Friday, December 22, 2006

Low Times Get Lower Still

For almost two years -- while others manned the chum line with breezy and spectacularly myopic analysis epitomized by this cover story --I've been posting about the dangerous similarities between the wars in Iraq and Vietnam. There's one notable difference though, and it's domestic. A generation ago there was an explosion of energy and creativity in music, film, poetry, dance, philosophy, etc. Can anyone identify a similar creative surge today? Where's it happening? In the 60's, the antiwar movement and drugs were catalysts. Since there's no draft this time around and thus no grassroots fuel for an antiwar movement, maybe there's no catalyst yet. But we'll soon be four years into a war that's strikingly similar in many ways to Vietnam. Purely in terms of that timeline, we're at about 1966. Remember, it took until 1967 --five years into Vietnam -- before the antiwar movement really kicked into high gear, so maybe we're on the cusp of something. We'll see.

I've been mulling this over during the past few days as I've watched this circus dominate print and television news during a war. Watch the video and think about the language he uses. Remember, we have 140,000 troops on the ground in Iraq, and these two people are purported leaders in the business and entertainment worlds.

I've often thought that at some point around the turn of the millenium, culturally this country collapsed onto a sofa with the remote control and a big bowl of chips on its chest and never got up. We're determined to drag other (often ancient) cultures onto that sofa with us, it seems. How dare they not want to join us in our horizontal modernity!


Blogger Azael said...

Well, I think all the demonization of the dirty hippies since Vietnam has played a not insignificant role. The classification of the creativity in music, film, poetry, dance, etc. as commie liberal drivel designed to pollute our purity of essence.

Being a SF bay area man, transplanted from the Midwest, I'm particularly sensitive to this characterization. Having marched in the protests before the war happened and watching the reaction and characterization of my position, it's pretty clear to me that "couch potato" really doesn't quite capture the underlying structural issue for the lack of grass roots fuel.

The 60's are gone, quite washed away by the greed of the 80's and the rise of the neocon youth of the nascar 90's. We can cry into our beer, longing for the good old days of protest with feeling, but we only have ourselves to blame for the lack of passion.

People learn, and this is what we've been teaching them.

Don't like mutants? Stop growing them in toxic waste.

12/22/2006 12:00 PM  
Blogger Matt Stoller said...

The antiwar movement is mainstream this time, not countercultural. You can see in the explosion of blogs new media for expression and organizing, for instance. We didn't do much protesting, we elected different officials and have begun to create different civic institutions.

Also, the antiwar movement in the 1960s was also very mass media oriented, this one is not. It's happening over kitchen tables and on blogs, not on TV.

12/22/2006 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the will lose/have lost the war for minds coz of the net...but they are behaving like they dont care about public opinion anymore...musnt blame
just georgy and dicky for whacking up the constitution...the plans for that were in place before they were elected...

12/22/2006 1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The 60's hippies were 19 year old kids who understood as much about the world as 19 year old kids do today---nada.

It was fashion. It was peer pressure. Today's fashion runs more to irony and alt.whatever.

I think the main reason this war has not drawn the protests is that college kids who have the time and resources to not work and protest are not subject to the draft.

People are sick of the war and as your above commentor mentioned are using their vote - which will be effective as the Republican Party lost power and if people's antipathy for the war continues, they risk staying out of power for a long stretch.

It wasn't the protests that caused us to leave Vietnam - it was the loss of support of Joe and Joanna soccer mom. Protestors are - right or wrong - seen as moonbat loonies by the average person.

Prescott Wayne

12/22/2006 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

40 years ago, the moratorium marches. Today, Cindy Sheehan. What a difference in scale, huh?

12/22/2006 1:13 PM  
Blogger David Studhalter said...

I think the second half of the above piece answers the implicit question of the first half. There will be no anti-war energized cultural renaissance with this war, for the very reasons mentioned. US culture has degenerated to the most decadent level ever.

I say this without any sense that this situation is permanent, however. Cultural ennui comes and goes, just as economic ascendancy does.

12/22/2006 2:52 PM  
Anonymous Mr. Hedley Bowes said...

"I've often thought that at some point around the turn of the millenium, culturally this country collapsed onto a sofa with the remote control and a big bowl of chips on its chest and never got up."

I put this date on or around December 12, 2000 and the Bush v. Gore decision. One effect was a profound economic slump, you could've heard a pin drop around here for many months after. In my opinion, the Bush coup sent a lot of creative and intelligent people packing in favor of cronies from big oil, casinos, defense, etc. If you're in real estate, or financial markets, you've probably done pretty well. For others, it's been an uphill struggle everyday since.

