Posts Tagged idealism
Wonderful Can Happen, Part Three — Amazingly, Charlie Brown Connects: Remember … “Yes, We Can” Proved We Could
Shaken Out of Our Mental Maze, We Would Be A-Mazed: Lucy Apologizes, Sisyphus Rests, A Man Who Said “Yes We Can,” Would
Why Know This? Amazingly, Charlie Brown Connects
So, these things we know. They are sobering rationalizations and ones we should not run from.
But lastly and most importantly, these prescient thoughts of long ago help me. I find that these time-capsule writings from my former mind are able to inform me and sharpen my vision of the Now, as the events continue unfolding and rolling relentlessly over and through us and are reflected in high-pixel, high-def, infinite colors clarity on the flat screens all about. This time is felt and witnessed, the story being revealed cinema-like, but with pundits galore expounding 24/7, like loud-mouthed fellow movie-goers.
But then also they become the movie and are interwoven into the times themselves. And their words, with this time capsule before me, are sounding childish, repetitive, forgetful, amnesiacal. Especially this is true as many of the ones speaking now are remembered as being the exact persons commenting then. And their words, little changed, bespeak a zen-like ability to be newly alarmed, being reborn in every minute, but yet totally unchanged and untaught by all the years of witnessing and commentary. So they also have forgotten the way they once saw the world and their life … just as I once did.
If We Knew, Would We Act?
It seems a defense mechanism to forget that we saw all this coming. For to know that is to despair in realizing the impotence, even, of awareness. Who wants to realize that in these matters even a knowledge of the story line, as if having seen the movie once before, is totally useless? Who wants to think that there is a helplessness in affecting the events of our lives and times, that there is a total futility in changing or steering away or around even the tragedies clearly seen beforehand?
For knowing this we feel as detached as actual cinema-goers from the unfolding of the plotline. We feel ourselves to be not actors and hardly even the scriptwriters of our lives, instead merely the witnesses of intensely shocking and stunning events, which we actually expected but hoped we would be wrong about. So wouldn’t we want to block out that awareness of the futility of our actions? Wouldn’t we have to in order to have the heart to keep going at it? To get up and keep trying every day?
Sisyphus Remembering, Would He Continue Pushing?
If we remembered, like Charlie Brown approaching the football, or like Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the hill… if we remembered, would we continue to act?
No, we have to believe that we will be surprised this time, that indeed Lucy will hold the football and we will complete the kick. It is said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. As true as that is, how ironic then that we realize that those who remember history too clearly are doomed to helplessness in the midst of its unfolding. So it seems we are ineffectual either way.
But There’s More To It
Yet this is not the whole truth. If it were, then the cynicism we felt about “The Audacity of Hope”…remember that book?…well, that cynicism would have proven a correct perception. We would have been bored, again, watching a naïve young idealistic black man—like the many before, differing only in skin color—seeing his efforts, visions, hopes, and heartfelt desires to be helpful and to love away some of the darkness in the world around him vanish like the memory of yesterday’s storm-driven winds. But we, I, was one time wrong in that cynicism.
Lucy Apologizes, Sisyphus Rests.
To the astonishment, truly, of an entire world, Charlie Brown connected with the football, Lucy apologized for her past actions, and one heavy boulder remained steady on the top of a hill and gave a man a much needed rest from his endless labors.
For one incredible and glorious time, the movie we’d seen had a different ending—amazing enough in itself. But also the tragedy in the original did not occur. And as if God had for a time touched this planet, this Reality we call our World, our Life…as if God had just for one time touched, tipped, and turned our events, the awesomely unexpected happened.
A man so unbelievably naïve and unaware as to declare the “audacity of hope” and to call out and stir up the masses, deluding them as we’ve seen so many times before, that “yes, we can,” would.
Shaken Out of Our Mental Maze, We Would Be A-Mazed.
And we’d have to pinch ourselves to believe it to actually be happening even as we witnessed it. That he would actually succeed in doing exactly what he said he would do would not only show us that a man could actually affect the course of events, would show us that a person could not only change things from the way they’d always been (what kind of man can this be?). But that he would do it in a grand and sweeping way would be all the more astonishing. We would be all the more unbelieving that a man who said “yes we can” not only could but he could do it in a way that achieved beyond merely succeeding; never mind that merely succeeding would be doing the impossible.
Continue with The Only Thing We Can Be Truly Sure Of … Is We Can Never Be Sure… Which Means That Anything Is Possible… Which Means That Everything Is Possible.
Return to Media Feel-Good Talk Does Not Equal Reality … and Why We’re Helpless to Prevent the Future Fukushimas and Killer Hurricanes.
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Generations – Their Drugs and Politics. Gen Xers Are Fifty-ish, Millennials Are Sixty-ish: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 29
Kaleidoscope of Postmodern Life, Part Twenty-Nine: An Aside on Drugs and Generations—Sixties, Gen X, Millennials and Their Parents
Millennials Are Sixty-ish
There is another overlooked factor or aspect of this rise in drug use in the Nineties by Millennials: These youngsters were the sons and daughters of the Sixties generation who, in their own youth, as we all know too well, engaged in drug experimentation. In fact, this younger generation of drug users has sometimes been called the baby-boomer “echo” generation.
Gen Xers Are Fifty-ish
Millennials are quite a bit different from the previous “echo” generation — Gen X. The generation that came to age during the Eighties—Yuppies and Xers—had parents who were born during the Great Depression and World War Two, who had their young adult formative years during the Eisenhower — Joe McCarthy –Presley Fifties. So Gen X was influenced by their parents to conservatism, career-mindedness, and, for drug-of-choice, alcohol.
But this “echo” generation of Millennials has parents whose young adulthood was forged in the rebellion, drug and sex experimentation, activism, liberal-radicalism, and idealism of the Sixties, not the Fifties. [Footnote 1]
Forget What You’ve Heard About Generation Gap
Generationally speaking, we know that children do not predominantly rebel to the opposite of their parents’ values. Kenneth Keniston, for one, has made it clear—referring to studies—that children are paramountly influenced by the values and attitudes…conscious and unconscious…of their parents. So this most recent cohort of youth was of course going to be more liberal in their attitude to drug use than Gen X, even if their parents, in their coming into adulthood, overtly decry or are against the use of drugs. Keep in mind also that many of the baby-boomers have retained, not reversed, their acceptance of drug experimentation, and many still believe in and use drugs; many still considering the occasional use of certain types—especially the psychedelics, and to some extent, pot—to be an aid to self-development and/or spiritual awareness.
