December 21, 2004

Aquarius Then and Now

Christopher Hitchens reviews a series of books on the 60s, hippies, Vietnam, and the commune movement for the New York Times. Lots of good stuff came out of that era, civil rights being only the most noted and obvious. (Also, Vaclav Havel - one of my absolute favorite people - considers himself a 60s person. That doesn't mean nothing.)

But not all was well, and much of the era's detritus is even worse. Just as I did yesterday, he's not afraid to use the word reactionary.

If you look back to the founding document of the 60's left, which was the Port Huron statement (also promulgated in Michigan), you will easily see that it was in essence a conservative manifesto. It spoke in vaguely Marxist terms of alienation, true, but it was reacting to bigness and anonymity and urbanization, and it betrayed a yearning for a lost agrarian simplicity. It forgot what Marx had said, about the dynamism of capitalism and ''the idiocy of rural life.'' Earlier 18th- and 19th-century American communards had often been fleeing or preparing for a coming Apocalypse, and their emulators in the 1960's and 1970's followed this trope as well, believing everything they read about the impending crash, or the exhaustion of the world's resources. The crazy lean-to of the Unabomber began to take dim shape at that period, even if many of the new pioneers were more affected by the work of the pacific Tolstoy or of C. Wright Mills (who used to recommend, if memory serves, that people should build their own cars as well as their own houses).

Is there a moral to point out here? Of course there is. Maybe more than one. The first is that, as Agnew deftly notes, more of her friends ought to have read about the Joad family before setting out. The second is that not all was wasted or futile. Everybody in society now has a better idea of our relationship with the natural order and our kinship with animals, and we are no longer so casual about what once seemed the endless bounty of our environment. In some ways, we have the ''love generation'' to thank for this. Meanwhile, though, the anti-globalization movement has started to reject modernity altogether, to set its sights on laboratories and on the idea of the division of labor, and to adopt symbols from Fallujah as the emblems of its resistance. Conservatism cannot and does not, despite itself, remain static. It mutates into something far more reactionary than anything from which the hippies were ever fleeing.

I don't know what anti-globalization has to do with Fallujah, but Gene over at Harry's Place noted the movement's connection to Hezbollah yesterday.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at December 21, 2004 12:00 AM

Comments

Falluja is a symbol of resistance against "America" -- capitalism, materialism, free trade, limited government, social monetary inequality, dynamism, progress, democracy, Christian morals, Hollywood immorality, imperfect hypocritical humans exporting morality, promiscuity, puritanist prudery, English w/o a British accent, ... you choose the subset.

Since America is the lone super-power, everything wrong in the world has been influenced by America ...

Hitch totally missed my own broken record issue: opposition to an unjust war in Indochina,

There was rightful opposition to the DRAFT; and opposition to fighting without wanting to win; and opposition to killing innocents in the process of fighting; or even killing the guilty (the famous picture of the Viet general executing a VC murderer).

But the justness/ unjustness of the war, or the peace (and Killing Fields) alternative, has still not been honestly debated; allowing most to pretend that the decision to fight was wrong, rather than the method (of fighting w/o winning).

The relevance to Iraq is that effective methods of overcoming a murderous insurgency have still not been developed -- so there is, as yet, no good standard backed by experience by which to criticize the actual tactics the US has been using.

Posted by: Tom Grey - Liberty Dad at December 21, 2004 02:45 AM

Michael, search Anti-globalization and Fallujah. What we are seeing is a convergence of the Romantics. Elements which in the past, urged caution in response to 9/11, the cheered the "insurgents", are now moving into tacit cooperation.
I give
--the contents, and tone of Osamma's last tape.
--This video from the "Media Platoon" of the Islamic Army in Iraq.
--Fundraising by Italian Leftists.

Seems to me, as we move along, the same trend that took us from "we support our troops," to, "we support our troops, when they shoot their officers" (zombietime.com) will become apparent in this convergence of the romantics.

Posted by: gimpy at December 21, 2004 05:50 AM

Man, Hitchzilla is all over the place in that one, and is using a very wide brush. He's attacking the back-to-nature hippies because they weren't Marxist enough? Whaaa? And who's adopting what from Fallujah now?

