My Take on the Sixties

My take on the sixties:

I was born in 1957, 12 years after WWII The Big One ended. The Korean conflict came between the two events. As far as I can tell, I’m being labeled “Baby Boomer” only so that folks my age will fund the real boomers’ greedy retirement plans. Even as we speak, they are quietly moving their funds are from investments that have become UNSAFE due to their profit-taking. They don’t leave their money in the stock market as they get older. My group still does, and it will be disastrous. Stock Market “adjustments” are seen as inevitable, but when there is an adjustment it means that somebody is taking somebody else’s money. Who do you suppose it is? The poor? Not bloody likely. I used to think the stock market was a gamble. Now I realize that the game is fixed.

Many of these boomers were, as young adults, the hippies about which my friends speak so glowingly. The hippies headed for the hills when things got tough. Most of what you read about the culture of the ’60s was invented by students at Ivy League colleges who never knew the difficulties of living off handouts in the city. Free love was a farce – it wasn’t anything near free for the women – or girls – who got pregnant.

The Beatles brought a small vision of the world to public view, but they weren’t at the forefront. Not EVEN. They were Pop Icons at the tail end of the whole mess. The whole hippie thing had become a farce by the time the Beatles rolled out Sergeant Pepper’s.

So as a kid I heard many Great Ideas from my friends’ older, college-age siblings. Age of Aquarius, be-ins, freedom, evolution, revolution. But I watched the body counts in Viet Nam rise night after night on TV. I saw minorities fighting to be recognized not even as equals but as human beings. I saw the cops beating Blacks and college students and pretty much anyone they didn’t like the looks of to a pulp out in the streets. I lived in the aftermath of three assassinations. The Great Ideas vanished into thin air, leaving my generation with an intellectual wasteland.

The media doesn’t let that kind of information interfere with big business these days. There was even a ban on showing the rows of coffins from the Afghanistan and Iraq dead. I would watch that. Someone has to bear witness.

I suppose I should get more proactive. I’m too easy to silence, I’m mentally ill. I can be taken against my will into a hospital, drugged, zapped, whatever. Just say the word “anosognosia.” There are no political prisoners, no prisoners of conscience, only mental patients. My only recourse is to donate to the charities that are doing the real work. I don’t fool myself into thinking that throwing money at the problems will fix them. Money only generates more money – if the problems were solved, the charities would be out of business. I can only hope that they help a little bit.

Duck and cover, they told us as children. There was the constant threat of nuclear annihilation brought on by the hatred of my elders for folks just like us on the other side of the world. In the ’80s they told us to dig a hole in the backyard, lie down in it and cover yourself over if there’s a nuclear strike – dig your own goddam grave. “With enough shovels” was the slogan. This stupidity was successfully imitated in the aftermath of 9-11 Homeland Security told us to seal off a room with plastic and duct tape to protect ourselves from terrorists. I don’t think it will protect you, but it will definitely keep the smell down. Fear is a great strategy for controlling the populace.

I sat at work one night at 12 or 14 years old with a gun on the desk in front of me and the simple instructions: “If any <n -words> try to break in, shoot ’em.” Camden was burning just a few blocks away. It was happening in cities across the country, the black people were looking for a better life. The owner left me to mind the store. The only <n -word> who showed up was a business associate that I’d known since I was a baby. He sat with me until the boss got back then ripped him a new asshole for leaving me there alone.

“Backlash, Backlash,
Who do you think I am?
You raise my taxes, freeze my wages,
And send my son to Viet Nam.
You gimme
Second-class houses,
And second-class schools,
Do you think all colored people are just
Second-class fools?
Mr. Backlash,
I’m gonna leave you with the blues,
yes I am.”
— Langston Hughes, Nina Simone
“Backlash Blues”

Backlash Blues didn’t get much airplay when it would have mattered. Now it’s used in a Lexus commercial to sell luxury automobiles. Langston Hughes would have seen the irony of it. A better life, indeed. I’m not sure whether a commercial with a good-looking African-American man grooving on the blues is supposed to be targeted for African-Americans. It motivated me to run out and get some Nina Simone CDs. I don’t want an SUV, thankyouverymuch.

So when I was a kid the air was bad, the rivers were full of poisons, raw sewage, and rotting fish. The Potomac river, backdrop to so many National Monuments, was so polluted that if you fell in the cops would take you off to the hospital. Rivers caught fire, the bald eagle was in danger of extinction. Our food was full of pesticides. The drug companies gave pregnant women Diethylstilbestrol (DES) and Thalidomide. Every species was manifesting serious anomalies from teratogens in the environment. EVERY species. Much later, William S. Burroughs drew attention to the nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl with typical brutal honesty in an interview in 1986 in which he said, “Let me ask you one question, Doctor: You want your daughter born with two cunts?” He was referring to a condition known as “uterus didelphys.” Being born with two vaginas is also a side effect of maternal DES use.

The erstwhile hippies didn’t notice. If they did, they didn’t give a rat’s ass.

The Space Program, it turned out, wasn’t about our destiny among the stars. It was a non-war strategy for beating the Russians by outdoing them technologically. Reagan continued the strategy with space weapons programs in the ’80s. “Star Wars” was all about bankrupting “The Evil Empire” as he called the U.S.S.R..

Reagan also invented “trickle-down economics” which, as far as I can tell, involved giving all the money to the wealthy and the large corporations so that they can piss on the workers.

My generation lost hope long before Reagan came along. We smoked pot and listened to music. At the tail end of the boom, we were overcrowded everywhere we went and there were few jobs. On top of that, periodically there were gas crises with far-reaching economic effects, including stagflation. Stagflation is the situation I quoted above, where prices increase but salary doesn’t. More and more, we either lived at home until we were 30, in roachtraps in the city, or in group houses with four or more people. We were occasionally chased out of town with new zoning laws by the former hippies, but that’s another story for another day.

The American Dream has always been about taking care of the kids born right after WWII The Big One. It was used, along with religion, for keeping us quiet and obedient, at least until we figured out that it was all a big scam.

Suddenly the ’60s have become this Utopia. They are being totally rewritten. It’s very hip these days to pine for a Golden Age that never was, whether you pine for the ’60’s or for the post-war enthusiasm of our grandparents generation or for a mythical pre-industrial garden.

Maya, the world of illusion. Insanity is being able to see through the illusion. Insanity is rejecting the false values of your elders. So they tell us. It’s up to us to keep looking for the truth no matter how much they tell us to turn back to a glorious past that never was.

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