Family Lies Not “Family Ties”
The myth that youth rebel against their parents’ values was expressed and propagandized by the TV show “Family Ties.” This was an oh-so-convenient portrayal, as it contributed to the pervasive scapegoating of the Sixties generation by the Fifties Generation—the Eisenhower–Joe McCarthy–Presley generation—who came into their Triumphant Phase, that is, took over the reins of society as mature adults in the Eighties.
Rebellion in Youth Amounts to Being Uncompromising About Parents’ Values Not Defying Them
This “Family Ties” kind of rebellion, however inaccurate, seems to be credible largely as a result of the observation that youth do rebel against their parents. But it ignores the fact that when they do, and they don’t always, they revolt or rebel, as in the Sixties youth, most often in the direction of being more insistent of actually living the values of their parents, not simply voicing them. As Keniston found out, for example, as he described in his follow-up to The Uncommitted, in the book, Young Radicals: Notes on Committed Youth, radical youth had liberal (hardly conservative!) parents.
When Sixties youth were angry at their parents it was out of their perception of their parents as compromising and not living out their own expressed ideals, as laid out to their children in raising them. Therefore, Sixties rage against adults came out of their disgust at their parents for “not walking their talk.” As we may recollect, there was the oft-repeated charge of “hypocrite” directed by some of these youth toward their parental generation.
Millennials and Their Sixties Parents
In this regard notice also that this latest crop of young—born mid-70s through roughly 2000 (Boomers had children over a longer expanse of time than generations previous and since, for reasons that I’ve dealt with in other places) and being now in their twenties and thirties…the sons and daughters of the Sixties Generation—has also seen increases in voting for liberal or Democratic candidates. Their turnout for Clinton in 1992 was the first time since the Seventies that the youth vote went Democratic. Their support of Obama was widely given as the reason for his success.
Occupy Wall Street … Sixties Gen Liberals, Millennial Revolutionaries?
In the Nineties we saw — despite the AIDS scare — an end to a fledgling “youth celibacy movement” — which had been a movement of Yuppie/Gen Xers encouraged by their Fifties Generation parents. The Millennials, echoing again their parents and this time the sexual revolution, were noted for early and/or increased sexual experimentation. This latest cohort of youth also has seen increases in idealism, activism, and volunteerism. It is no coincidence that we have finally seen a rising up of activism again in the occupy wall street movement, with Millennials taking the lead and supported, taught, and inspired by their Sixties cohort parents. [Footnote 2]
1. See my blog/book Culture War, Class War, especially Chapter Two: Matrix Aroused, the Sixties and Chapter Four: Drugs of Choice and Generational Cultures – Concocted Worlds and Chapter Five: The King Won’t Die – An Aborted Changing of the Guard.
2. These aspects and generational phenomena are spelled out in more detail in my work-in-progress, Regression, Mysticism, and “My Generation.” Right at hand, however, you can read an elaboration of some of these ideas in the chapters mentioned in Culture War, Class War—especially Chapters One through Seven and the post, Awakening Millennial Generation Occupy Global Revolution.
Continue with Tune Inward, Turn Back, Drop Down – Psychedelics, Depression, and Those Nasty Birth Feelings: 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 30
Return to Raging to Reenter, Vampire Apocalypse, Drug Use, and Being Gratefully Dead—Perinatal Printouts Of Sixties, X, and Millennial Generations. 21st Century and Its Discontents, Part 28
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America Since Its “Pleasantville” Fifties: Cultural Rebirth Aborted, Changing of the Guard Denied, The Elders on Life Support, and the Abomination Fills the Land
Culture War, Class War Chapter Seven: Cultural Rebirth, Aborted
War Compelled the Dashing of Dreams for WWII Gen Youth – It’s a Not-So Wonderful Life
Sixties Youth Ideals of Freedom – So at Odds with Their Parents Lives of Heavy Responsibilities
The paramount theme in “Pleasantville”—which is that thinking for oneself and following one’s own unique path and being open to the change that comes with that brings “color,” truth, and aliveness to one’s life—is truly a Sixties Generation idea. Again, it is not that it has never been thought of before. All great ideas have been thought before, but that does not mean they have been implemented on a sociocultural, macrocosmic level. Many ideas have remained in the realm of the solitary pursuits of philosophers and mystics and been exemplified only in individual lives. But the Sixties was such a time of turmoil because the values of individual freedom, personal passion, feeling and experience, questioning authority, and thinking for oneself were shared by so many Baby-Boomers and were so contrary to the values of the generation in power.
It’s a (Not So) Wonderful Life
An excellent example of how opposed the Sixties values are to those of the WWII Generation is found in that beloved movie of all time, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring Jimmy Stewart. In that film, the main character is prevented by circumstances from following his dreams. One event after another keeps him from leaving his home town. His story might be called “The Truman Show” in reverse for he comes to accept the loss of his dreams. He is rewarded for giving up his yearning for adventure with the warmth of a loving family and friends.
Nonetheless, he has been reduced to someone who simply follows a script or role and when it appears that he might fail in that role he considers killing himself.
Reassures a Generation
The movie is beloved and timeless, no doubt, because it reassures an entire generation and all those who have had to give up their dreams for whatever reason that their sacrifices were for a higher good and that it is a wonderful life after all.
Will never know what might have been.
It provides a rationalization against the painful feelings of knowing that one will never know “what might have been” by pointing out the truth that one’s life affects others and has meaning regardless of whether or not one has been fortunate enough to actualize one’s deepest desires, talents, aspirations, and dreams.
War Compels Dashing of Dreams
As mentioned, “It’s a Wonderful Life” calls out to and epitomizes the experiences and attitudes of the World War Two Generation in particular. They were called upon to fight a war, after all, which no doubt would derail many a young man’s (and woman’s) dreams. As in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the circumstances that arise to prevent their following through on their dreams are imposed from the outside–the state of being at war and being called upon by a draft to enlist or else be enlisted. For the women, as well as the men who stayed behind, the war’s influence on their lives and the carrying out of idealistic schemes and dreams are only a little less pronounced. For, as in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the war created a society heaving with needs and pain, which only the truly heartless (who wouldn’t have any dreams anyway) could not help but feel compelled to respond to.