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at December 21, 2004 07:35 AM

MT:

Have you ever lived in Berkeley for a significant period of time? If not, on what do you base your provincialism on the subject? Occasional visits? TV replays of the occasional demonstration? As someone who actually has lived there in the past, one of the things I can tell you that I am most fond of the city is the fact that some things have remained the same, whether its the small businesses and shops along Telegraph and Durant to the fact that a non-student can walk through the campus and not feel like an outsider. I expected better from a world traveler like yourself.

Posted by: Steve Smith at December 21, 2004 08:05 AM

You know, I think that there are quite a few people who are trying, by any means possible, to demonize their political opponents. It seems that we no longer care to discuss the actual issues of politics, but instead opt for a hookline and a good photo.

Perhaps it's the Ridilin-riddled society and their inability to pay attention for more than 30 seconds and two mouse clicks, I don't know.

But I, for one, would much prefer to discuss politics, not slandar about politics.

Ratatosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 21, 2004 09:32 AM

Good music, good sex, good dope, an interest and some effort to reconnect with the land and earn . Not bad, I'd say. Certainly, vast multitudes from this generation have aged disgracefully, but how many of other generations haven't done the same? And while a greasy ponytail on a balding pate is admittedly quite ugly, is it really any worse than Donald Trump's hair-do, or hairplugs?

Mr. Liberty Dad -- there were a lot of smart people, both Democrats and Republicans, in charge of prosecuting the Vietnam War, -- smarter than you, me, Tommy Franks or Doug Feith, (AKA "the dumbest fucking guy on the planet"). McNamara, Westmoreland, Johnson, Nixon, Kissenger -- all tried in vain for years to find a way to win in Vietnam. The problem was not that the cause was unjust. It was that the cost of winning was way too high. And since it also proved to be an unnecessary battle in the Cold War (and the evidence needed to ascertain this fact was available to those same smart people years before they were willing to publically admit and act upon it), there was no willingness in America to pay this price. (Also, as I'm sure you know, the "Killing Fields" were ended, and the Khmer Rouge was overthrown, in 1979, with the invasion of Cambodia by...the Vietnamese Communists)

Posted by: Markus rose at December 21, 2004 11:11 AM

Markus,

Indeed, Vietnam is a perfect example of the road to hell being 'paved with good intentions'. There are many noble causes in this world, sometimes, however, we must realize that, at this time, those noble causes are not winnable. We must choose the right time, the right strategy and the right cause, for only with all three can we succeed.

Most Americans who stand against the War, do not stand against freedom for Iraqis. They stand against a war that they feel is at the wrong time and in the wrong place, not particularly against the goals of the war. Sure, there are some leftists who are anti-american, there are some leftists who are Pro-Anything that Hurts America, but, by and large, those are not the majority, those are not the norm and those are not even most of Berkeley.

I am proud to be Hippie. I am proud to think that we would be much better off fighting against the dogmatic thinking that leads to intolerance and terrorism. I am proud to have supported the toppling of the Taliban in an effort to bring the murderer of three thousand Americans to justice.

I am also proud to stand against reactionary politics like the USAPATRIOTACT, I am proud to stand against a war, if I disagree with it's prosecution, planning or timing. I am proud to stand against Islamic-nihilism, while standing for the right of the Iraqi people to choose an Islamic political system.

I am proud to stand against a politican who produces questionable evidence to garner support for war. Or one who uses rethoric and nationalism to push his agenda.

Yet, I am still proud to be an American. And while I do think that a number of Americans need to realize that we aren't always right and always the best and always innocent of wrongdoing, I don't want to see America fail... Hell, its the only country where humanity stands a chance of being truly free... if we can wrangle it back from the sepcial interests, corrupt politicans, big government and all its 'programs' and the insane Left and Right.

Persoanlly, I don't think its likely to happen... But I will continue to Hope that it does, and work to make that goal a reality.

Does that make me unamerican or reactionary?

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 21, 2004 12:32 PM

Most Americans who stand against the War, do not stand against freedom for Iraqis--Tosk

How wonderfully convenient.Heads you win;tails I lose.Now if we could just imagine how Iraqis could have been given a chance of freedom without the war,and more importantly,how Iraqis will now ever be able to secure that potential freedom should the war be lost,we would indeed have the best of all possible worlds.
So in Tosk world,it is possible to both insist that Iraq be free and to oppose the war?
So should we now leave Iraq ASAP,and if not,what MORAL or indeed PRACTICAL purpose is served by continuing opposition to the war?Not opposition to the tactics,but to the war itself.
I have no idea if you are un-american or reactionary,as those particular labels are rather elastic.But I could very willingly vote for WRONG.

