POLITICAL ACTIVISM - JANUARY 1996


Since the 1960's our social/political arena has been defined in terms of an ongoing struggle between the conservative and liberal factions within our society. In an age when right wing conservatives control the economic and religious institutions, and left wing liberals dominate the media and universities, American life has become a battlefield of opposing ideologies in which personal liberation and free thinking have been buried beneath the dogmatisms of both sides of the struggle.

It is this personal liberation and independent thinking, which has been thrown by the wayside in the current battle between left and right, which I hold as the highest goal and the end in itself.

The political question is actually a spiritual issue. As Americans, we are taught that there is a separation between church and state. In reality the two define each other and can never be separated. When considering political issues one always finds that they ultimately rest on values and morality.

Before considering a political issue we must first ask: towards what goal are our politics aiming? For me, the political objective is those spiritual goals of independent thought, personal liberation, and self knowledge. But the dynamic runs both ways because I have enough faith in humanity to believe that if individuals think for themselves instead of allowing their beliefs to be ruled by the dogmas of the left, right, or any other source, that in a democratic situation they will find the best answers to political questions.

Our current political landscape can really be traced back to the failed revolution of the 1960's. What is forgotten by many who look back fondly at the 1960's is that the social unrest of that period originated with a group of intellectuals who theorized a new social model where spiritual values were held above materialism. The true radical base of these intellectuals was that they dared to question the very foundations of our industrial economic system: the consumer economy, the Protestant work ethic, and third world imperialism.

From the ideas of this group, a small counterculture emerged. While attempting to create dissent and bring about social change, this counterculture was soon buried in the tide of historical circumstances. First the battle for racial integration captured the nation's attention and became lumped by the media under the generic title of 'revolutionary forces.' It was a case of a specific issue overshadowing the overall ideological platform.

Even more dramatic, the Vietnam war was an issue that directly affected young Americans, making it easier for the original dissidents to add recruits to their legions, but likewise obscuring the original goal of social change on a fundamental level.


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Jimmy knows that as an American, if he works hard he can have a bright future and over 300 channels of cable TV!!!

The biggest factor in this process of inflating the membership of the counterculture while simultaneously obscuring it's original aim, was simply the allure of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Protest became the hip trend and rebellion was the latest fashion. Not unlike the hula- hoop a decade earlier.

As herds of kids tripped out and turned on, they repeated catch phrases and paid lip service to ideals without any understanding of their deeper implications. 'Free love' was quickly transformed into 'easy sex.' 'Down with Nixon' became 'Let's replace him with a Democrat.' The counterculture ranks soon swelled with drugged out middle class kids looking for high times, and the alternative social model was soon completely forgotten except by a few die hards, most of whom had to go into hiding to escape the FBI.

When the fervor of the sixties was over, we were left with a corroded traditional ideal, but nothing new to replace it with. The old American ideal of the nuclear family in a house with a white picket fence and a lifestyle based on good Christian values has been hopelessly degraded. While we might applaud that we were given new freedoms from the old moral codes, at the same time there has been created a great void of meaning.

In the universities they promote a new adjusted version of the old social/economic system. In most cases, the 'adjustments' to the old system have been quickly exploited by the economic superstructure as is the case with women's liberation.

The spirit of the American counterculture that once questioned the very foundations of our social/economic system and the mechanized lifestyle that goes with it is long dead. These days the liberal counterculture is more concerned with whether they can sport tattoos and multiple body piercings and still land a job at a major corporation.

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Everyone now supports the economic system and the accompanying materialistic values. Rather than a new enlightened moral standard we have a decadent version of the old Judeo/Christian morality. In the media and in advertising there is much talk about individual creativity and independence, but look just below the surface and we find that with young and old alike, Americans are more conformist than ever.

Cultural anthropologist Joseph Campell once noted that in humankind's earliest cities the religious buildings were the tallest structures to be seen. In later times the government buildings were the tallest structures in every city. Over recent decades, in every American city the tallest buildings are now those of the financial institutions. This fact is an accurate symbol of what we hold of highest value. Money is our God. Regardless of how much we pretend otherwise, money rules our lives and dictates our actions.

Most Americans spend more time at their jobs than on any other activity in their life. Many Americans work 40 to 60 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for their entire lives. And when old age withers our bodies and life is nearly over, we look back and wonder what it all amounts to when death sums up the final tally. Since the beginning of the industrial age, this is what life is.

Myself, when I walk the streets of New York City I feel like I am a voyeur in the land of the insane. Their values are not mine. Their way of life is an obscenity to my eyes. Amid great shining skyscrapers we walk upon streets that are filthy and filled with noise. Next to the symbols of mankind's greatest achievements people eat out of garbage cans. The quality of day to day life is valued as worthless.

It is clear that as humans we have accepted decadence. If we are to be judged by our actions, then nihilism is the gospel of our era. And I would find the nihilism more bearable if it weren't for the hypocrisy with which we delude ourselves into a clear conscious. We pat ourselves on the back for being the highest and most civilized life-form yet children starve while we in America waste beyond belief. The word 'humanity' is itself the greatest of all hypocrisies.

When I stop and reflect on what I really feel, the truth is I do still question those fundamental values which make up our social systems. I question everything. I've spent my life working for poverty wages at jobs that only serve to steal away life's meaning, while providing me with little hope for a better future. In my heart I feel this can not be what life is about. This means nothing to me. There must be something more.

I turn on any television news show and the pundits continue to argue those tired stances of the left and right. Our wise intellectuals are too blind to see that social progress can never occur until we transcend the dynamic of the old conservative/ liberal confrontation. The very terms 'conservative' and 'liberal' have become meaningless. They are two sides of the same coin.

The conservatives stay locked in their Victorian straightjacket, and the liberals have thrown out the baby with the bath water. All are too out of touch to be lucid. And none are visionaries who can help us define our future.





























POLITICAL ACTIVISM - AN ARTICLE by caeser pink on counter culture political activism



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