Growing up too fast
In one way or another, the situation in the Forties, with the war effort and afterwards, created a generation who, except for the rare individual or one of unusual circumstances, was called upon to step up into mature responsible tasks long before the idealism of their youth would have preferred that they do so. And their generation is scarred for having missed this opportunity. They are individuals deserving of our sympathy; yet crippled they are nonetheless.
We Are the Centaurs (My Friends)… The WWII Generation’s Sacrifice Made the Idealism of Their Children Possible
Mashing Butterflies and Drowning Kittens
This is not to say, however, that the generations before the WWII Generation were allowed their dreams and that the WWII Generation is unique in being crippled in its development. For we know that earlier child-rearing modes required the submission of children and youth to parental wishes (again, see “The History of Childhood As The History of Child Abuse” by Lloyd deMause). Therefore, dreaming or envisioning an adventurous life was not the norm. For much of the history of the world and in most cultures, indeed, even the selection of one’s spouse was decided by the parents. So much has our history–in both Eastern and Western cultures–been marked by the assassination of youthful dreaming, idealism, and choice that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet can be said to be a revolutionary work in even depicting that this assassination of dreams is a tragedy!
Roaring Into Life
Still, the WWII Generation can be said to have been especially affected by this slaying of self, for they did, after all experience the heady freedom of the “Roaring Twenties” and the dreaming that preceded the Great Depression. In the Twenties, victorious in World War I and with it now put behind, America was coming into its youthfulness and was heady with its achievements. Unbelievable accomplishments and inventions in all areas of life were speeding up sociocultural change causing some to believe that a new era was around the corner, just within reach, an era unlike anything the world had ever known. This was the atmosphere in the Twenties when the WWII Generation were in their childhood or adolescence. It couldn’t help making a very strong, because of its being early, imprint on their expectations.
However, these dreams would be dashed in the Great Depression, during which time they would be adolescents and young adults, and they would be harnessed into struggling like their parents had to earlier and were now again struggling.
Getting a New Deal…Light at the End of a Tunnel
Still, as time wore on the dreams of a new world would be reignited with the idealistic union movement and the Franklin Roosevelt changes in the social contract that rescripted the relation between the society and the individual, creating a symbiotic one which enhanced them both as champions of each other. Folks would magnify the power of the person when united with others. They would dream of a fairer world in which the rich did not dominate with their wealth because the poor could balance the scales with their strength in numbers, adding to their individual power by joining in unions and by combining their votes in elections. They could begin to envision the light at the end of the tunnel of the Great Depression in which they might realize the freedom and adventure they’d glimpsed around them as children in the Twenties.
War. Shot Down Again.
So it is understandable that they would not wish to enter World War II when it began. And Pearl Harbor Day, when their fate was inevitably forged, when it became clear that for the second time the light of individual freedom would be extinguished, would become an important marker in their lifetimes–a day almost as much to be memorialized as their birthdays.
We Are the Centaurs (My Friends)
Sitting on the Shoulders of One’s Ancestors
For this we can pity the World War Two Generation. As in John Updike’s The Centaur, the World War Two Generation is depicted as a generation that was required to give up its dreams and do its “duty,” above all. It was required to carry out a script given to them by their society, not allowing them to follow their natural youthful ideals. And as in Updike’s novel, they are beaten down in a life that is regimented and has no “color,” spark, life, idealism, or dreams. They have become the robot-like residents of “Pleasantville.” But Updike points out in his novel that their sacrifice, despite the personal tragedy of it on the individual scale, is both necessary and noble in that it makes possible the realization of dreams by the generation that they gave birth to.
Prince in Exile and Hundredth Monkey: Good Old Boys Are Always the Last to Learn in America’s “Pleasantville”
The Hundredth Monkey: Good Old Boys Are Always the Last to Learn in America’s “Pleasantville”
The Sixties Generation Arrived
It is significant that the protagonist of change in the movie “Pleasantville” would be a young male, Bud (David). This is in keeping with legends of old where a young prince comes bearing the new knowledge. But in postmodern style, wonderfully so, he is drawn only reluctantly into this role and we see that it is women who are the real instigators, the least threatened by change. At first, David/Bud opposes his sister and argues for the status quo, maintaining that his sister, who is actually the first one to “break the rules” and thereby to bring color to the town, must abide by the script.
The Prince in Exile
The Prince is Schooled in Tradition
The “young prince” knows the rules well. This fits with legend, where the new ways are brought by a prince who is not ignorant of tradition; in fact the prince is the one who has excelled in training in traditional ways. (See also, Common Themes from Myth and Mythology in Modern Fiction, Prince in Exile.)
In the movie, David is in fact a Pleasantville trivia whiz. He knows exactly the way things are supposed to unravel, the way events are supposed to go.
The Prince Is Reluctant to Break with Tradition
So when his sister first introduces color by introducing sex, he admonishes her. And when he also is tempted to a change in the “script,” he refuses at first. This is when Bud is offered homemade cookies by the young woman who would be his romantic partner. He refuses because he knows that, according to script, it is another young man who is supposed to get the cookies and end up with that particular girl. Despite his attraction for the young woman, his strong sense of maintaining the status quo, not rocking the boat, causes him to try to refuse the cookies. It takes a great deal of forcefulness on the young woman’s part to get him, reluctantly, to accept the cookies that he actually does want. So, again, it is a young, significantly “colorized,” woman who tempts him into a change in the script.
The Prince Brings Change, Without Realizing It, Just Being Himself
It is not that the young man does not have the makeup for accepting change. In fact, even before his sister blatantly brings about change, and therefore color, by rebelliously introducing sex, he has already sown the seeds of change, although unconsciously, when he suggests to his boss, Mr. Johnson, that he think for himself, instead of following a rigid script. This he does unconsciously and out of selfish motives in that he by nature is different from the character he is supposed to portray and so he does not play his role exactly as it is “supposed” to be played. Specifically, because he is not really the robot character he has replaced, he ends up being late for his job–which heretofore was a totally unheard of event.