Posted by: dougf at December 21, 2004 12:54 PM

Ratatosk -- well I of course won't question your patriotism or call you a reactionary. (I for one supported the war before it started, got back on the fence when it became clear how many Iraqis opposed our presence there and how empty the WMD threat was, but I am hoping for the best and suspending final judgement on the enterprise based on how elections and other things turn out in the next year or so.)

But you have to admit that you and others completely opposed to the war in Iraq do have a problem, a PR one at best, but perhaps a deeper one. That is, you have ceded all the idealism about the possibility for change in the middle east to the neocons and to the rest of the pro-war side. By opposing the war, you're being pragmatic and realistic, and urging a course of action that will not improve the situation from where it stood in late 2002, but rather prevent it from getting worse. This is an appeal to fear -- fear of chaos, fear of breeding hatred, etc.. The other side is appealing to fear, as well, of course, but with the collapse of their WMD threat, they are left now with a much more attractive appeal to hope, particularly the hope that things can get better over there (by building democracy, expanding women's rights, and so forth). Hope beats fear most every time.

Posted by: markus rose at December 21, 2004 01:00 PM

Markus,

I would rather hope than fear. But, I can hope all day and all night and the tooth fairy, Santa and the Easter Bunny just aren't gonna show up.

Hope is great if it's well-founded. If it's not based in reality, then it's not hope, it's delusion. Hope looks honestly at a situation and constantly reasses whats going on. Hope can afford to be honest, indeed it MUST be honest about the challenges and dangers. Hope is not gullibility. I hope that I will have enough money to pay my bills. But if I don't bother to look at how much money I make and how much my bills are... if I don't make a budget... Hope will put me in the poorhouse.

I think that there are reasons to be hopeful. I think that its possible that Iraq will pull itself out of dictatorship and fall sighing into the soft feathered cushions of Democracy. However, I do not think that it will be achieved until we have open, honest and frank discussions about the pros and cons, the dangers, challenges and the honest potential of failure. And I specifically do not mean some polemic blaming Berkely, blue states, Kerry, the Democrats or anyone who doesn't tow the nationalist line.

I really don't think it's as simple as Hope vs Fear... to me it seems more like this:

1. Enthusiastically Pro-War: Head-In-The-Sand delusional

2. Pro-War: Hopeful, possibly gullible

3. Cautiously Supportive of The War: Hopeful

4. Cautiously Against the War: Realistic, possibly Hopeful, possibly concerned about fears.

5. Anti-War: Fearful, possibly gullible

6. Enthusiastically Anti-War: Fear Mongerers

Some Americans seem to fall in the 3 and 4 catagories. Those in catagories 1 and 6 are nutjobs who call Bush Hitler and Kerry a Book Burner. I think any of us with reasonable thinking skills can discount them.

Those in category 2 or 5 are where, I think, the vast majority of hoi-polloi are. Most human beings prefer to be led by the loudest Alpha group. Category 2 seems to tag after the nutjobs in group 1, while those in group 5 exhibit the fears spouted by group 6.

What do you think?

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 21, 2004 01:22 PM

Ratatosk -- I think that's a reasonable schema of where folks fall. I'd put myself in catagory number 3.

Also, recognize that everything that has happened in Iraq and will happen needs to be judged relative as to how things would have been had we not invaded (admittedly this is impossible to ascertain with any precision). But among other things, non-intervention definately would have meant continued sanctions against Iraqi children, continued US troops in Saudi Arabia, and the reality of Uday and Qusay being groomed to take and hold power. And the US still would have been hated in the region.

Another thing you perhaps don't recognize: seeing as we are bogged down in Iraq, and also considering the liklihood that an elected Shiite-majority Iraqi government will seek closer relations with Iran, we are much less likely today to pick a fight with Iran, or engage in regime change fantasies there, than we would have been had we NOT invaded Iraq.

Posted by: Markus Rose at December 21, 2004 01:39 PM

Conservatism cannot and does not, despite itself, remain static.

This is exactly right. But there's a healthy and unhealthy side to conservatism, as there is to everything else in life.

In health, conservatism seeks to mitigate the effects of constant, unavoidable change. It seeks to spend more effort preserving the Good that Was and Is, and to spend less effort seeking the Good that May Yet Be.

Unhealthy conservatism, on the other hand, degenerates as Hitchens says, "into something far more reactionary than anything from which the hippies were ever fleeing".

