Revolution and Counter-revolution
The sixties are over...
That was a fashion statement, not an informed political sense, that proclaimed the death of movements generated during the "hippie" days by the early 1990's. True, bell bottoms were out. Oh, and back. And out again... Even Republicans might have long hair. Day-Glo was consigned to the label "retro," along with 1950's kitsch.
But the Revolution? Was popular culture and widespread protest able to actually accomplish any of its goals?
I think so. The main efforts of the Revolution were directed, I think, in favor of these issues:
- Peace. Not just to end the war in Viet Nam, but to promote peace worldwide. Reduction and elimination of the worlds nuclear arsenals.
- Civil rights. To promote the liberty and opportunities of all persons, regardless of whatever status of birth may have been invoked in the past to suppress them.
- Environmental concerns. So much evidence was accumulating that economic activity was destroying life that something had to be done.
- Working conditions. To ensure the right to organization (unions), and ensure safety in workplaces (form mechanical, chemical or biological injury).
- Good government. So many were seeing the lies perpetuated by the power structure, that a movement to enact "sunshine laws" and other provisions forcing the government to expose its activities and agendas developed.
- Health, education, and welfare. To use the sweeping powers of the federal government to create and improve a basic safety net in order to help the disadvantaged survive, and perhaps even compete in our economy.
These policies would be described in modern America as a bunch of left-wing, liberal socialist tendencies. I call them basic Humanism. Populism. Utilitarian, even. Practical. Their enactment benefits broad swaths of the population, in most case, overwhelming majorities of those who live here. The only disadvantage they bring to anyone is imposing the requirement not to harm others in the pursuit of wealth and happiness - in other words, they harm (economically) those whose pursuit of wealth is damaging other people, and those whose pursuit of happiness oppresses others opportunity to do so. I think this is called, broadly, Democracy.
What have the results of this supposedly failed Revolution been?
- Peace - no progress that I can see. The occasional bright spots (Carter bringing middle eastern hatreds to the negotiating table; Clinton somehow magically ending the constant news of bombings in London and Northern Ireland to a screeching halt, punctuated only by Northern Irelands rapid economic recovery) are exceptions to the rule of force as the option of choice for promoting our designs in foreign policy. There have been some half-measure treaties limiting certain aspects of nuclear weapons manufacture, research, and proliferation.
- Civil rights. Huge changes have been made in the legal status of women, and various minority groups.
- The environment. A movement dating back to the mists of time, recently via such writers as Thoreau, was reignited by such books as Silent Spring, and its reports of the environmental devastion being wreaked by human activity on the planet. Many clean air, water and soil laws have been passed, and a lot of them are even obeyed some of the time. A huge recycling movement has gone from being a radical, hippie idea to a mainstream "given." Developers of land must, in many places in the U.S., meet stringent requirements, including paying for environmental impact statements and mitigation of discovered harms that might result in their original plans. The air is cleaner. Water, however, no longer comes out of faucets, it comes in expensive little plastic bottles. Our third world labor fields are not affected by our progressive policies at home, either.
- Working conditions. While the labor movement stalled just as the activists came to aid it (perhaps the conflict of "hard hat" red-blooded working Americans with "long hair" hippies suspected of being enemies of the state had something to do with labor being left behind at this time), other changes have become evident. Occupational safety is now an industry in its own right. The various dangerous chemicals, agents and processes are now identified and reported clearly to those who come in contact with them in their working days.
- Good government. This is a battle that must be fought forever, as those in power, of any political stripe, will always seek to do what they want under cover of darkness and misinformation. Every law will generate a legal loophole industry and eventually be made irrelevant to those it governs. The press will always be under pressure to work with those in power rathe than report on their transgressions. Meaningless pecadilloes uncovered will be trumpeted as investigative journalism, while deep crimes against humanity will be ignored. Sisyphus will never be freed of his burden in this area.
- Health, education, and welfare.
But there has been a sinister force in American politics and thought.
A Counter-Revolution. It travels under the guise of "conservatism," but it is actually a reactionary movement to thwart the intrusion of the will of the people at large on the small number of people who benefit by the old, harmful ways.
Unfortunately, the counter-revolution has succeeded overwhelmingly in the creation of simple, easy mottos with which they are winning the rhetorical war for the minds of the people. They have largely succeeded in the making the people they harm think that their lives are being made better by this movement.
Here are a few highlights of the counter-revolution and its accomplishments:
- War is good. War generates wealth for many businesses. It is used to justify draconian government powers to limit human rights. It promotes so-called American business interests overseas. In order to promote peace, the counter-revolutionaries want to put nuclear weapons in space.
- Civil rights. These people are working on every frontier to curtail these. From political battles to post religious documents in public places, and attempts to place religious worship in public schools, to more subtle social efforts to undermine progress made in various areas - like wealthy, working women writing books about how women should stay at home and be mothers (unless they need government aid, in which case they must be forced to work!). Like constant erosion of civil liberties for the black population so recently freed from a ghastly enslavement via racist profiling in law enforcement and the judicial system, various quasi-legal forms of segregation, and attempts to prevent any form whatsoever of remuneration for the huge wealth produced by their ancestors and still enjoyed only by the former slaveowners descendants.
- The environment. Any obstacle to corporate profit is bulldozed under the mantra of "getting the government off the back of the people." The people, in this case, usually being the small group of white men who profit hugely by their control of corporations that gain unfettered access raw materials and unlimited opportunities to save money by creating, and not processing adequately, harmful toxic wastes.
- Working conditions. The Reagan revolution largely destroyed the labor movement in the United States.
- Good government. Having obtained power by learning to lie in a most seductive way - that is, claiming that reactionary policies are good for most people, these right wing radicals behave just as almost any group will upon achieving ruling status. They seek to consolidate and increase their power.
- Health, education, and welfare. Anything that stands in the way of "business" is portrayed as government intrusion into the life of the common man - and, strangely enough, the common man is buying into the idea. Business is worshipped as the "creator of jobs," when business actual goal is to make a profit - not that that is bad, but it does not translate to hiring lots of people at a good wage. That is one by-product of their activity that businesses always seek to mitigate. Tax cuts that destroy our ability as a people to improve our lot across the board are welcomed by people who had more to gain from government than they lost by paying for it. The welfare safety net has been destroyed, by creating a contradiction in terms for how women should spend their days. Public education suffers more and more as the middle class follows the upper classes into private schools. Anything even slightly resembling universal health care is automatically transmuted (along with your retirement planning) into a free market boondoggle.
The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer. Since the toys get cheaper, the middle class does not have any real bearing on where the "middle" is any more.
We are in the midst of a massive rearguard action against the revolution started hundred of years ago to make our governments answer to the governed. Sadly, those fighting us claim to be doing just that! How can they get away with such lies?
© Huw Powell
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