12/22/2006 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

no, the kids are alright. they just don't buy it. you can't compare. If you do choose to compare be aware that the difference between boomers and their parents pale in comparison to boomers and their children. If that seems ridicules, stop, take a breath, and acknowledge that you can't see the forest through the trees.

12/22/2006 7:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, I think one of the main differences between now and then is that there is no significant outlet for dissident voices (other than the internet, which has not quite yet reached 'broadcast' levels of popularity); i.e. in the 60's there were a large # of independent media outlets, which have now been absorbed into large corporate entities that will not allow 'controversial' (read: threatening their interests) music or other forms of protest to be broadly heard. One only has to look at how the MSM systematically stifled reporting on the anti-war protests prior to the Iraq invasion to see what is going on.


12/22/2006 7:59 PM  
Anonymous KevinNYC said...

Back in the days of the vietnam war young musicians, artists and the like were in danger of being drafted. That is a huge difference. The indie rock band, The Decembrists, have a minor hit with 16 Military Wives. Imagine if they were singing about their friends who may have to sacrifice.

Also the republican war against the media was just started to get organized during the Nixon administration. It has since become institutionalized and victorious. It's one of the dominant things to address when considering todays political/cultural landscape.

Also consider that for at least the first year and half of the war, questiong the war could get you called a traitor. Look at the Dixie Chicks. How many Republicans can you name who spoke out against this war before the 2004 election? It was not that many. Think of how Bush's popularity dropped throughout 2005.

12/22/2006 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the net is very very powerful...much like the power of love and caring...would be fab to hear tribe and olsen arguing at impeachment proceedings...brill litigators...

12/22/2006 9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12/22/2006 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

CR: A lot of the "creative energy" you cite went largely into getting people's attention in an era when public space was still public. The public sphere has shifted into media-space, and the energy has gone into blogging, youtube, jibjab, etc.

Culturally speaking, besides, it'd be hard for an anti-war movement to do anything more outre or shocking than the crap performance artists have been commodifying and corporate media flogging for the last three decades.

12/23/2006 12:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But marching would mean I'd have to set my game console down.

Like thts gunna hapen!

12/23/2006 7:12 AM  
Blogger Corbie said...

A GenXer here --

I don't think any amount of protest would make a difference, particularly when the protesters aren't disciplined enough to get their message across without looking like extremists. Cindy Sheehan didn't do the cause any good by some of the things she did/said. She should have stuck with her core message. Ditto what's been said about media consolidation; that doesn't help.

But, protests or no, BushCo ignores anything that doesn't match its worldview -- look at how the impact of the most recent elections (where even Bush admitted they'd gotten an ass-whupping) has faded so quickly. After a token statement of bipartisanship, it was back to business as usual.

Protests won't make a difference. What will make a difference is increased scrutiny (voter fraud, etc.) and mobilization of angry voters to the polls in such overwhelming numbers that even Rove can't steal the elections. That's what we saw this past time -- and if BushCo keeps moving in the direction they're headed, it'll be even moreso next time around as voters get even angrier.

Now if only the Dems could field a candidate that could effectively fight back against Rovian slime jobs... It just made me want to scream when I saw the ineffective response of the Kerry campaign to the Swiftboaters. His campaign advisers needed to be fired. The Dems need to mount agressive defenses, and to go on the offense faster and harder.

12/23/2006 9:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

12/23/2006 10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not so sure there's any direct correlation between the two -- I'm thinking that the cultural bloom of the '60's was more influenced by the civil rights movement (which started pre-Diem) than Viet Nam. The social situation that the civil rights movement set up -- a massive challenge to the status quo -- was then reflected in other cultural aspects: kids choosing to challenge the status quo on a number of levels, not just racial. Viet Nam itself wasn't any more remarkable than any other armed conflict, except that it happened to underscore some of the points of social friction that the civil rights movement had already high-lit such as the war being mainly fought by the underclasses, and the overall view that the US was propping up a repressive regime.

These social undercurrents are completely missing here and now.

12/23/2006 8:33 PM  
Blogger Corbie said...

I think we're more likely to get a redux of the punk movement of the 70s/80s if things keep going the way they're going. Those years were a reaction to the recession hitting both England and the US at the time, right? Plus a feeling of increased division between the privileged and the rest of society. (I was still in grade school at the time, but that's my take, fwiw.)

