OCCUPY WALL STREET IN CONTEXT
In my dotage, I can recall and retell the past with, as Mark Twain phrased it, with senile rapture.
The occasion is an interview on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman on Tom Hayden, one leader of the Students for a Democratic Society and an author of the Port Huron statement. I first met Tom in 1965 and I am sure, at least hopeful, that he does not remember me. I finally reconnected with him just a year or so ago, and he gave me permission to reprint anything he wrote, on his Blog Tom Hayden.com. Shortly thereafter, he connected with the Nation, a fine publication, but it does have copyright protection. I am therefore glad he did finally appear so I could present his interview.
Actually, there is quite a long history involved. Tom did appear with Keith Olbermann’s show on Current TV and mentioned that the people at Occupy Wall Street would demand jury trials and thus clog up the legal system. We said that they should – it was a great idea. Later, he retracted it, saying it was a prediction, not a recommendation. This sort of CYA (Cover your Ass) activity was too typical of him, but still his history is correct and praiseworthy, as is the Port Huron Statement.
Another character who was a great deal of fun was Abbie Hoffman.
The trouble was you could never keep track of him, nor could he.
All of this is in a cultural context of the Neo-Bohemian movements. The first were the Beats, comprised of people such as Jack Kerowack, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and others, even Ken Kesey. All of these produced a body of work that remains impressive and Ferlinghetti remains active today.
Next, Norman Mailer published a work on the Hip and the Beat, characterizing the Hip as somehow more dynamic. Also, since the Russians launched a satellite called Sputnick, some justly forgotten journalist coined the term Beatnick which caused a wide defection. Abbie came up with the term Yippie, for the YIP (Youth International Party), to replace the then current term of Hippie. Abbie’s activities can only be described as a form of surrealistic bohemianism. Not that he would find such a term attractive. He is now dead (really, kids) but did at least leave a great book behind, titled Steal this Book.
By this time, I had found my own interests more closely represented in the 15th and 16th Centuries, the Renaissance, but did follow things. I particularly enjoyed the Chicago Trials starring a group of ex-compadres and also William Kunstler and Leonard Wienglass as well as right-wing hippie Judge Julius Hoffman. Today Kunstler holds the status for enlightened youth as did Clarence Darrow for us. The movie Inherit the Wind, (three versions, the best overall with Spencer Tracy, but the best Darrow was by Jason Robards). We are still fighting for the right to teach evolution in Kansas, it seems.
Complicating everything was Vietnam. JFK has some 20,000 troops in Viet Nam as the McCarthy era had just passed. The speculation is that he was going to stop involvement in Viet Nam. We will never know, but it is clear that he had done a great deal of “house cleaning” of the CIA after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the standoff with Kruschev and a possible nuclear war. There used to be air-raid drills in the public school system to defend against an atomic bomb landing. I had my own trouble in complying and, when asked by teachers why, I said that I would just as soon try to catch it as it came down. Imagine the radio-active fall-out. Well, Kennedy was bumped off and Lyndon Johnson was elected.
Escalation started. I did research on the topic and found that Vietnam had not been successfully occupied and had been at some sort of was for the past 1,000 years. I was not about to become a part of that nonsense.
Most of us still think he was assassinated by the CIA, or some related forces in order to make Vietnam possible. By 1968, I began to get involved again with the McCarthy campaign and brother Bobby started to run. Meanwhile, Martin Luther King as assassinated, then Bobby. Malcom X followed soon after (on the first day of National Brotherhood Week). Bobby was probably assassinated by FBI types. King was not assassinated until he spoke out against the war. Malcolm had become a real Moslem, rather than a Black Moslem, and found that in Islam race actually did not matter. That did it for him. There are simply too many facts involved to go into it, but the conclusions above reflect all of them. What Eisenhower called the “Military Industrial Complex,” and then got out of town forever, is the force behind all of this.
Now it is clear that there is no President of the United States, only a figurehead. Most vote for the lessor of two evils, but that is still a vote for evil. Not voting is still a conscious choice and, don’t worry, Obama will be re-elected as our Corporatocracy is doing so well under him.
We need here to establish a few definitions (bear with me). They will help to clarify what you hear on the news:
Democracy: Currently, a government run in the interests of giant corporations and the upper 1%. Previously called Fascism, but now without the need for a charismatic individual to make decisions.
International or World Community: As Noam Chomsky points out, the U.S. and whatever governments support Democracy (see previous definition).
Terrorist: Some individual who is a threat to Democracy.
Strongman: Any leader who is not Democratic and therefore a member of the International or World Community (See above definitions). These people all too often believe that a country’s resources belong to its own people and that the wealth should be distributed accordingly.
Dictator: Any leader who preserves his own country’s integrity, despite the demands of the world community.
So now, who haven’t I offended yet? Oh, yes. During the transcript (which will be posted separately), Tom uses the term “Negro” in his recorded speeches. So also did JFK, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. Well, at the time, it was considered the appropriate word. Then it became “Black,” and now it is pretty much settled as “African-American,” after a brief life as “Afro-American,” (this last abandoned, apparently, because the hair style is out of date). That should be offensive, right? Right, because it is accurate.
Also, nuclear energy opponents: when I was about to graduate from the University of Illinois, Urbana, I contemplated working once I finished, but Viet Nam increased the draft. Along with Dick Cheney, I held onto my student status. However, before that, I had scheduled a job interview with a large advertising agency. They asked me to write a sample ad, and then would contact me, and would hold my position while I went into the reserve. Well, I wrote an ad that I was sure would be rejected, a jingle, about the effects of radio-active fallout on milk, Strontium-90:
Strontum 90’s good for me,
Gives me pep and energy,
Makes my bones as soft as silk –
Strontum 90 in my milk.
Yes kids, ask your mom to get milk that has been treated by the good folks at the Department of Energy – your government at work for you!
I was offered the position. I went on to Grad School.
Well, transcripts coming next time.