Monday links: Talking about a revolution or business as usual?

Back in the 1990s, while I lived in post-war Croatia, I was on the edges of a proto-environmental, social justice movement that first blossomed in the anti-globalization protests in 2000 and now with Occupy Wall Street.  I am far from that life now (well, not if you consider pushing paternity leave a radical politics), but am fascinated by the change in tone in the mainstream press since OWS.  What seemed unthinkable in the 1990s and especially during the credit boom, which I covered as a newspaper reporter outside NYC, is not commonplace – open talk of socialism and the radical failure of market captialism.

Really?  Sometimes it becomes so clear what a bubble we inhabit in Sweden – a bubble of the good kind.

Capitalism versus the climate: Naomi Klein goes to a conservative conference and confirms all their fears.  Yes, to save the world we will need to drastically reject everything they stand for.  We will need to restructure the way the world works.  And the climate must go before all else.  Our survival depends on it.

Is This the End of Market Democracy?: This is notable because it appears in the New York Times, though on the campaign blog, which suggests to me that it got smuggled in somehow.  A Columbia journalism professor examines all the very respectable and mainstream economic figures who argue we need a major change, that the current system is more or less doomed.  Jeffrey Sachs invokes the success of “northern Europe” and its social democracy as a model. It ends like this:  “At an undetermined point in the not too distant future, however, as the “gale of creative destruction” blows through the heartland, the debate will become inescapable.”

What Future for Occupy Wall Street?: A look in the New York Review of Books at where OWS has come and where it is going.  Bascially, the story is not uplifting.  Police intimidation is working.  The lack of concrete demands and the insistence on radical consensus makes the movement hard to build.  But you have to admire that the core group is about more than moderately changing the status quo, it is about a moral call for a new kind of society.  And with a huge chunk of Americans under 30 in favor of “socialism,” who knows where it will go?

Bill Clinton:  Someone We Can All Agree On:  And for the counterpoint, we have Bill Clinton, the ultimate believer in working the system to make it all work.  This is the standard view – and one that is very compelling.:  we have to focus on what is achievable, we have to look at what Obama actually got done, we have to find people real, concrete jobs, not worry about all this hippie stuff on the edges, that you have to be realistic about the American culture, that the country is center-right, and so on.  I get it, I really do, Bill.  But is that reality or just the 1990s calling?


why can’t baby boomers shut up about woodstock?

Here is my latest, long-delayed Huffington Post blog entry …

Enough with Woodstock. Please. Put me out of this baby boomer misery.

I have lived with this generation’s self-absorbed false sense of grandeur long enough. I can not take one more day of Woodstock nostalgia, of both crass commercialism and well-crafted gooey reminiscences. I can not stand another thirty years of pats on the back, of admiration for a short lived burst of rebellion forty years ago (by a small fraction of the population) followed by a systematic destruction of most things good in America.

Hey, boomers. Let’s put the sixties aside and examine your report card. So, um, thanks for Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Thanks for Yuppies and the culture wars and this silly division into red and blue America. Thanks for your generation’s two signature presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Could you have produced two more ethically challenged leaders? Thanks for Iraq, both times. Thanks for all the burst bubbles and the lack of infrastructure. Thanks for the exurbs and the McMansions and all those horrifying Cadillac commercials that ruined Led Zeppelin for me.

The failures of the baby boomers are no secret, of course. Back in June, the Wall Street Journal did a story on all the boomer college commencement speakers who castigated their own generation for all sorts of sins.

Yes, the music was great. Of course it was. I love the music, just about all of it. And Woodstock is a tough target, three days of groovy peace, love and jamming. I get it. I lived an hour from Bethel, NY, where Woodstock took place, for five years. I heard all the stories. But I also was awash in boomer nostalgia, covering both boomer politicians and boomer urban refugees fleeing to the exurbs to drive their kids between subdivisions.

So, you know, I snapped. At least generationally. Then I got called out in this column by a former boomer colleague for my GenX churlishness on the 60s (though you notice he sticks to music and divisive mockery, never addressing anything of substance … typical boomer).

But unless you were backing up Janis Joplin in a secret jam session, or at least at, you know, actually at Woodstock, please, shut up.

One of the only good things that may come out of our current Great Recession is this: baby boomers will not be able to turn themselves into the Greatest Generation Part II.

Because you know they would if they could. After all, the Greatest Generation accomplished most of its heroics early on (afterwards, it gave us the military-industrial complex and raised the baby boomers).

So why not keep commercializing the 1960s and make everyone feel good about themselves out at the boomer retirement community? Boomers would be happy to take on that challenge.

That is impossible now, I hope. And that is good. For once in a coddled life, maybe this generation will have to stand accountable and stop coasting on all that incredibly good music.

And, in all seriousness, putting the 60s behind us is a good thing. Yes, the movements that came to a head in that era — civil rights, gay rights, women’s lib — have now disseminated into the larger culture.

That is a victory. But those movements are not really of the 60s. They each were a culmination of decades, if not centuries, of activism and sacrifice.

And, as Andrew Sullivan pointed out in The Atlantic in 2007, the nation has been for decades largely defined on how it reacts to the 60s.

That is not a victory.

So let’s put the Janis and Jimi next to Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman in the “Really Cool Old Music” file. Let’s put a moratorium on new books and documentaries about Woodstock. Let’s help the boomers look beyond their own interests.

Let’s move on.