Thinking About Wendell Berry's "In Distrust of Movements"

I’m just reading a Wendell Berry essay from 2000, entitled In Distrust of Movements, reprinted on a blog with the inspired name The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles. I was going to just tweet the link, but realized that more people need to read this, and I ought to quote more extensively. (I hope that fans of Michael Pollan‘s books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food will rediscover his great predecessor in thinking about food and its proper role in human society.)

The essence of Berry’s argument is that we as a culture need to get away from single-issue movements to fix this or that, and instead embrace holistic thinking about how society as a whole should be organized to achieve our goals. As a farmer, essayist and poet, Berry’s focus, is, of course, not on political organization, or industry, but on the more fundamental issue of where our food comes from and how best to produce it. In this time when the broader public is becoming aware, through a variety of economic shocks, that “the way we live now” is unsustainable, Berry’s thinking, once perhaps regarded as a relic of the idealistic back-to-the-land movement of the seventies, is finding new relevance in an era in which comparisons between the collapse of the Soviet economy in the 80’s and today’s collapse in the American economy become a topic of discussion on high tech mailing lists. (I take particular note of the fact that Dmitri Orlov’s piece, which provoked that discussion, makes the case that Russia’s economy was in many respects more resilient than ours, with one callout being that most Russians still had some ability to grow their own food.) Even the BBC is noting that Food needs ‘fundamental rethink’.

What I like best about Berry is his insistence on a holistic approach. He writes:

…if we are concerned about land abuse, we have begun a profound work of economic criticism. Study of the history of land use (and any local history will do) informs us that we have had for a long time an economy that thrives by undermining its own foundations. Industrialism, which is the name of our economy, and which is now virtually the only economy of the world, has been from its beginnings in a state of riot. It is based squarely upon the principle of violence toward everything on which it depends, and it has not mattered whether the form of industrialism was communist or capitalist or whatever; the violence toward nature, human communities, traditional agricultures and local economies has been constant. The bad news is coming in, literally, from all over the world. Can such an economy be fixed without being radically changed? I don’t think it can.

The Captains of Industry have always counselled the rest of us to be “realistic”. Let us, therefore, be realistic. Is it realistic to assume that the present economy would be just fine if only it would stop poisoning the air and water, or if only it would stop soil erosion, or if only it would stop degrading watersheds and forest ecosystems, or if only it would stop seducing children, or if only it would quit buying politicians, or if only it would give women and favoured minorities an equitable share of the loot? Realism, I think, is a very limited programme, but it informs us at least that we should not look for bird eggs in a cuckoo clock.

I love his insight that “environmentalism” as it is so often conceived, preserving wildness for itself, misses the point. The issue is how properly to situate humans in their landscape:

…we need diversified, small-scale land economies that are dependent on people. Therefore, we need people with the knowledge, skills, motives and attitudes required by diversified, small-scale land economies. And all this is clear and comfortable enough, until we recognize the question we have come to: Where are the people?

Well, all of us who live in the suffering rural landscapes of the United States know that most people are available to those landscapes only recreationally. We see them bicycling or boating or hiking or camping or hunting or fishing or driving along and looking around. They do not, in Mary Austin’s phrase, “summer and winter with the land”. They are unacquainted with the land’s human and natural economies. Though people have not progressed beyond the need to eat food and drink water and wear clothes and live in houses, most people have progressed beyond the domestic arts — the husbandry and wifery of the world — by which those needful things are produced and conserved. In fact, the comparative few who still practise that necessary husbandry and wifery often are inclined to apologize for doing so, having been carefully taught in our education system that those arts are degrading and unworthy of people’s talents. Educated minds, in the modern era, are unlikely to know anything about food and drink, clothing and shelter. In merely taking these things for granted, the modern educated mind reveals itself also to be as superstitious a mind as ever has existed in the world. What could be more superstitious than the idea that money brings forth food?

I AM NOT SUGGESTING, of course, that everybody ought to be a farmer or a forester. Heaven forbid! I am suggesting that most people now are living on the far side of a broken connection, and that this is potentially catastrophic. Most people are now fed, clothed and sheltered from sources toward which they feel no gratitude and exercise no responsibility. There is no significant urban constituency, no formidable consumer lobby, no noticeable political leadership, for good land-use practices, for good farming and good forestry, for restoration of abused land, or for halting the destruction of land by so-called “development”.