The Hundredth Monkey
It is also significant that it is the young that are the first ones in the town to become “colored.” As in the hundredth monkey phenomenon, it is first the young, especially females, who are open to new experiences, ways, and ideas. Then it is adult females–in this movie exemplified by Betty Parker, the mother of Bud and Mary Sue—who are next to consider alternatives and new ways. Adult males are the last to turn to color, but among them it is the sensitive of heart, exemplified by the artist/soda-jerk character, Mr. Johnson, who “turn on” initially.
Good Old Boys, the Last to Learn
Last to become colorized—i.e., to be open to change and thinking for oneself—are the “authorities” of the town, in this instance, those on the Chamber of Commerce. And among these the most recalcitrant of all is their leader, Big Bob, played by J.T. Walsh, in his final film role before his passing away. Though Big Bob displays a pleasing and affable persona on the surface (for this read “good old boy”), there is an insidious Hitleresque quality to him which provides the suspense at the climax of the movie where he presides over the fate of the artist, Mr. Johnson, and the “young prince,” David/Bud.
A Conservative Backlash by The “Religious Wrong”‘ Attempts to Abort the Generational Changing of the Guard in America’s “Pleasantville”
“You Can’t Legislate Morals”
With the support of the Chamber of Commerce, we know Big Bob has the power to do whatever he will with the two on trial. And since the events preceding the trial has included mob actions which have included a book burning, the attack and destruction of the malt shop, and the cornering, physical intimidation, and physical attack of “coloreds” by gangs—images common to modern times which has seen these sorts of events in actuality occurring in the civil rights and anti–Vietnam-War movements, and currently in democracy and freedom uprisings in the Middle East, America, and throughout the world in the Occupy movement—the fate of the prisoners is imagined to include the ultimate penalty of death.
Indeed, this ominous possibility is promoted by the actions of the soda-jerk Artist who, at the trial, pitifully pleads for a compromise. This is pitiful since we know that his art is his life, that it is the one thing that has truly enriched his life and made it worth living.
Sitting at the Lunch Counter
We know of its importance in that, even after the attack on his malt shop, he defied the “rules” laid down by the town’s authorities which outlawed art and color by working with the Prince through the night to produce a colorful mural on the outside wall of his shop depicting the current events of the town and the feelings swirling about inside its residents.
This defiant act by the artist is reminiscent of antiwar demonstrators, who got fired upon at Kent State, of civil rights demonstrators, who police attacked with dogs, and of Tiananmen Square demonstrators, who were rolled over by tanks, shot, and killed, and most recently of all the courageous men and women of the Middle East risking their lives for freedom and of the Occupy heroes throughout the world putting their bodies in front of the most dire, widespread fascism ever to exist.
Since this character, recently so courageously defiant, is intimidated into pleading for a compromise in which he would be willing to use only certain colors or where he would submit for approval by the Chamber’s leader his ideas for painting beforehand—a compromise which his body language and facial expressions show, wonderfully acted by Jeff Daniels, is one near up against the very death of his soul—we know he fears for the loss of his physical life.
“Just Sign This Confession.”
The compromise is too much like the compromises we have witnessed being offered and come to expect being offered to some of the Tiananmen Square and other political prisoners of recent times wherein they are required to do something along the lines of admitting their guilt, apologizing to the State for the trouble they have caused it, and promising to never again to engage in such activities…and only in the most benevolent of circumstance being allowed to continue anything like their former activities but if so only under the supervision and with the approval of authorities with veto power over their proposed actions.
The Religious Wrong
So Big Bob and the Chamber of Commerce represent in the current social framework the Religious Right (sometimes referred to as the “religious wrong” and sometimes about which it is noted that the Religious Right is neither). Big Bob’s Chamber of Commerce represents Republicans, Tea Partiers, and those in general in our society who have succumbed to the rewards and threats of the World War Two Generation to live a regimented robot-like unfeeling passionless life; to become one of J. D. Salinger’s “phonies,” to abide by their misconstrued idea of “family values,” and above all to “behave” and not do anything to rock the boat of the status quo which might threaten the privileges of those currently enjoying power and wealth handed down, mostly, by heredity.
Civil Rights Movement
It is highly significant that in the courtroom scene the “colored” would be sitting in the balcony, above the black-and-white men. One might say this represents their status as being an elevated state, something to aspire to, and yet not on the level where matters are decided. But even more so, this scene is important in that it is a near exact replication of the courtroom scene in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” wherein the balcony of the courtroom is filled with Blacks, another kind of “colored.”
This makes it clear that when the movie is dealing with the conflict between the adult males of the town and the “colored” it is referring to the Civil Rights movement.
The American Tienanmen Square—Culture War
The events in China’s Tiananmen Square more than twenty years ago so affected and still affects some of us here in America because we know at some level that we have experienced it before. What happened in China two decades ago is so much like what happened here four decades ago, somewhat less graphically, around the Vietnam War demonstrations. Let me explain.
Standing Before Tanks, Flowers in Barrels
For one thing, the images of the demonstrations in China, e.g., the lone man standing in front of the tank, were so like those of Sixties demonstrations, e.g., Sixties youth blocking the paths of soldiers and placing flowers in their gun barrels.
Revenge of the Octogenarians
And the result of both was the same: In both cases the opposition, the youth movement, crushed— violently in China, subtly and behind the scenes in the US—at the command of an octogenarian generation, clinging desperately to power as much as to their waning physical frames.
The King Won’t Die
Assassinations—Character and Otherwise
We see the same pattern of violent versus subtle played out in the US as well where we no longer assassinate our president as we did with JFK, we character assassinate instead, as we did with Clinton and which the Tea Party and the wealthy right are trying to manufacture against Obama. One might say the WWII generation in America has gotten more finesse, with practice, in its beating back sociocultural change not to their liking and that the Chinese geriatric set didn’t have as much practice with it.
The King Refuses to Die
Nevertheless the results in both countries are the same. They involve the ultimate victory of sociocultural change in both instances being delayed until the dying off of an elderly generation in power—a generation refusing to die or hand over the controls at the proper time like the generations before them. Simply, the king won’t die!
Time is Running Out.
