Thursday, January 1, 2009

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish- The 60's and the generation of "HOPE & CHANGE"

The year that just passed, 2008 saw the election of Barack Obama for President of the United States, something momentous; an achievement, and the breaking of another barrier, but in comparison to what?

The campaign that lasted more than a year saw a lot of excitement, personalities, picture ops and usual rhetoric. Perhaps even more. This nation elected a leader that has been criticized for having little qualifying experience for the presidency, but spoke eloquently of "change" and "hope". For being relatively young, I was greatly bothered by the easy sale this was to an entire nation. However, my cynicism is now leveled a little by perspective and understanding, which has concluded with acceptance, and realistic expectation. 

The perspective came from the sparks that were triggered by analysis that's come from reading much from political analysts,  and most recently reading Tom Brokaw's book, BOOM Voices of the Sixties, Personal Reflection on the 60's and Today. 

The book itself is an overview of social movements, political events, cultural changes, and the players involved. He manages to vaguely and often not so obscurely compare and contrast some situations taking place in the 60's as well as today, such as unpopular wars. 

What I learned  from this book has helped me understand a little about where we are, how we got here (to the generation of "Change we can believe in") and where we still have to go. We are on a continuum, a spectrum if you will of history. We are not the end, our generation is only one of many more to come. What our contributions will be, will only be appreciated in retrospect, but while we're at it, we have got to do our best. 

The big picture lessons: Where we have fallen short through history is in our failure to communicate. We have establishing extremes and divisiveness, everything we do has to be in excess. The 50's were an excess of rules, the 60's were an excess of revolutions, and today we live in an atmosphere of disgusting apathy, or politicians who live in the partisan politics that lead to a stagnation in a continuum of national progress.We have a world of cynics, and their romantic counterparts, where we would best be served by pragmatists.  We have in the past had visionary leaders, and we cannot exist without a vision. 

The individual lessons:

  • Why does it matter that we "bother" to understand or even spend the time of day on previous generations? 
The simple answer is because " Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it".- George Santayana
The more complicated answer is because every generation brought with it and developed great habits, rules, revolutions, as well as mistakes that we need to know in order to adapt, and evolve to make the continuation of progress smooth and most productive. There is no sense in us fighting the same ideological fights, or parallel wars, when we have found better solutions, or rather tactics and solutions that don't work. We cannot move forward until we can better grasp where we have been, failed, quit, and succeeded. I have a water mug, it's good to have as a daily constant companion, and the quote on it reads, "Take pride in how far you have come, and have faith in how far you can go". -Christian Larson

  • No Wonder...we're only this far along.
It's no wonder we're only as far along as we are. I say that with not a whole lot of pride, but not shame. 

For example: eventually and in the midst of supporting Hillary Clinton, I came across many conversations that I felt were in different terms than what I wish to have had. Definitions of feminism that seemed archaic, and out of touch with whatever should or ought to have been part of the dialogue regarding women today(sorry about the vagueness).  The point is, after having read the interviews that Brokaw did with various contributors to the women's movement, (directly and willingly or inadvertently) they all had different strategies, goals and visions. Some might be more in line with what I perceive are necessary, while some be more in line with the ideals my 84 year old grandmother still espouses. If we cannot agree on what ought to be the parameters and goals of the continuation of a woman's movement (as I assume one is still necessary), then we still have pending dialogues. It's no wonder we cannot have equal rights if only 40 years ago women were beginning to question if they should get paid the same for the same work...

It's no wonder there are only 4 women with top posts in the Presidential Administration of Change, because we have not yet been able to adjust the mind frame in which we as a society ought to reach for. 

It's no wonder that in California we couldn't defeat prop 8 when the dialogue about homosexuality is often so trite and discussed with such contempt and insensitivity as it was during the days of Harvey Milk. (1970's)

  • The depth and history of those that shaped our nation and their multidimensional worlds.
One of the most exciting and interesting parts of reading this book, and the reason why biographies and memoirs are so enlightening is because they give us a sense of who these people are and how they became that way. We are only a sum of all of our parts. We are made up of experiences that are contributed to by our family, friends, enemies, lovers, teachers, co-workers religion (or lack there of), and it all helps to form the perspectives that have. The ideas we come to believe to be true which then become the beliefs that we take stronghold of. In his brief biographical anecdotes of so many figures, I was able to understand if not agree with some of the most polarizing American figures and learn how it is that they became of such opinions. 

Conversely, we often hold on to ideas, which might be worth examining, how they came to be. 

An observation about each and every figure that was mentioned in this book shared the traits of fire, tenacity and undefeated spirit. Every individual was committed and rose to the leadership they did be it in a war, a social movement, a business, or single political cause, but none was fast to quit, and nobody had it easy. 
  • How is it possible that Brokaw described often witnessing things first-hand  or others often experiencing things first-hand that were historical?

I suppose it is so because at the time they didn't know that moment would be one that would be important in history. Sometimes we are involved in events or moment that we know will be forever in history and we were just in the right place and in the right time (or wrong time). Often we will not be significant players, these events will just occur within our time, such as the attacks of 9/11, election of Barack Obama. What matters will be our ability to recognize them, analyze them and react to them appropriately. (What that means, of course cannot be defined with a simple equation). 

  • Inspiration and motivation to repeat rhetoric or to act and react?
John F. Kennedy & Martin Luther King Jr. The 1960's had two outstanding and transcendent figures that promoted and instigated courage, action, belief in one's ability to make a difference, and then the young (idealists) acted accordingly. They had large protests to the Vietnam War. Others devoted themselves, their time and energy to the commitment and fulfillment of certain values and ideals of social change. In 2008, history will note that America was inspired to believe in Change, and to have Hope. What that means is still to be seen. (2005 gave us a song by John Mayer by the name of Waiting on the world to change) My biggest fear, and largest incredulity in this "new day" is in us.  There are no protests, no deeper discussions, and very little concern with the substantive stuff of the day. We have every reason to be the most active, the most powerful and the one that will utilize all of the momentum of previous generation to make the most amount of progress in all that we commit to. It was said in the woman's movement, that the "Personal is Political".However, I don't know what is the issue, or if there is one that will motivate our generation to activate. 

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish
- Whole Earth Catalog