We are involved now in a profound failure of imagination. Most of us cannot imagine the wheat beyond the bread, or the farmer beyond the wheat, or the farm beyond the farmer, or the history beyond the farm. Most people cannot imagine the forest and the forest economy that produced their houses and furniture and paper; or the landscapes, the streams and the weather that fill their pitchers and bathtubs and swimming pools with water. Most people appear to assume that when they have paid their money for these things they have entirely met their obligations.

Money does not bring forth food. Neither does the technology of the food system. Food comes from nature and from the work of people. If the supply of food is to be continuous for a long time, then people must work in harmony with nature. That means that people must find the right answers to a lot of hard practical questions.

While it is almost certainly true that the sustainable landscape of small farms that Berry treasures is a difficult fit with the scale of modern society, it’s also true that we are teetering on a precipice, that just maybe, we are getting the first signs that our society as a whole (and not just our financial system) is a kind of gigantic Ponzi scheme that will one day run out of room for growth, with disastrous consequences.

I know that there are those who will counter that with the right technology we can grow our way out of anything. I used to believe that, but I’m not sure I do any more. I don’t know that Berry has the right answer to the challenge we are facing, but he definitely has the right framing for the questions we need to be asking ourselves:

The proper business of a human economy is to make one whole thing of ourselves and this world.

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  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Amen, brother.

    I wish – I only wish – I had some devistatingly clever “you’re missing the obvious” put-down that would, at once, get a chuckle and convey the perfect, forehead-slapping solution – the easy way in which we all wake up monday morning and start living differently and everything sorts out.

    -t

  • Bert Bates

    When was the last time (or any time?), we heard a western hemisphere politician talk about population control? In the end isn’t a stabilized (and probably smaller), population an essential part of any long term solution?

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Bert,

    Some people do talk about it in sinister, deniable ways. As I’ve said elsewhere: I won’t be surprised when containerized mass suicide machines become a growth industry in the next decade.

    But, among the civilized, the topic is mainly set aside by the somewhat empirical claim that higher standards of living reliably produce lower birth rates (even to the point of being below replacement levels during population bubbles) – so the debate there is always about bringing about economic tide-raising.

    (I tend to agree with the civilized view, fwiw.)

    -t

  • http://patriotfire.blogspot.com/ Lee Love

    It is a “no-brainier” that we have to switch from a single issue linear approach to our problems. We need an ecological approach.

    We don’t need “a higher standard of living” but a broader one.

    I like Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index. We can’t measure happiness by the stuff we consume. We need a general level of material wellbeing for everyone, but that is base more from a perspective of relationship rather than material things.

    We need to get off petrochemicals, start living locally and base all our transactions of relationships rather than things. It is how most human beings lived before WWII.

  • Bert Bates

    Hi Thomas,

    I’m all for universally higher standards of living (I’m hoping that more efficient education helps towards that end), but it seems to me that that indirect attitude, if it works at all, won’t really work until we’ve hit maybe 10 or 15 billion.

    Even if we can sustain that do we want to? Wouldn’t it be nice if our great-great grandchildren had a little room to roam around?

    I guess I’m not getting your explanation.

  • http://brooksjordan.name Brooks jordan

    “. . . that just maybe, we are getting the first signs that our society as a whole (and not just our financial system) is a kind of gigantic Ponzi scheme that will one day run out of room for growth, with disastrous consequences.”

    This is a real concern. We’ve been treating the environment as badly as our financial system – indeed, in the end, they ARE one and the same – and so why would we think that the result would be any different?

    Yesterday, I read “Cod” (http://snipurl.com/978rf), a little history of “the fish that changed the world.” Cod was so abundant for centuries that you could “scoop them up in baskets.”

    It last made a big comeback during WWII because countries were focused on that fight.

    But WWII also brought technology – i.e., processing done right on the ship decks, sonar, and “ground fishing” (large nets that pick up everything that lives on the bottom of the ocean) – that, after the war over a few decades, caused the collapse of huge Atlantic cod schools from New England and Canada to Iceland and the UK.