Time is running out for the octogenarians and ninety-somethings on either side of the Pacific.
The expected, supposedly inevitable defeat of the WWII Generation—their dying off—is portrayed in “Pleasantville” by Big Bob, head of the Chamber of Commerce, ending up fleeing the scene in the courtroom. (Strange coincidence, the actor actually died after making this film.) There are many ways his defeat could have been played out in the movie. I think it is highly significant that he runs away, never to be seen again, just as in the current context the dying off of the WWII Generation is a literal leaving of the scene, not an outright defeat, or some other means of change of power.
America’s Aborted Changing of the Guard and The King Propped Up Mechanically: Since “Pleasantville”
With these factors in mind, what have we experienced in the last two decades, as the Sixties Generation finally got its turn? As expected, it was at first quite different from what the WWII Generation had been serving up during its forty-plus years’ reign.
The Nineties were bookmarked between the economic wreckage left by Reagan-Bush and their voodoo economics throwing money at the rich leading to a huge recession and a financial scandal—S&L Scandal—that involved, for that time, an extraordinary price tag for the country. And the other end was the assignment by the Supreme Court of the election to George W. Bush over Al Gore—a battle of a Sixties Generation member against a WWII Generation paid-for concoction, the W.
A Culture War Raged
In between those two markers a war was waged, a culture war, whose battles—economics, abortion, sexuality, cultural expression, war/peace, child abuse, spouse abuse; and whose personalities—Clinton, Gingrich, Lewinsky, OJ Simpson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Brown, Ross Perot—were detailed and rehashed endlessly via the daily news mills.
At the end, the installment of the W represented a resurgence, in typical Culture War style, of the dominance of WWII-type oppression and manipulation of the masses.
The King Propped Up Mechanically
It was the abortion of the changing of the cultural guard that was naturally occurring. It was the King propped up mechanically, robot-like carrying out the dictums of those who once lived but were no more. It was an abomination of the natural order.
The Consequences of an Abomination
And its consequences during the first decade of the Twenty-First Century were exactly what would be expected from an abomination like that.
Monsters Don’t Really Die in Horror Flicks
The WWII Generation—like the endings of horror flicks, which leave always a hint or part of the monster living on somehow, thus setting up a possible sequel—left behind part of itself in the form of the Eighties Generation clones and the Fifties Generation. And these folks ain’t going away any time soon! They are here in the Tea Party; they are here in the wealthy right; they are here in the ownership and guiding principles of the mainstream media, now become principal propagandist of the American patriarchy (the “filthy rich”).
Millennium’s Second Decade—Same Old Culture War
Currently, in the second decade of the new millennium, the Culture War has erupted in Nineties fashions, pitting Obama now against the cultural regressives.
The Wisconsin-style anti-cutback, pro-union uprisings and the worldwide Occupy phenomenon have brought the lingering issues out into the open in a style not much different from the rebellious Sixties.
It is the same old culture war/class war, now brought to furious and fiery life, as a struggle suppressed by a decade of domination by untruths would be, as it emerges even angrier for having to wait.
The King’s Gotta Die Sometime! Prospects and Dangers in the Post-WWII-Generation World
However much we cannot know the future, and despite the seeds of WWII Generation values left incubating in the minds of Eighties and Fifties Generation members and emerging under tea-bag hats, we can hope that the vision of “Pleasantville” will eventually hold out.
People Fight Harder to Keep What They Have…For Good Things They’ve Experienced.
Just as in the movie when after everyone has experienced color there is no semblance of a wish to return to a black-and-white world, so also we might hope that as our society turns more and more away from war-making, selfishness, race- and sexism, ecological destruction, and all the other WWII Generation evils left behind, and turns more and more toward economic prosperity, peace-keeping, loving our children and having honest relationships, and the reclaiming of our natural environment and ecological balance, there will be fewer and fewer who wish to turn back the times to the unreal black-and-white world of the “Blue Meanies.”
Reason for Hope
We see evidence of this in both the election of Obama and the high popular ratings for him since in office. Earlier we observed it in the great support for Clinton even during the assassination attempt on his character.
People of Hope
The approval ratings of both of these Sixties-side-of-the-Culture-War Presidents certainly is not comprised only of Baby-Boomers. Sixties Generation values are infectious because they offer so much hope. African-Americans of all ages supported Clinton overwhelmingly; of course they support Obama. We can certainly see that our black population would not wish a return to the black-and-white world that included discrimination and violence against them.
Women of all ages, for the same reasons, would not be expected to wish a return to a less individualistic status, to a subservient state. And the young will always be idealistic if they are shown any ideals, which is what we can expect the Sixties Generation to be doing for them, as they continue taking their seats in the Wise Elders section of the parliament of sociocultural creation.
Last Ditch Battle
We have seen examples of this change all around us. In fact the current frenzied attack from the Right can be seen as a desperate last ditch battle in a war they will inevitably lose. That is the good news.
How Bad the Aftermath, The Devastation Left Behind
The bad news is that, similar to the way the Republicans cleaned out the Treasury and left huge deficits and several wars on the desk of the incoming Democratic administration in 2009, thus hobbling it before it began, we have no idea how great will be the destruction left behind from these culture waging, albeit waning, authoritarians in the current context.
Heavy with Gold
With their gains in stealing from all classes of society below them in their last dying clingings of a dying old guard, a king who simply won’t die, they are heavy with gold. They have the means to buy much more influence than their numbers.
Their Power Is Magnified
The multitudes are growing in size against them, but with their wealth and with the technology and science available now multiplying further their abilities, their capacity to control the minds of much of the population is magnified beyond anything previously and beyond anyone’s abilities to calculate or foresee.
So despite the trends toward a natural evolution like we have seen in the past, we might witness a strange aberration-—a zombie apocalypse created out of the thinking of a time long gone comprised of sick ghostly fantasies of a black-and-white golden age that never was. Such things have happened before; cultures have indeed stagnated for hundreds and even thousands of years. The Middle Age is one such example of stagnation beneath an oppressive deathly authority that would never renew.
Still, despite the scientific and technological monkey wrenches that might permanently upset a natural order of progression, it is more likely that things will work out as they have most of the time than that we will see an aberrant development. There is, after all, at least as much technology and science catalyzing progressive change as is not.
