Millenials: The No Zen Generation
“The people should not be afraid of it’s government. The government should be afraid of it’s people” – Thomas Jefferson.
Who Are The Millenials?
The newest generation to hit adulthood, commonly referred to as the “Millenials,” isn’t looking for answers anymore that might be blowin’ in the wind, my friend. Bob Dylan has been reduced to the status of an interesting icon and curiosity of an era of protest, and now occupies space on the pedestal as a “before my time” scraggly old folkie whose “folk you” days are long gone. Dylan, he and Ochs and Baez are as interesting to today’s youth as my collection of vinyl records is to a visitor from outer space.
Folkies and activists, all DOA in the pop culture dumpster of protest at the crossroads of nostalgia. Nobody wants a dose of Quinn the Eskimo anymore. Woody Gutherie’s land is no longer your land or my land. Instead it it belongs to the corporate interests and politicians who violate people and the environment on a daily, hourly basis. Organic mantras of peace, brotherhood and sisterhood have been sucker punched by the behemoth Monsanto. ABC’s have been replaced by GMO’s. The peace symbol has become as dinosaur extinct as tie-dyed Grateful Dead bears, while peaceful protest or protest of any kind is stuck in negative neutral in the limp wrist of the American left today.
The Occupy Movement doesn’t count. It added up to zero, nothing has changed and besides when you say you will occupy Wall Street, don’t fuck with me and don’t kid yourself thinking you’re making a political statement by occupying a park with a permit! That ain’t revolution! Wall Street prospered while you were flying kites and posing for the media. Now if you had occupied Wall Street, the shit would have hit the sociological fan but you missed your chance. Your aim was off. Your gun jammed. The bullseye is and was bullshit. Balls up and go for the head shots!
So I ask myself, are Little Red Books still hungrily read by hordes of angry young reds? Do American students get their Marx and Lenin confused with Groucho and John? Right on! You say you want a revolution? As a political and social scientist, I register a negative-two or lower on the Richter scale, and yes, I have no social scientist degree, and yes, there is no -ologist attached anywhere in my name, cart or horse, fore and aft, so don’t anticipate any salivatory revelations or orgasmic illuminations in this piece…this…this peek through the peephole of history at the paths followed in revolutionary orbit in a rebellious solar system of social issues and rights of the people. I am merely a dumpster diver in the overflowing trash bin of pop culture and clutter that has lived blissfully ignorant and comfortably numb on the Pacific Left Coast as well as the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor. I was involved in the anti-war movement in the Sixties and have the numerous arrests on my record to prove it. I am trying to dig my way to the core of the matter of what happened to the provocative protest zeal of American youth that seems to have disappeared. Apathy has descended across the land–a darkness, not a light…lethargy, not activism–the willingness to accept authority without question and along with the apathy and letting our guard down, it leads to the atrophy of our cacophony of constitutional rights.
In this country, our parents’ fathers and our grandparents’ fathers’ generation bent over backwards to do their part for the myth of the American Dream. Enter stage far left: While LSD colored our world, of some of us anyway, the false drug of patriotism wore off and like a junkie suffering from withdrawals, our hypodermic needle empty, we woke up to the reality of rampant racism, war mongering, and the capitalist pillaging rape of the working class. In effect, today this violence still occurs. We are asked to bend over, in the forward position, and take it in the ass. Apparently the new Left, and some of the American student body–usually the leader in such affairs–seems to enjoys being subjugated the take it like a man in a prison shower while anger and outrage has been replaced by the Vaseline lube job of the governments smoke and mirrors. Complacency is the placenta of Orwell’s 1984 Think-Speak!
Writers’ words aren’t gospel, although some writers will claim they are and that they are the second coming of Jesus H. (Hemingway) Christ, but the truth is this: Forget the words, and realize it is between the lines, between the sweaty sheets of literature, that you’ll find the message, as well as the white space between the words…or what a writer doesn’t write but actually omits in fact tells the story and pieces the puzzle together. The old one hand clapping Zen hipster zinger. Either way, that is the chance I take writing this, but, the worse chance you take in reading it. Those who know me have referred to me as a Tom Joad Zen socialist, tinged by the effects of years of Reefer Madness and staring at Diego Rivera murals too long in the sun. I have no idea what the description actually means, but, it’s is as close to the bulls eye as anyone has come yet. Could be my Motor City Detroit blue collar union/strikers childhood, and being kidnapped and raised in the rustbelt by a pack of Teamster wolves in the urban forest.