12/25/2006 6:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laura Dern was on Tavis Smiley talking about her recent independent film and it's director. She said he was unique in this clone-economy. She was expressing sentiments of lack of creativity, lack of taking chances, and lack of individuality. Corporations, media consultants, advertisers, branding, middle-men, control the flow, and give us nice neat packages that they sell to us anyway they can.

Oprah had a young girl on her show from Sierra Leone. Her hand was chopped off by rebels. When her mother tried to rescue her young daughter, her mother's hand was chopped off. The mother carried her daughter for 3 days to get help. They got separated. The young daughter was sent to America for a new life. They reunited on the show.

On the same day, they had Lindsay Lohan on the show for her part in the movie Bobby. Oprah asked about her constant partying. What a contrast between the lives, attitudes and gratitude of these two girls. I don't think the plight of this young Sierra Leone girl even registered with Lohan. Lohan had booze on her brain. Is Lohan representative of our culture today?

Will Smith talks about the making of "Pursuit of Happyness", and why they looked for a foreign director. The reason given: Americans don't understand the American dream. The message is good in this movie, but really, is a life only worth living and valued in America if one make millions on Wall Street? You mean he couldn't have become a teacher, doctor, technician, and his life still celebrated? Guess not.

I'm reminded of the line from Jim Carrey, in the movie, "The Majestic", "I've never been a man of great conviction. I never saw the percentage in it. And quite frankly. I suppose, I lacked the courage. See, I'm not like Luke Trimble. He had the market cornered on those things. ..." For a whole host of reasons, the public doesn't see the percentages, and we lack true leadership in our representative Democracy. The baby boomers are retired or close to it, the last to see traditional pensions and 3 tiered retirement stability, don't have a problem. Kids out of schools and not in the service, they have good jobs, good benefits, house paid for, still healthy enough. What's to complain about. Lifes good.

12/26/2006 8:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are Limbaugh and Fox news unique to this situation? Has there ever been a time in the last century, where an organized attack, not necessarily based on facts, but rather politics, is so constant and coordinated. Perhaps it is our media, or quality of our media. Helen Thomas was saying that historically media was owned by wealthy families and they saw journalism as a service to our Democracy, almost philanthropic. They made their money elsewhere. Today, media is consolidated under few corporate umbrellas.

I was watching a program on the Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, and they placed a large part of the blame on inciting hostilities on the radio content, and poor education. It certainly seems when people differ here, and one of them starts yelling, that person is a ditto head or Fox cyborg.

12/26/2006 9:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...No proposed program for economic conversion to disarmament sufficiently takes into account the unique magnitude of the required adjustments it would entail.

Proposals to transform arms production into a beneficent scheme of public works are more the products of wishful thinking than of realistic understanding of the limits of our existing economic system.

Fiscal and monetary measures are inadequate as controls for the process of transition to an arms-free economy.

Insufficient attention has been paid to the political acceptability of the objectives of the proposed conversion models, as well as of the political means to be employed in effectuating a transition.

No serious consideration has been given, in any proposed conversion plan, to the fundamental nonmilitary function of war and armaments in modern society, nor has any explicit attempt been made to devise a viable substitute for it...[lewin?]

12/27/2006 3:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you mention music and some other things, but with regard to the VISUAL ARTS, you really have Andy WARHOL, Pop Art, Minimalism, and some other assorted movements that later provided seed for the 70's. Today, Andy Warhol stands atop aht epedestal of the huge cultural pop machine that celebrates vacuity, flahses of brilliance and impermanence, faux-glamor, narcissism, vanity, celebration of the individual over the group, and rejection of labor, substance, and history.

The Art of the 60's was not that good. If we are lucky, this decade is alying the groundwork for revising the history of that period and discovering or reviving others who were working creatveily during that period, but were pushed asude by the hype machine.

12/27/2006 9:49 AM  
Anonymous dignam said...

There are things brewing, and we are brewing them. Be a little patient. We got knocked sideways by powerful cultural and countercultural forces. We're trying to (w)ri(gh)te ourselves free. The Village isn't cheap any more -- we have to balance our efforts carefully between commercial and creative endeavors. We have to be smarter, savvier than the 60s Generation. They were naive, they allied themselves too easily with bad people.

We are on the cusp of something magnificent. It is already beginning. Just you wait. We'll do it.

12/27/2006 1:38 PM  

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