The Positive … Good News?
And the evidence for a natural development is there for all with eyes to see. With so much change needed, it is easy to forget how much has changed for the positive since the Sixties. Still, with no inclination to see it, no amount of listing of the evidence will bring them into view.
What might be helpful, though, is to note some other analogies from the movie “Pleasantville” which can provide insight as to what may be on the horizon or at least be considered food for speculation:
It Takes a Village; We Are a Global Village.
Whereas the black-and-white Pleasantville ends at the town’s borders and turns round again to the center of town, the post-color Pleasantville roads continue going, connecting Pleasantville with the rest of the world. Thus, with color and by inference imagination and thinking for oneself, Pleasantville has become part of a larger world, one in which Pleasantville citizens can participate and in which they can travel and take up residence. This represents the global village, the coming together of the interests of all nations–the emerging “global economy.”
We Have What Really Brings Down Tyrants – The Power of Individuals Is also Magnified by Technology.
But perhaps most of all this connection to a larger world represents those factors of modern telecommunications and travel that have made the world open to the eyes of all, which is the real reason the Iron Curtain fell, the real reason apartheid was overthrown, the real reason democratic revolution is coming to the Middle East and may yet be causative in bringing democracy to places like China and Iran, despite their oppressive propped-up elder-archies, their kings who will not die, their frozen non-renewing social processes.
The W’s Legacy Finally Overthrown by the WWW?
And the most potent analogy of all: the World Wide Web, bringing together all peoples of the world into a collective consciousness sharing ideas and together shaping a world, not just a neighborhood, with true democratization of information, uncontrollable by any wealthy elite of any country or any generation.
Finally, the image at the end of “Pleasantville” is the most apt for what we may next expect: The only thing we know for sure is that it will be different.
Coming Up: The Rise and Fall of “Obvious Truths”–How The Big Lie Continued; The Fifty-Year Invisible Family and Community That Surrounded All Americans and Affected Every Aspect of Their Lives Including, and Intentionally, the Basic Components of One’s Personality, and the Erosion of Reason, Soul, and Independent Thought or Action.
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The King Who Won’t Die and the Abortion of Cultural Rebirth … What the Current Cultural-Political Regression Has to Do With the Struggles of Generations
Culture War, Class War, Chapter Five: The King Won’t Die – An Aborted Changing of the Guard
Since the Nineties: America Getting Free and America in Chains
America Getting Free, Breaking Out
What do these events have in common? The popularity of Democrats since the Nineties, with Obama’s favorability ratings high despite US entanglement in several wars; the astounding progress in race relations exemplified by ever increasing numbers of African-Americans elected and appointed to the highest posts in US government since the Nineties, highlighted by the election of the first ever black President in the most lopsided victory in decades;
…the wild success of the Occupy Wall Street and Wisconsin union movements; massive demonstrations around the U.S., attended by hundreds of thousands at times, in favor of liberal Democratic causes and opposing Republicans and showing people carrying signs displaying the peace symbol; outpourings of peaceful pro-freedom and democracy protesters throughout the Middle East and North Africa; the reborn popularity of the “peace sign”–two fingers extended in a V-like shape, for those who don’t know—including saying “peace” while extending it as a greeting (most often these days, when leaving);
…renewed interest in the book, Catcher in the Rye; the nostalgia for Sixties and Seventies cultural accouterments as exemplified by the TV show, That 70s Show ; the resurgence of fashion items like bell-bottoms and, on women, clunky high-heel shoes; the movies “Pleasantville” and “The Truman Show”; the popularity in the Nineties of shows like Ally McBeal and The X Files;
…one-time Sixties activist Bill Clinton’s sixty-some percent approval rating throughout almost the entirety of the White House Sex Scandal alongside the pundits’ complete and total befuddlement as to the causes for it; the strong presidential run by a woman, also with roots solidly in Sixties activism, Hillary Clinton, in the 2008 Presidential race…significantly only beat out, and barely, by an African-American;
…the passage of medical use of marijuana laws in a number of states and poised for passage legalization of marijuana initiatives (I may be wrong, but I believe that the voters ruled that marijuana’s medical use would be allowed, or would continue, in every instance where this issue was on the ballot!); the return to ballad-style, Dylan-esque music embracing and expressing social, philosophical, and extremely intimate personal views and experiences….
We’ve also seen, in California, the passage of Proposition 10—the ballot measure that imposes a fifty-cents tax on cigarettes to fund programs for young children…which ballot measure, significantly enough, was begun by Sixties-Generation representative Rob Reiner—formerly Meathead from All in the Family! The passage of single payer health insurance in Vermont… I could go on.
America in Chains, Breaking Down
On the other side of this we have seen, in the last two decades, several “Republican revolutions” taking the opposite side on women’s issues, union and worker’s rights, environmental policy, health care and education, budget and economic issues benefiting the poor and middle class, and all other “liberal” causes;
…the rise of a media-supported Tea Party movement, heavily funded by wealthy and corporate interests, espousing wildly reactionary and regressive measures like eliminating Social Security and Medicare, gutting environmental policies to give corporations a free hand in despoiling the environment, anti-union measures, deep budget cuts in social programs, and the showing in this movement of demonstrators hoisting signs with racist images and slogans and gleefully applauding the acting out of a slave auction depicting an African-American president, Obama, and his supporters in Congress and his administration as bloodied slaves in chains;
…the popularity of a news network promoting, in blatant and mostly dishonest form, reactionary issues and figures; the resurgence in the careers of Pat Buchanan, right wing propagandist out of the Nixon administration turned talk show pundit, and Newt Gingrich, reactionary culture warrior during the early Nineties; extreme pro-gun positions and actions, including openly carrying weapons to political rallies and events and proposing the allowance of children to bring guns to schools; thuggish attacks on left-leaning activists and demonstrators; the murder of physicians on the pro-choice side of the abortion/ women’s rights issue; and attacks and threats against progressive politicians and legislators, including the nearly successful assassination attempt on Democratic Congresswoman, Gabriel Giffords…. I could go on.
Most folks would see nothing connecting these issues on either side. What I believe we are seeing is a resurgence of the underground “culture war” that has been going on in the US since the 1960s between the Sixties Generation—those whose adolescent and young adulthood, formative years were influenced by the events of the Sixties—and the World War Two Generation—those whose equivalent times of life were forged in the Forties, during and around the time of World War Two.