Conservatives have been stereotyped as being universally the unhealthy kind, even though most of them actually aren't. This, plus an apparently fundamental disconnect on what, exactly, is the Good that is worth preserving, seems to be the core of the conflict between liberals and conservatives.

In better times, both factions might work together, negotiating a balance between preserving good and eradicating evil in society.

Posted by: Peter A. at December 21, 2004 01:40 PM

Markus,

Sure, there are good points to the Iraqi invasion. I'm not about to say that it would be good to have Saddam or any of the fruit of his loins alive, let alone in power.

My problem is that I don't consider any of that to be my business. It is not my business, nor the business of this country to go poke at hornet's nests around the world. My personal opinion is that if a People are under the heel of a Dictator, then they need to deal with it. I believe fully in personal responsibility. It's my responsibility to take care of my freedom and liberty, its Joe Random Iraqi's responsibility to take care of his.

Yugoslavia is doing a great job of taking responsibility. America did it, England did it, France eventually got it right, we can go on and on and on, showing examples of The People earning their freedom. If Saddam, Qusay and Uday are hated by the masses... then the masses need to get off their asses and take their country back. If they are unable to do that, then I think that they will be unable to appreciate and protect the fredoms and democratic reforms that are given to them.

If the Shiites and the Kurds had stood against Saddam right after the Gulf War (The Kurds did, but the Shiites didn't), Saddam would have been toppled 10 years ago. if GW the first had supported then Internal revolution, they could have earned their freedom before I had graduated from High School.

But, that didn't happen.

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 21, 2004 01:55 PM

If the Shiites and the Kurds had stood against Saddam right after the Gulf War (The Kurds did, but the Shiites didn't), Saddam would have been toppled 10 years ago.---Tosk

Before I uncharitably imply that you are suffering from a serious case of 'bad history',perhaps you might cite documentation for this interesting analysis.It has always been my belief that the 'internal'insurrection in Iraq after GW1,was Shiite directed,and that the Kurds simply were content to bunker down under protection of American air-power.Saddam would NOT have been toppled 10 years ago without direct and large scale US intervention as was clearlyproven by the CRUSHING of the Shiite revolt by Saddam's thugs and the subsequent death squads operating all over the Shiite south.As for Yugoslavia,what history are you reading?Yugoslavia no longer exists,and the BITTERLY hostile factions in that Baltic hell-hole are separated by NATO troops so they don't get back to killing each other off with much gusto.Milosovich has been made a martyr in Serbia due to the ridiculous trial in the Hague,and there have been precious few 'structural'improvements in the region over the last decade.The problems there are by no means 'solved'.They are just festering in the background.For now.
At least this is my understanding of the situation.Can anyone help out here?
Other than these minor quibbles,a fine presentation,Patrick.

Posted by: dougf at December 21, 2004 02:31 PM

dougf,

Err my error! I apparently confused the Kurds and Shiites in my post. Terribly sorry. If the Kurds and Shiites had stood together, then they would, I think have toppled Saddam (esp if Saddam had continually been harried by our forces).

As for Yugoslavia, I have no idea where my brain had wandered off to.. I meant to point to the Ukraine and the fasntastic example of the power of the populace.

Myu apologies for such a slipshod post.

Tosk

Posted by: Ratatosk at December 21, 2004 02:37 PM

My apologies for such a slipshod post--Tosk

Well, I will never agree with your political leanings,and the 'squirrel'bit sets my teeth on edge,but you 'GOT'S CLASS'.Does not mean that I intend to take prisoners,but I appreciate class.
And you don't have the monopoly on slipshod posts.I have my fair share of those suckers as well.Sometimes the brain just takes a mini vacation but is not considerate enough to simply STFU until reality is back on line.
By and large though,this site is lucky to have articulate posters such as you show up with some frequency.I have abandoned the hope that discourse leads to resolution,but I admire and enjoy well presented arguments,if the presenter of those arguments,is a committed 'reasoner'.
Until we cross swords again ----

Posted by: dougf at December 21, 2004 03:19 PM

Have you ever lived in Berkeley for a significant period of time? If not, on what do you base your provincialism on the subject? Occasional visits?

I haven't lived there, but I knew a lot of people who did, and who are afraid to leave.