What happened to the revolutionary protest zeal of American youth? Did it pull a Cheech and Chong and merely go up in smoke? Take a look around you. It appears alive and well in the young people of other parts of the world with the United States being America the lone exception. Overseas! Now that is a protest horse of different color. There is a very strong visual image that still haunts today: a young Chinese student in Tienanmen Square facing off with a tank. He had no permit by the way and wasn’t standing in front of a Good Humor Truck! That is revolution or, in this case, taking a revolutionary stand against authoritarian rule. Then there was the French Student Revolt of ’68. The youth of France rose as one and took to the streets en masse. In time they were joined by the workers and the intelligentsia, and it is that sort of forceful equation that equals a government coming down–and it did! If you want to read about it, there is an in-depth look at the revolution in a book called Aux Du Barricades. I read it years ago and still have the same ratty, tattered copy in my collection today along with A Child’s Garden of Grass and Steal This Book.
These books have been replaced by a Chicken Soup for the Soul mentality that is highly distressing. I hate chicken soup anyway in a steaming bowl or in a book. In Egypt, it’s a different story. The Egyptian revolution in recent digital history was for the first time, a revolution was not only televised but also downloaded, YouTubed and Facebooked. We saw firsthand bullets firing, tanks rumbling, buildings on fire, billy clubs clubbing, soldiers and protesters facing off. Once again it was the students who took the lead and led the revolt that brought down that government down. Now that is revolution, as are so many other recent examples such as Turkey, Greece, squatters in England, and most recently Ukraine. The battle still goes on as of press time, and the beat goes on. Unfortunately there is a military junta in charge now, and yes, rights are eroding faster than the face of Sphinx! Alas I do fear another uprising in the near future, bloodier than the last. Never allow the military to take your side; they’ll fuck you over every time.
The More Things Change They Stay The Same
Even Russia needed a second revolution the first time around. We fought a revolution in this country over taxation. What does George Washington do, almost as his first act in office? A Whiskey Tax that which led to the Whiskey Rebellion! People were bartering on Wall Street in NYC, open market style, and he had it outlawed and only the rich could handle the transactions–and the new Americans allowed it to happen. Even then they didn’t occupy Wall Street when it might have actually made sense! We used to have that revolutionary zeal and spirit in America in the 1960s. But the catalysts in play were a desire for change from the hypocrisy and hyperbole of our government and its talking heads “do nothing” congress. Lies and belligerent errant retaliation for peaceful protest fueled the youth of America. Heads got bloodied, leaders were assassinated, police agents infiltrated movements and organizations and the FBI had a hit list of people like Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and Dr. Spock! [To clarify for the younger readers who enjoy wallowing in the “that was before my time” quagmire, I am not referring to the Spock with the pointy ears that buzzed around space.]
Violence in the streets and in the capital cities is almost a pre-requisite for revolutionary protest. Che Guevara said, “Only when blood is spilled on both sides, can there be a successful revolution.” That was the case in Cuba, Russia, Egypt and elsewhere. It may be extreme for the United States but then again, maybe not. Maybe it’s necessary. We had police riots in ’68 in Mayor Daley’s fiefdom of Chicago (the same year as the Paris revolts) and of course the massacre at Kent State where young students literally took a bullet for peace! Protest has been tossed in the trashcan in favor of that new Orwellian mindset of think-speak acceptance of the status quo that I mentioned earlier. This is 2014, but if you strip away the techno-crap veneer, it really is 1984. There is an all pervasive all-American apathy that evidently has fallen over the land of the free. The theater lights go dim, the final curtain of an off-off-Broadway production begins its descent, and the protagonists and the antagonists make their exit to go to their dressing rooms as the stage of activism in this country goes dark and the theater empties with and the Millennial Generation is nowhere to be found.
