Thursday, February 28, 2008

Steal this Revolution

Most people my age who were politically active in the sixties and seventies don't talk about it much with those who weren't-- or who weren't even born. The Establishment-- remember that word?-- has been very successful in trivializing and stereotyping the counterculture, while never failing to make a buck wherever possible. To speak openly about the sixties tends to evoke laughter and eye-rolling, especially among our children. Everybody who wasn't there thinks they know what it was all about. Keep talking and you'll find out we're responsible for the increasing disrespect of children for their parents, the rise in crime and single parenthood, and, of course, AIDS.

I often think about the disconnect between my own experience and the "common perception, " especially when I compare organizing against the Vietnam war with organizing against the war in Iraq.

(Now, I know the first thing that is jumping to many people's minds is the difference in which those of us against the wars treat the members of our Armed Forces. We are certainly doing better this time around. But I have to tell you that the image of hippies spitting on returning veterans was almost entirely a lie-- part of the propaganda war against us.)

My daughter was saying earlier this week that she thinks more young people are politically active right now than in decades, mostly because of Barak Obama. I believe her. What blows my mind is that their activism is that of the early sixties-- the John F. Kennedy era when idealism reigned and we believed in the possibility of change. Yes, we can!

The counterculture was the inevitable result of crushing materialism, wars, assassinations and poverty riots. We grew out of the early sixties retaining our idealism while abandoning our belief that change could take place within the system. Everything that followed grew from that. Longterm, of course, we had about as much chance of surviving and thriving as would the lone communist country in a capitalist world. But what a ride we had in the meantime.

To seriously mine "the sixties" for its wisdom and follies is more than I'll undertake this evening. However I got quite a rush recently (the words are coming back to me!) to see a post on BoingBoing about the collaborative online updating of Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book called Steal This Wiki-- "over 500 pages of the most useful street and homeless survival combined with plenty of ways to fight oppression of all sorts."

Hoffman has always gotten to me. he's a local boy (well, Worcester MA) and a fellow Sagittarian. I will never forget the trial of the Chicago Seven-- eight, with Bobby Seale-- and apparently Steven Speilberg and Alan Sorkin won't, either. Production of a new film about the infamous trial is is scheduled to begin in March, now that the writers' strike is over.

As far as Steal This Book goes, the way the economy is looking, it can't be updated soon enough.

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