Berkeley attitudes, from what I can tell, don't resemble the attitudes of Muncie Indiana. They resemble the attitudes of the fearful villagers in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village". They can't imagine living anywhere else because they worry about the reactionary, racist attitudes of non-Berkeley America. How can anyone feel safe in a place where people are not allowed to march naked in the street?

They've created reactionary right-wing American monsters that haven't existed for years (that may never have existed) to keep themselves, and their insular community 'safe'.

But they do have some wonderful Thai & Indian restaurants. Unfortunately, Edy's Restaurant, which had the best ice cream with hot fudge ever, closed a few years ago.

Posted by: mary at December 21, 2004 03:34 PM

Call me a radical but the cost for fighting and winning the war in Iraq today is nothing compared the to cost of having to fight tomorrow.

Saddam, financial supporter of radical Islamic terrorists organizations, brutal murdering ruler of his people, thief, and a con man with two evil spawns to pass on his ruthless legacy is gone yet, the pacifists "hippies" are mourning his defeat by viciously attacking the liberators.

I don't get it?

Posted by: syn at December 21, 2004 05:30 PM

Call me a radical but the cost for fighting and winning the war in Iraq today is nothing compared the to cost of having to fight tomorrow.

Radical isn't the word; deluded is.

Posted by: Kimmitt at December 21, 2004 07:52 PM

Others have noted the apparent convergence of interests between the radical Left and radical Islam.

This is not at all surprising. They both hate capitalism and globalization. They both hate America. They both hate individual liberty.
They both love tribalism ( what the Left calls "multiculturalism" is in fact tribalism ).

What I find interesting is that most feminists and gay-rights advocates are Leftists, yet we all know what most Islamists think of feminists and gay people. So the nature of this budding alliance between the Left and radical Islam is revealing. And what it reveals is that the Left needs radical Isalm more than radical Islam needs the Left. It also demonstrates the complete bankruptcy of the Left. The Left has no allies except mysogynist 9th century religious fanatics, and now finds itself in defacto alliance with radical Islam for only one reason : hatred of America. The Left reflexively supports anyone or anything that opposes American influence ( capitalism and globalization ).

The Left has lost the great philosophical struggle of our time, so all they have now is anger. Hence the retreat into absurd fantasies about Haliburton conspiracies, wars for oil, etc.

The Left cannot stand the fact that millions of newly middle class Chinese consumers actually WANT to shop at Wal-Mart. The LAST thing the Left wants to see is a free, capitalist, democratic Middle East. Michael Moore calls the Fallujah Fascists "Minutemen", and our brave soliders "occupiers".

It all fits.

The enemy of my enemy....

Posted by: freeguy at December 21, 2004 08:03 PM

I haven't lived there, but I knew a lot of people who did, and who are afraid to leave.

Berkeley attitudes, from what I can tell, don't resemble the attitudes of Muncie Indiana. They resemble the attitudes of the fearful villagers in M. Night Shyamalan's "The Village". They can't imagine living anywhere else because they worry about the reactionary, racist attitudes of non-Berkeley America. How can anyone feel safe in a place where people are not allowed to march naked in the street?

They've created reactionary right-wing American monsters that haven't existed for years (that may never have existed) to keep themselves, and their insular community 'safe'.

I guess that proves my point about Red State provincialism. I would expect more from MT, who has traveled the world and usually doesn't base his opinions on stereotypes he's picked up from "The Corner" or Ann Coulter.

Posted by: Steve Smith at December 22, 2004 03:57 PM

Steve,

I've been to Berkeley many times and spent all my adulthood in places that are a lot like it. (Esp. Eugene, Oregon.) I don't need The Corner to tell me what they're like.

Also, my post on Berkeley is a riff on what my friend Dr. Frank (a center-lefty who lives there) wrote on his blog.

Also, Mary (who you argue with above) isn't a red state provincial. She's a life-long lefty who lives in a blue state.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at December 22, 2004 06:42 PM

Posted by Steve Smith at December 21, 2004 08:05 AM

"Have you ever lived in Berkeley for a significant period of time?"

A little time, now I'm a couple towns over in Richmond.

"I can tell you that I am most fond of the city is the fact that some things have remained the same, whether its the small businesses and shops along Telegraph and Durant"

Thats Hitchen's point. The left wants a small town mentality.

"to the fact that a non-student can walk through the campus and not feel like an outsider."

Unless they're a Bush supporter. :)

Posted by: Thomas at December 28, 2004 11:30 AM
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