Generation Gap and Counterculture
The huge ravine separating the views of these two generations was most apparent when those of the Sixties Generation were in their youth, engaged in the process of discovering and exploring their values and therefore expressing them blatantly and with all the indiscretion, lack of subtlety, confrontation, and rebelliousness that characterizes the inexperienced. Thus, terms like generation gap and counterculture were bandied about, analyzed, and fervently discussed. The differences were “on the table,” in full view; and because the views and values of the youth were so “counter” or opposite to those of the WWII Generation, much debate and analysis was spawned in the media to try to explain–for the most part to the WWII Generation–how this could be so.
But these terms of generation gap and counterculture, which highlighted the great disparity of views, would fade mostly into disuse. This was because, later, the Sixties Generation would learn to keep their private views and values more hidden, for practical reasons having to do with making a living, advancing in their careers, being able to raise their children, and so on; but this did not mean their values had changed. They were biding their time, waiting—sometimes hopeless that it would ever arrive–for a reversing of the pendulum and a return in society to the ideals and visions of a better world that had so inspired them in their earlier years.
For the most part, these Sixties adherents did not know about the psychohistorical tendencies I will be describing here—as for example in the evolution of child-caring and the triumphant phase of generations. For most it was just an awareness that something so strong and so right could not simply have completely vanished from the Earth, that with time comes change, and therefore there had to be a time, again, when the mood of the country would swing in the direction they felt to be healthiest and more ideal. For some of these people their hopes were based on the simple rules of gambling: Eventually, at some time or other, with the passage of time, the dice just had to roll their number, if just out of pure chance or randomness.
Others had a slightly more reasoned view buttressing their hope for a return to idealism. These folks were those of the Sixties Generation who had applied themselves to implementing the values they learned in the Sixties in the jobs and careers they held, in whatever small or not-so-small way that they were allowed by their older generation superiors, bosses, managers, or supervisors. Never knowing that they had allies among their generation that were doing the same kind of thing in their separate fields, they followed through, the best they could, on simple conviction, born of experience, of the rightness of the more idealistic ways.
Lastly, there were those of the Sixties Generation who identified themselves completely with their youthful idealism. In putting themselves “out front” this way in their values and beliefs they found others who were doing the same. They would together become the “New Age” movement, actively engaged in bringing about the better world their generation had envisioned in the Sixties and early Seventies. They would wonder, as decades passed, why it took so long for the rest of society to catch on to what they felt was an inviting and appealing evolution—one both necessary and therefore inevitable as well.
But these last, the New Agers, would be marginalized and scapegoated by the mainstream of society—a mainstream whose outlines, of course, were determined and inscribed by the mainstream media, which was, in turn, controlled by the wealthy elite of the World War Two Generation (more about this to come). Examples included Jerry Brown labeled “Captain Moonbeam,” the family dynamics in the TV show Family Ties, the burnt-out hippie depiction of cabdriver, Jim, in the Taxi television series, and thousands of other instances where those holding New Age views were labeled “flakes.”
Another reason these terms depicting cultural division, viz., generation gap and counterculture, went into disuse was due to the mobilization of the World War Two Generation—after their initial phase of somnolent confusion over the events that were emerging in the Sixties which left them paralyzed and watching, growing in irritation and anger—into a comprehensive counterattack against the Sixties Generation, using all the Nixonian-like tactics in their arsenal…understandably, since Nixon was of that generation and his tactics were typical of the defensive style of his contemporaries.
Lassoing the Universities
In the early Seventies, the World War Two Generation used their power and wealth, being themselves in the Triumphant Phase of their lives, to put pressure on colleges and universities, nationwide, to discontinue the programs, courses, and the professors that they felt were responsible for the youth’s rebellion. Their targets for destruction included such noteworthy “dangers” as liberal arts programs in general, and especially “highly revolutionary” philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, and humanistic psychology courses. A transformation of colleges and universities into “career mills”—whose primary function was to prepare the young for practical and skill-oriented jobs and professions—was called for…or else! Or else these World War Two alumni would discontinue their contributions to these educational institutions. The “bottom line” being threatened in this way, no university administration, to my knowledge, withstood their demands for very long, if at all.
Cloning Themselves … WWII Generation Creating an 80s Generation of “Mini-me’s”
The youth produced by these institutions would hereafter be dissuaded from thinking for themselves and from “questioning authority”—as the previous generation had been encouraged to do—so part of the lapse in the terms of division between the generations—counterculture and generation gap—had to do with the fact that the wave of youth that followed the Sixties Generation would be molded, in their college years, into distant replicas of World War Two Generation members. They would be termed the “Me Generation,” since selfishness, greed, money-as-god, and upward mobility were characteristics of the WWII Generation that they were able to instill in their youthful clones.
Thus, we saw the rise of Young Republicans on campus in the late Seventies, the return of ROTC to campuses, and the seeding of fertile young minds with the values that would later be verbalized—in the movie “Wall Street”—in the mantram “Greed is good!” At the height of this phase, periodicals were declaring how similar the “youth of today”—meaning those of the late Seventies and Eighties—were to their parents, how close they were to their parents in the beliefs and values they held, and how the generation gap had inexplicably closed. Such was the success of the WWII Generation in cloning themselves in producing Eighties youth.
In sum, beginning in the early Seventies institutions of higher learning turned away from their idealistic goals of “bringing out” from the students their inner truths and wisdom (the original meaning of the term educate), which is the avowed role of liberal arts programs, and instead turned hard, to the right, onto a path of churning out engineers, MBAs, hard scientists (even in the field of psychology, where humanistic psychology was shunned), medical professionals, lawyers, and the like. My liberal arts, semi–ivy-league college—founded, by half, by Benjamin Franklin—turned from the idealistic studies that typified Franklin and those of his time and swung from being a bastion of energetic inquiry into all controversial realms—political and spiritual and societal—a virtual “Plato’s Academy” of inquiry, into being a career mill centered around a “pre-med” program.
