Aug 15, 2017 by

Kurt Anderson in “How America Lost Its Mind” should have stretched his imagination beyond a reductionist blame the hippies as the root of our Trumpian agonies. The divide between being and knowledge, between ontology and epistemology, between belief and knowledge runs deep indeed, back to the divide between Plato and Aristotle, between imagined archetypal forms and the examination of concrete manifestations. This has led not just to arcane philosophical disputations, but to culturally counterposing belief and knowledge. And knowledge, of course, is handicapped by requiring much more effort than faith. To flee knowledge and rely on faith and obedience is the warning, of course, in Genesis to Eve and Adam, not to eat of the tree of knowledge “or as soon as you eat of it you shall die”.

The sixties were about much more than a rejection of reality. It was also about the rejection of the murder machine in Vietnam, a challenge to systematic discrimination, a deep and wrenching disillusion with the received wisdom of business and war, of racism and sexism and ecological pillage as usual. The social and political ferment of the 1960s were driven not just by a counter culture but by the clear eyed and committed activism epitomized by Mario Savio and the Free Speech Movement.

While Timothy Leary said “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out”, Savio declared at Berkeley, “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part. And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.” 

Yes there is a jagged line that can be drawn between smoking pot and taking acid in the 1960s and the prescription drug driven opioid epidemic of 2017, but it is similar to the assertion that the popularity of Gilligan’s Island and the like led irresistibly to reality TV and the Age of the Donald.

The spirit of our times is best expressed, not by reflexive pounding on the sixties for upending the halcyon happy days of the American Celebration of the 1950s , but by Yeats in The Second Coming 

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

 The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

              The best lack all conviction, while the worst

              Are full of passionate intensity.

It is the Mario and Maria Savios of our times who will be the instruments for helping catalyze the reality of a new American birth of freedom, not a return to the sureties of an imagined happy days and an “objective” science that was always contested terrain where people had to know their place and keep their mouths shut or else.


Roy Morion’s latest book is Sustainability Sutra: A Ecological Investigation (2017)Publishd by Select Books. 



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