    So that’s an example of how new technology put to use for our economy in the pursuit of food didn’t work out so well for the natural environment.

    But we could take our pick, couldn’t we?

    And now, of course, the fisherman of Gloucester, and their families, and their communities, suffer right along with the Cod, a pretty good proof, I’d say, that when we don’t think holistically you still get holistic results.

    It’s just more obvious now, as we hit limits to growth, than it ever has been.

    I do believe that current and coming technology will be a big part of the solution, but a big enough crowd of us are going to have to wake-up enough in order to use that technology to match the need.

    And the need is off the charts, so we have a lot of waking-up to do.

  • http://blogs.msdn.com/jmeier J.D. Meier

    Mother nature used to keep us in check, now it’s up to us?

    It sounds like part of the solution is more systems and cycles for renewal. Not just tech, but people, process.

    I remember in some places you could kill all the trees you wanted. You just had to plant two for every one you take.

    It sounds like eco will play a larger role in business. More compliance, penalties and rewards. Build the business case … and it will come.

    One book to look at is Unlimited Wealth: The Theory and Practice of Economic Alchemy (If you read it before me, share your notes). The premise was that whenever there’s a resource shortage, the business case gets strong enough, and we solve it with a technology replacement – either to dramatically, exponentially reduce our need or to amplify what the resource can do, or an outright replacement. it’s based on Alchemy principles. As you say, tech might not be THE answer, but it’s good to know how it might be part of the answer.

    Another angle is demographics and just following the needs of the population and follow the pig in the snake. Baby boomers bought houses in the 80’s and they’ll sell in the near future. There goes the housing market right? Demographics and life cycles are the key.

    I think the social frame and market frame are both important. The social frame says the world is important now. That’s better than pushing the rock uphill. Now the market frame can respond, but it has to be sustainable. Eco friendly stuff failed in the past because the social frame and market frames were out of synch.

    The pendulum always swings. Just like we swing from character ethic to personality ethic back to character ethic, we’ll swing back to the basics in the Maslow ladder, reshaping consumerism.

    Don’t we have the technology yet to build Earth 2.0?

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Bert,

    I don’t think there’s any debate here. Let’s flip it around: what’s your plan, here? Forced steralization? Forced privation? Forced abortion? Forced suicide [sic]?

    It’s all abhorrent, on its face. I’m not going to argue with you. You either agree or you don’t. You kiss your mama with that mouth?

    If your view prevails, perhaps my people will die in large numbers but if they do it will be in the struggle to kill you, if that’s where you’re headed.

    -t

  • http://proxthink.com/ways/sustainable-proximities.php David Loughry

    If you want a more holistic approach, grounded in a body of ideas, expressed in a new growth model, which could provide some evolutionary paths for markets and democracy, and which leverages networks in a new way, then see the following links. The first one is also linked from my name above.

    Sustainable Proximities
    http://proxthink.com/ways/sustainable-proximities.php

    Networks, Nature and New Possibilities
    http://proxthink.com/blog/2008/12/17/networks-nature-and-new-possibilities/

    Upside of Combining the ProxThink Growth Model and the Internet
    http://proxthink.com/blog/2008/11/23/upside-of-combining-the-proxthink-growth-model-and-the-internet/

    Thanks for the post Tim!

  • Bert Bates

    Ah Thomas,

    You have maligned me. I neither said nor intended that anything be “forced”.

    There is some physical limit to the number of people that can live on this planet, regardless of technological advances. Either the universe will enforce that limit cruelly or we can find balance through our own collective common sense and humanity. What we can’t do is continue to pretend that it’s not an issue.

    If you choose to respond, I hope you’ll take the high road.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Bert

    I don’t think I maligned you – just laid out a position in no uncertain terms. Doesn’t matter, though: your skin is pleasingly thick I see so we can talk just fine.

    You raised the topic of “population control” which is a very particular choice of words.

    “control” – well, again: what do you have in mind? Who are the controllers? Who controlled? What is the mechanism? In what way are you not talking about applications of force?

    Yes, of course: the “carrying capacity” of the planet is not known with certainty but is known to exist and known to be “not far” from where we are. That’s a fine thing to mention, here and there, I’ve no objection to the objective facts.