Harnessing the Media
Similarly, these frightened and wealthy WWII “conspirators” (however unconscious their alliance) would use their leverage to ensure that books and the media—TV, radio, magazines, and newspapers—would expound their views predominantly, would present events through the particular psychological lenses and filters with which they were familiar, and would eschew viewpoints, and even coverage of events, that would in any way strengthen the stance of the, by this time, scapegoated Sixties Generation. The media declared, with much fanfare, in the early Seventies that a “conservative backlash” was occurring; and they published books documenting this event. Meanwhile they ignored the polls and the events—specifically the ongoing and growing antiwar and other counterculture “demonstrations”—that would show the lie to this idea, and they rejected and refused publication of the kind of books and articles, still being effusively churned out—that would support the counterculture movement. Controlling the media in this way and saying it long and loud enough, the “big lie” of the “conservative backlash” began to be accepted as truth. And even many in the counterculture and among the youth began to believe it.
Interestingly, those on the extreme right did not forget that the great divide in views was still with us. In the Nineties, Pat Buchanan and Newt Gingrich said a “culture war” was going on. More recently we see WWII and Fifties style Tea Partiers going up against huge rallies of Sixties style pro-union demonstrators and massive recall efforts.
So those on the right decry such massive outpourings against them, but they are correct that it is a “culture war.” Obviously they can see that the world has changed from the Fifties-style “Pleasantville” that they had imagined and wanted it to be.
The King Wouldn’t Die: World War Two Generation Clung to Power, Abomination and Stagnation Filled the Land
An Aborted Changing of the Guard
Culture War — The King Must Die
But the World War Two Generation could not maintain control forever. For one thing, people die. And being older than the Sixties Generation, eventually their numbers had to dwindle. Their numbers dwindling, they had to be replaced by those younger–some of whom were of the Sixties Generation and were now in what psychohistorians call the triumphant phase of life–that is, the time of life when a generation is in its “prime,” when it is most influential, when it takes over the reins of society, when it gets behind the wheel of the cultural bus.
From this perspective, we can view a remarkable film, “Pleasantville,” released in the late Nineties at the peak of the Sixties Generation’s triumphant phase, and see that it is a metaphorical review of history from the early Fifties up to that time–one which shows the Sixties Generation, in the end, finally realizing their vision of a more colorful, alive, open-to-new-experience and to change, growthful, changeful, passionate, unregimented, truthful, sensual, feeling and emotionful, and less determined, ritualized, and preordained existence. More about this later.
The Generational Changing of the Guard
First let me point out that this change in power, evident by this movie and the other recent cultural items I’ve mentioned, is a change as old as our species. Every generation, at some point, leaves or is removed from their seats of power when they are at or near the end of their arc of effectiveness and prowess by a younger generation that is coming into or—as in the unusual case of the Sixties Generation for the reasons unique to this time to be mentioned below—is fully in the prime of its life.
Myths, fairy tales, stories, historical tales, and legends the world over depict this change of power. The myth that is most transparent in its depiction of this change is the one in which a monarch, despot, or ogre controls and rules the land, keeping the people miserable with oppressive and selfish decrees and policies. A young prince emerges and, after a period of trial (in the case of the Sixties Generation, an unusually long period of trial) in which the prince proves himself worthy, he takes up the cause of the people and overthrows the old king and takes his place. Thus the saying “The king is dead. Long live the (new) king.”
The triumphant phase of the Sixties Generation had been delayed, however, longer than any other generation in history because of the advances in modern medical science, which has served to keep the World War Two Generation alive and kicking longer than any previous generation. The average life expectancy in the last sixty years (since the time when the World War Two Generation were in their youth or young adulthood) has increased remarkably. Hence the Sixties Generation has had to wait longer than the World War Two Generation to get a chance behind the wheel of society. It is strange and ironic that at a time when the speed of cultural change is greatest because of an ever increasing speed of technological change, at a time when the elder generation’s worldview becomes obsolete sooner and faster than ever before, at such a time when it would seem the younger generation’s view would attain relevancy and effectiveness faster and sooner than at any previous time, at such a time we have the reverse occurring, that is, the younger generation’s ascendancy is delayed and the older one’s stranglehold on power is extended.
But this rapid change and increasing rate of obsolescence may just have something to do with the WWII Generation’s desire to hang on and their vehement struggle against change. For, as mentioned before, there is a gap—greater than ever before—between the views of the younger and those of the older. This gap is wrought of the different technological worlds and the corresponding sociocultural worlds that each experienced. It is widened by different, more advanced on the one side, child-caring of children as well as by different drugs used and the contrasting world views they would elicit—as explained previously, in Chapter Three.
So the WWII Generation might be said to be more threatened than any previous one by the generation to succeed them, because the ascendancy of the next generation would appear to overturn and oftentimes reverse so much of what they believe, value, worked and sacrificed for.
Because of the unprecedented technological change and corresponding change in material culture, catalyzing in ways too numerous to mention a myriad of sociocultural and psychological changes in their successors, there is less overlap than ever before between the worldviews of the generation handing over power and the generation coming into power. It follows that it would seem to the generation in power, even as they approach the end of their mortality, that less of what they are and were will live on after them than has ever been the case in the history of generational succession.
This being so, this generational succession represents a previously unheard of personal invalidation and undermining of the self-esteem of those of the World War Two Generation and a corresponding unprecedented attack on the usual delusions of immortality (themselves living on in some fashion in their successors) that older generations are allowed in exchange for their relinquishing power.
Generational Changing of the Guard, Aborted
At any rate and whatever may be the reason, the fact remains that the World War Two Generation has used their longevity for all their worth to block the ascendancy of their successors. They used their longevity to amass wealth and power–wealth greater than any previous generation before and, because of their actions, likely to come.
For example, their actions have led to a situation, currently, wherein they were taken care of in their old age by a Social Security and Medicare system funded by the work of the Baby-Boomers, aka Sixties Generation, at the same time that predictions abound that that same Social Security and Medicare system will be depleted when it is the Baby-Boomers time to belly-up to the bar. One might also note the WWII Generation’s environmental and ecological decisions making it that no generation after them will enjoy anywhere near the benefits—health and quality of life among them—of clean environment, abundance of natural resources, and ecological balance that they enjoyed. Finally, their decisions regarding arms buildup and proliferation may deny life itself to the generations following them.