963 and ran to about 1972.

And I've been thinking that there are some ways in which I miss the '60s. Now, you have to understand, I'm not talking about nostalgia. I don't want to "go back to the '60s." There were a lot of things wrong in the '60s. For one thing, we have some technology now that - I'm not big on high-tech or having the latest and greatest technologies, but we have some technologies that I like that weren't available in the '60s and I wouldn't want to give those up easily.

For another, as we just talked about, there was more bigotry - it was worse in the '60s than it is now. And not just for blacks, for women, for gays and lesbians, for Hispanics, for still others.

Crime was actually a bigger issue in the '60s than it is now - or have we forgotten Richard Nixon running for office as the "law and order" president? Infant mortality - I mentioned the infant mortality rate was higher. The poverty rate was higher.

And, we tend to forget, there was a war. A big war. Not on the scale of World War II, but a big war. I have a notion that the time when people come to what I call political maturity, what's going on at that time, affects their view of the world and how they perceive later events. It influences their view of the world. And I came to political maturity during, as I have described it before, that brief and some would have it mythological time marked at one end by the Sgt. Pepper Summer and the other by Altamont - or, if you prefer a political description, by Flower Power and the Days of Rage.

But people now, in the last couple of decades, people who have come to political maturity during the Afghanistan War, during the Iraq War, I think some of them, when we talk about Vietnam, don't know what we're talking about. The total number of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined was about 6700; I forget the exact number. The number of American soldiers killed in the Indochina War was well over 50,000. There were over 50,000 American wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan combined; there were over 300,000 in Indochina. Peak troop strength in Iraq was about 140,000. In Vietnam, it was about 540,000. It was a massive war. We didn't measure the deaths by one here and one there and a few others somewhere else, we measured them by 300 a week. Total deaths in that war were well over a million, perhaps as many as three million, plus millions more refugeed.

I have no desire to go back to that. I have no desire to go back to the '60s. But I do have a desire to have some aspects of the '60s brought forward to the 20-teens.

For example, one thing I miss, something I do miss about the '60s is color. Think of any cliche image about the '60s you can imagine and I'm willing to bet that one aspect of that image is lots of color. I miss that. I miss the explosions of colors and the poster art - like Peter Max, for example - the poster art with the very bold, dramatic colors. I miss being surrounded by color.

Another thing I miss is the sense that music could matter. That music could matter. Not that all the music of the '60s mattered, there was a lot of schlock that was produced in the '60s. You know, sometimes you hear these shows about "the lost 45s" and you hear some of those songs and you think, "oh boy, that should have stayed lost." Remember "Laurie" by Dickie Lee? You know, "Last night at the dance I met Laurie." Remember that? What about "The Race is On" by Jack Jones? These are - wow.

And this also doesn't mean there isn't good music being produced now and it doesn't even mean there aren't protest songs being produced now. I just saw something recently about "the top 10 protest songs of the 21st century."

But the '60s had a sense, it was just a sense, that the music could matter, that music could make a difference, the music could change the world - we went a little over the top there, but still that was the sense that we had, that music could change the world. Music was more important to us. Music wasn't just entertainment, it wasn't just a way some people made a living. Music mattered.

The other thing that I miss, and this is the real point here, I miss that sense of solidarity. Back in the '60s, we talked about "the Movement." And it went in all sorts of different directions, all kinds of different subjects, all kinds of different topics, all sorts of different tactics, but the point is, we all thought "this is one Movement, we are all part of it."

Where I grew up, we had a military base - Fort Monmouth, New Jersey - and we used to have picket lines there on occasion, you know, maybe 10 to 20 people. That didn't matter: We were the same as the 150,000 who were out in San Francisco. And what's more, we were the same as the United Farm Workers. We were the same as the striking teachers in some other city. It was all the same thing. And that is something I don't see now.

I've talked about the Solidarity Sing Along in Wisconsin. And this is great, it's wonderful, it's a great thing, and people support that and endorse it - but we don't feel it's us. It's them doing that - it's not us, it's separate. Every battle is separate, every battle is a local battle, that we don't perceive emotionally as part of a whole thing.

This is one of the reasons, by the way, that the Occupy Movement had to be destroyed. Because when the Occupy Movement talked about the 99%, it hit that nerve: We are in this together, we are all linked and all of our different struggles do relate to each other.

Two reasons the Occupy Movement had to be destroyed. One, it was in your face. You couldn't ignore it. It was always there. The other reason, though, was the fact that all of these Occupy sites, they all thought of themselves as "Occupy." Whether you were in Boston or New York or Oshkosh or wherever, you know, you weren't just Oshkosh Occupy, you were Oshkosh Occupy. You were emotionally liked to all the others. Some local encampments focused on income inequality, some on student debt, some on foreclosures, some on supporting labor actions, some even on the arcane details of federal regulation of financial markets. It didn't matter. You were all part of the same thing. You were all Occupy. There was a solidarity there that I have not seen otherwise.

And I really, really miss that.

We need to be back on the streets. Because the one thing we need - the one thing those big marches that people say "oh, that's passe, that's old-fashioned" and all that, well, nonsense. Because the thing those marches did was they gave you that sense of solidarity, they gave you that sense that "this is all one thing; we are all linked; we are all part of the same thing."

We need to be back on the streets - and I don't mean just once, I mean over and over and over again. This is not something that's going to be done just this year or the year after, this is year after year after year after year. We have to be out on the streets, locally and nationally, to say "we are all one Movement, we are all one consideration."

And that one consideration is, again, justice.


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