    What’s this you’re saying about “control”, though? That’s a completely different matter, it seems to me.

    The Journal of Irreproducible Results once somewhat famously hosted a paper about the accumulation of National Geographic magazines in people’s basements. Interpolating from the rate at which that publication was being widely archived, the paper accurately forecast geological-scale consequences and called, appropriately enough, for the immediate suspension of publication of that journal….

    -t

  • Jon Udell

    “I hope that fans of Michael Pollan’s books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food will rediscover his great predecessor in thinking about food and its proper role in human society.”

    I hope so too. Pollan’s section on Polyface Farm is deeply reminiscent of Wendell Berry’s _The Unsettling of America_, which made a huge impact on me 30 years ago and makes even more sense now.

  • Robert Munn

    The thrust of the sentiment here, both the article and its references, and the comments seem to implore
    that “we” consciously reshape our society to make the human experience more “organic”, and thus to make our relationship with the planet (universe) more serendipitous. These are only academic considerations; nothing more than observations. Societies are neither formed nor re-purposed in so rational a way. This is true whether you like it or not.
    As for the west not paying enough attention to the size of its population, that is true. The population of the west is shrinking at a rapid rate, and in fact may soon be beyond the point of return. It is being supplanted by the burgeoning growth of a combination of alien cultures that will absorb, perhaps even erase it entirely. Ironically, in the resultant world, observations and discussions such as these will be rarer indeed. That is how societies are re-purposed.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Robert Munn

    I think conscious change is possible and now, of all times, is a good time to get serious about the possibility.

    Look at smaller, simpler cases that are fairly common in the world – like changes that come to small, under-developed villages. People can and do collectively change their entire society around some new vision like, say, new ways of farming of the introduction of a school.

    I agree, formally, that “societies aren’t formed nor re-purposed in a rational way” overall. Yet, there are periods of time – specific historic situations – when rationality really does create a new “vision” of the ideal and thus causes changes in habits.

    You can have it both ways: We didn’t rationally arrive at the current crisis, true. We can’t rationally impose a top-down “master-plan” and get everyone dancing to a particular tune – civic planning is always, at best, indirect and hard to predict in its operations. But when we have a crisis like this and everyone is resolved, anyway, to making changes to their lifestyles, habits, hopes and dreams: there is a chance there for people to coordinate and, yes, to make collective choices about the forms changes take.

    -t

  • http://www.mymeemz.com Alex Tolley

    Thomas Lord: “I think conscious change is possible and now, of all times, is a good time to get serious about the possibility.”

    I do hope you are right. Diamond’s “Collapse” makes for pretty dismal historical precedents, but maybe this time it will be different. We can only try.

  • http://www.twitter.com/lisaLJL LisaLJL

    Fractals. I can’t help reading these various viewpoints and not think of fractals. I DO tend to oversimplify. But really – isn’t a fractal just an organized way of describing and indexing “identified or repeatable chaos” (for lack of a better phrase)? Another way to look at it would be to consider a fractal-equation a representation of the “stuff” that lies somewhere in-between the more commonly accepted dimensions.

    Tree and forest growth patterns – I watched a documentary in which a tree in a tropical rain-forest was examined and the growth-patterns portrayed “fractally” [hmm - is that a word? you know what I mean]. They were convinced they could predict the growth pattern of the entire rain-forest, based on that model. Many cycles follow seemingly chaotic patterns – I believe that we just have to allow ourselves to see them.

    …that just maybe, we are getting the first signs that our society as a whole (and not just our financial system) is a kind of gigantic Ponzi scheme that will one day run out of room for growth…

    So, DO you think that society could really run itself out of room for growth? Maybe. Isn’t that one of the reasons for recycling? To take the “stuff” that isn’t really anything anymore, identify and organize it, and re-use it in the creation of something new? If we never tend to recycling and garbage collection – well I suspect we WILL run out of space – and perhaps even time. I hope it is not our IDEAS that never get recycled. Without exploring new ways of thinking and problem-solving, you are restricting your imagined solutions. And if you cannot imagine it, well, then you cannot create it.

    The proper business of a human economy is to make one whole thing of ourselves and this world.

