Sam Smith – As one who came of age during the beat generation, which I call the warm up band of the Sixties, and having been an anthropology major, I’ve always been fascinated with the potential for minimally newsworthy assemblages of humans to change history without holding high posts or news conferences.
It is one of the great forgotten stories in the conventional media – powerful change that happens unannounced. A few examples in our lifetime would include changes in attitudes toward birth, acceptable genders, and the environment. Yes, there were new laws and news stories, but driving them was a massive shift in quiet public views. As, for example, a father’s new acceptance of a gay son which went unreported.
Thus, for over four decades I have been waiting, with quiet anticipation, for signs of an unannounced mass change in public views and actions similar to the 1960s - particularly among the young where such change is typically born.
I had hopes before – most especially with the punk movement which, like the beats, dramatically separated itself from the present and its participants. As Wikipedia puts it, “Punk politics cover the entire political spectrum. Punk-related ideologies are mostly concerned with individual freedom and anti-establishment views. Common punk viewpoints include anti-authoritarianism, a DIY ethic, non-conformity, direct action and not selling out.”
But, unlike the beats, there was no follow up movement. Their version of the 1960s never came.
Now, however, it seems that something is really happening. Whether it will continue and expand, no one can guarantee, but I have not seen since the 1960s so many normally respectful and non-contentious people marching in the streets, wearing “Resist” on their arm bands, gathering in new groups, and even seizing a surprising share of the Grammy’s show.
Until now it’s been mainly a matter of saying too many times, “When’s it going to happen, for chrissake?” But now, those under 30 voted Democratic by an 18 point margin while those 65 and over voted Republican by an 8 point margin.
As noted here before, what is happening has similarities to other desperate actions by a culture on its way out such as the late 19th century Indian ghost dance cult. This doesn’t mean there can’t be violence, damage and other deep trouble, but none of it can stop the clock from running.
I suspect that what Trump has done has been to finally awaken in a younger America the hazards of passivity. Thus the huge women’s march and gatherings all over the country. The creation of new organizations such as Indivisible aimed at introducing and training citizens into action. The political activity of musicians of which the Grammy’s ceremony is only the most recent example. And protests against people who aren’t even usually targets, such as the Education Secretary being blocked from going into a Washington middle school.
Will it work? Will Trump destroy much of America anyway? No one really knows, but for the first time in decades, Americans are waking up to the alarm clock of freedom and decency. The conventional media will underplay this because they still believe change has to come with a title and a news conference, but as one around long enough to have seen it the last time, I can promise you that something new is happening.