The last act was completed at Kent State with four dead students lying on the ground, shot down by National Guardsman not much older than their victims lying lifeless in pools of blood. They had to die it appears while trying to stop the killing overseas and the bloodshed half a globe away. The war had come home and the enemy was our own government, but then we always knew that anyway. It was just a matter of time before it would remove its mask and reveal the phantom of Nixon’s opera. In the last election in this country, (I only voted once in my life in a national election and that was in the ’80s) when one of the presidential candidates was speaking to a college campus crowd in Florida, one student stood up and asked a question that the candidate did not want to answer. The student was persistent and he was ushered out forcibly by the Secret Service. The upsetting part–and it was a visual on television and print media–was the fact that the rest of the student body sat by, smiling in some cases and took no stand to the student’s predicament. If that had been the ’60s or today in Ukraine, the police would have been rushed in an effort to free their comrade.
The war protests of the ’60s were violent. Today the wars we have perpetrated overseas are not met with the same anti-war zeal by our students, and I feel the fault is ours because there is no draft and the military is all volunteer. I oppose the draft, and always have, but somehow in this yin-yang world I feel that if we had the draft today it would toss gasoline onto the fire of protest. If the students of today had military service facing them on a daily basis at any moment, you might find they would get involved if for no other reason than to save their own American ass….and who knows where that might lead? Maybe it would even bring attention to the fact that hundreds are still being held in Guantanamo in Cuba as “war criminals” who are in reality religious and political prisoners held illegally. Where is the protest?!
Think of the children!
Marijuana use and legalization is a rolling paper issue of great importance; and as of now medicinal marijuana is legal in over a dozen states and the District of Columbia, yet the feds still wage war locally on grow operations and shops. States’ rights let alone human rights and medical rights are crushed under the boot of federalism. I have been smoking pot since 1966; and still do, recreationally, not medicinally, although I’ll take what I can get. I joined NORML years ago and write for marijuana publications in an effort to do my part to legalize it. Today on Facebook the have a game called Pot Farm and stoners play it religiously. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a game designed by the Justice Depart to deflect activism to legalize it but diverting the attention of the stoner to game play and not petitions…and the stoners fall for it and play right into their hands.
We are a rich country, and that very affluence has made our youth complacent–you know, apathetic. America is immersed in its electronic cocoon of iPads and iPods. We are on overload on visual stimuli of news and yes, protests around the world. People dying for a cause in nations not rich, but too many poor. Abusive governments that kill the opposition and finally the dam breaks and the flood of protest spills over. We see so much protest online and in other forms of media it has that Kubrick affect that was displayed in Clockwork Orange where the violence was so prevalent we became immune to its impact on our senses.
Today we are bundled and coddled by technology; it’s an overdose of information. It’s all about self today. Thank God that in the ’60s these channels of information weren’t available. We would never have gotten out of the house or on the road or marched or enjoyed live rock and roll and some dive club. The lava lamp was about as high tech as we got…we just got high, not high tech. We got stoned in Technicolor, not technical; we were freaks, not geeks. Outer space? The light show at the Fillmore was our space shuttle to our star ship on Jefferson Airlines riding on the back of a white rabbit. The music? Amplified, not computerized wimp-pop Beyonce crap either! Our imaginations ran rampant; we read Ramparts; we were Fugged, not fucked. And tinfoil? Yes, it was the mother of invention. Fuck GPS; give me a ratty old randy Rand McNally with creases and food grease from diners and dives.
So get off your ass and take to the streets and the barricades. There is much to be done yet in America–don’t expect Ukrainian students to do it for you. They have their own problems as do we. Also stop with the Pot Farm on Facebook and do something real about marijuana legalization; and above all, toss that fucking iPod away and grab some black-ass vinyl. Put headphones on, crank it up–real headphones with real music, real loud, real clear, real rock and real roll…perhaps a little Neil Young or Graham Nash or even a dose of Quinn the Eskimo. To be fair, in the ’60s we effected some change, had our martyrs and kind of sort of ended a war, but didn’t really bring the government down and usher in our new utopia. John Lennon, when commenting on the times, said simply in an interview, “We Blew It!” So don’t feel bad if you blow it too. In the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” Jack Nicholson’s character R. P. McMurphy tries to lift a bolted down, ube- heavy sink to toss out the window and can’t; the inmates laugh at him. He looks them in the eye, defeated, and says, “Well, at least goddamn it…I TRIED!” In the ’60s so did we. Today, so can you. It’s time to resurrect Bob Dylan, time again America to “Get Folked!”