    Step 1, I suppose, would be to define the scope of both “economy” and “world”. If you are at a market, and your objective is to trade firewood for rice, and that transaction occurs, then your economic interaction (at least within “your world” as of the time of the trade) WAS one whole thing. Is your world physical or virtual? Is your human economy physical or electronic? Are you talking global? by industry or sector?

    By default, we tend to think of space in 3-dimensions [0D=point; 1D=line; 2D=plane; 3D=volume]. Is there really “stuff” between these dimensions that really exists but doesn’t contribute to the current instance of point-line-plane-volume? Well, why not? In VB-6, if you created stuff and forgot to close or destroy it, you’d get some annoying, undesirable results – which usually involved running out of resources. So just because you forgot about something, or because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

  • http://www.peopleandplace.net/ Howard Silverman

    RE: technology

    How is a forest like a computer?
    Modularity: Small Pieces Loosely Joined

  • Boden

    Any solution that involves changing the way “we” live and perceive ourselves and our place in the natural universe is not a solution, but a description of a world where the problem has already been solved.

    It would be highly unnatural for a person to be persuaded into a new lifestyle that he or she does not immediately benefit from unless that person can be convinced that the alternative is doomed. Our self-hating society is so full of doomsday scenarios that only those who are predisposed to doomsday scenarios are likely to believe any of them enough to make personal changes. The guy out shopping for a new big screen television today isn’t thinking about the environment, and you’re not going to convince him that he must.

    Only local impact will ever convince the average person to make meaningful lifestyle changes. By meaningful, I mean changes that aren’t simply trendy and hip like organic food from the Kellogg corporation or buying a car with a giant battery that only manages to conserve a relatively small amount of fossil fuel. I would argue that thinking and acting locally is more important and will have a greater global impact than starting out by thinking about your global impact. The people who are best suited to solving a particular problem are those people for whom the problem immediately impacts.

    I can’t help but think of the movie “Office Space” as I write this. Remember to always think, “is this good for the company?” People naturally do not want to be burdened with the greater good. People will, on the other hand, do a great deal of good when their actions have an immediate and/or direct impact on their own status and well-being.

    I can’t help but believe that there is no amount of foresight or hindsight that can restore this world to the imagined ideal place that it may have been while still maintaining our advanced lifestyle. We are primarily reactionary because we must be. We are simply not smart enough to envision most of our problems until they’ve actually become problems. Not so unlike any creature, really. This can have unfortunate consequences and I’m not saying that we should live without concern for the future. I am saying, however, that “we” will only deal with problems when they really need to be dealt with. This means that we will solve pollution problems when we have been exposed to pollution. We will stop relying on oil when it becomes too expensive to rely on. We will restructure our food supply when we can appreciate the quality and safety and economic benefit that comes from locally produced food.

    I am not a pessimist or a masochist, but I do believe that humankind has not broken free from evolution simply because we self-describe our society as perverse. The next great doomsday is coming by way of necessity and the the best way to ensure that we preserve our advancements is to relish in them and become dependent upon them.

    I guess what I’m really saying here is: lighten up. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to make bread. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to press copper into silicon. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to smelt copper. Embrace the freedom that modern society offers and focus on doing what you believe you can do best as an individual. Support the causes that matter to you specifically and that you can actually do some measurable good in. Don’t be greedy with intent. When nature requires you to change, you’ll know it, and in most cases not a moment sooner. If you include the economy as a natural phenomenon, as I do, then perhaps you’re already having to make some serious changes… changes that no amount of hindsight will lessen.

  • http://debunkr.blogspot.com Debunkr

    What amuses me, Tim, is when baby boomers latch on to the idea that considering more than one variable at a time in order to achieve a more harmonious result is revolutionary. I would argue the X’s and Y’s have been arguing and living this for some time now. Are you seriously arguing that not pursuing solitary issue agendas in favor of a more balanced view of the world is revolutionary? Or could one argue that the self-centered baby boomers are finally figuring out that sucking all of the air out of the room makes for a dead party?

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Hey, Debunkr, it seems to have become fashionable to slam the baby boomers, the hippies, and the seventies, despite the fact that this is the generation that warned about the kind of stuff that’s coming to the surface now, and has been doing so for the past thirty to forty years.

