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May 21st, 2008

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12:53 pm - Politics, Joy, and further memories of the late 1960s
In thinking about the 1960s and early 70s, I'm reminded by a comment I made in this recent post. Once I had written it, I was struck by the truth of what I wrote, and so for people who may not have seen it, I'm posting it here in a slightly expanded form.

In the comments, kitten_goddess asked Huh. Politics can be joyful and help us reconnect with joy??? How can it do that? Heron61, I am asking this as a real question. Here is my response:

I was a child during the late 60s and early 70s, but I remember how politics could be about joy, hope, and optimism. People can write letters and march in the streets and by doing so stop a war (Vietnam), greatly reduce air pollution, or end legal segregation in the South (as MLK and his many allies and followers did). I grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC seeing people holding candlelight vigils outside of the White House and chaining themselves to the Pentagon. I remember marches, protests, and even a few riots, and I also remember the changes that occurred because of them.

From my own very limited experience with public activism (largely consisting of going to some marches, and working on half a dozen or so phone banks) everyone does what they can and want to. For some this is devoting 20+ hours a week, for others it's showing up for marches and writing a letter or two a week - it's about what you can and wish to do.

This is our government, that's what democracy means, and the late 60s and early 70s showed that the people can fill the government with terror and make significant changes. As Alan Moore wrote in V for Vendetta (written during the dark and evil days of Margaret Thatcher's rule of the UK) "it is not the people that should be afraid of the government, the government should be afraid of the people." This is not merely a line in a comic book or a meaningless aphorism, it is true, and I've seen it be true. For the last 25+ years, many of the tactics used by our government and the wealthy elites who are doing their best to control it has been a deliberate attempt to avoid a repeat of perceived threats like the mass protests of the 1960s & early 1970s. Records show that these protests and the widespread support by even more people quite literally terrified our government and in return the government made changes.

We further see the truth of that quote in the way that the fundys have twisted our government, while the libertarians and other conservatives counsel everyone else that having the people attempt to mandate institutional chances through collective action is both wrong, ineffective, and damaging.

All it takes for politics to be about joy, progress and change is for more progressives to try to make a difference. At this point, the joy is watching your ideas and hopes become reality.

(5 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2008 08:41 pm (UTC)
Like Trudeaumania in Canada in the 60s and 70s - a time when teenage girls were chasing the Canadian prime minister on capitol hill, and his wife was partying at CBGBs.
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2008 11:37 pm (UTC)
I've been chewing on this all day, wondering why it was that the people stopped being able to make a difference like this. What killed the social revolution? Then I recall a statistic I heard lately, something like 40% of criminals in jail are there due to marijuana. And I realize then that the War on Drugs was in fact a tool of political suppression. It was actually the War on hippies and activists that allowed for selective arrests, and I suspect played a major role in breaking the activist movements. I hadn't thought of it that way before, but it makes sense to me now that I do. And that's why its so difficult to decriminalize it today, fear of hippy terrorism.
[User Picture]
Date:May 21st, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC)
What killed the social revolution?

The War on Drugs was definitely part of it, as was the growing centralization of the mass media, which began depicting anything and everything progressive as fringe, while extreme right wing ideas were increasingly shown as mainstream. Also, mass media news that increasingly focused on fear (well before 9/11) helped splinter people into smaller and increasingly distrustful, paranoid, and isolated groups. The promotion of small government/right wing libertarian ideas as mainstream also helped destroy the belief that people can or should attempt to change the government or use the government to change society.

The late 1960s and early 1970s scared the hell out of the political leaders, especially the Republicans. Richard Nixon was terrified of the hippies, and he and his aids and associates (who included many familiar figures like Karl Rove) worked long and hard to prevent anything like that from happening again. The Reagan and Bush I administrations were filled with deliberate efforts to kill off any future social revolutions, as was the mass media consolidations that the legal changes made during these administrations allowed. It looks quite obvious to me that the social revolution was largely destroyed by the deliberate actions of a small group of truly evil people who formed and still form the core leadership of the Republican party.

[User Picture]
Date:May 22nd, 2008 12:03 am (UTC)
When I was in middle school I got into political punk because I was very idealistic about politics and social change and it was music about what was wrong with the world and how to fix it. Some of my students have that same desire to change the world - improve the world. And they have much better tools thanks to technology than I ever did (xeroxed 'zines and flyers).
Date:May 23rd, 2008 11:35 am (UTC)
That's very cool.

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