    I don’t know how old you are, but from your attitude, I imagine you’re one of those X’s or Y’s whose backs you are patting right now. If so, Wendell Berry started writing and living this kind of stuff when you were in diapers.

    Change is hard. It’s possible to see and highlight stuff and still not have the wider culture get it.

    Yes, the insights of the seventies failed to stick. But the people who brought you those insights are often still out there, helping to create awareness of issues that matter to those who follow.

    I’m a little sensitive on this subject as I’ve seen the “blame the boomers” meme spread. It didn’t work when people in my generation blamed the people of the fifties either. So don’t start over.

    You’ll have a great opportunity to reflect on the successes and failures of your own generation when you get forty years in.

    It’s rare that any generation accomplishes all that it sets out to do; we can only try.

    Best of luck to you.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Tim,

    One thing to keep in mind as that the “insights of the 70s” developed out of a counter-cultural and revolutionary minority who, at that time, were extremely critical of the boomer generation – including the wannabes who smoked a few jays, dropped a tab or two, marched a few times, but almost always “safely” for their career trajectories. You don’t get to claim generational credit for those insights because they originated from critics of that generation. The anti-boomer meme has its origins with exactly those voices who you would now cite as evidence of redemption of the boomers. Yeah, we can agree, some of the intellectual “cool kids” among the boomers were very smart. This doesn’t, however, redeem the boomers as a generation: their legacy is writ large in the built and institutional environment. The “insights” came from people who were, back then, just as critical of the boomers as we are today.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that Wendell Berry is of the generation of boomer’s parents and so anything you say about him actually reinforces Debunkr’s point, doesn’t embarrass or contradict him. You seem to have simply mis-read him, completely, on that point and in doing so support the hypothesis of a reactionary boomer narcissism.

    -t

  • http://foliovision.com Alec Kinnear

    Blame the Boomers is just silly.

    Quite frankly, the Boomers

    • avoided all out Nuclear War
    • created significant civil rights
    • created the peace movement
    • more recently put in the groundwork for a non-white POTUS

    That a bunch of pricks from the previous generation (Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld) managed to hijack all the power and undo that good work.

    The Boomers were a big improvement on the generation from the 50’s. It would be nice to think the Generation Xers will do as much for the planet and Western society as the boomers.

    Based on the early returns, little chance.

    Maybe a later generation will do as much, but not X or Y.

  • http://basiscraft.com Thomas Lord

    Alec,

    The word “blame” causes a lot of confusion and polarization and posturing. Try this on for size, instead:

    During the boomer’s childhood, teen years, and over most of their working lives the built environment and industrial arrangements of the US were radically shifted. We moved to what Kunstler calls the “happy motoring society”. We followed up the civil rights movement with the disasters of “urban renewal”. We crated up much of our useful industrial base and shipped it overseas, failing to train mechanics and (mechanical) engineers in particularly great numbers. We centralized and petro-industrialized food production. As families and as an electorate we made (on average and at median) low priorities out of fiscal prudence. We equipped median households with poor toolsets and lots of disposable junk. On and on.

    All of those structural changes are reflected in – even characteristic of – the “typical” white, middle-class, boomer lifestyle. That is, the structural changes to the environment and the productive capacity are the flipside of a coin with consumer habits, economic expectations, and political habits on the other side of the coin.

    A lot of us (of all ages) now seem to agree that meaningful economic and civic recovery in the US involves reversing all of those big trends. We need to depend far less on “happy motoring”. We need to radically reform our agricultural system. We need to re-develop very basic, very general purpose manufacturing capabilities. We need a very different approach to managing funds that provide government services, etc. I don’t know any serious people who disagree with the need for those changes.

    But… again, it’s two sides of the same coin. The (yes, it’s a stereotype) “boomer lifestyle” has to take the fall, here. People who approximate living up to that stereotype (and that’s a lot of people and a lot of the nations money flow) need to change ways. Lives need to come out looking very differently in just a few years than anyone really expected them to look.

    See, no blame.

    In 1968 or so, after the famous “Summer of Love” was wearing off, people in San Francisco began to realize that things had gone a bit off the tracks. The big events of that summer had been swell, and all, but what was left behind was ugly: there were sharks (often with nasty killer drugs to offer) taking advantage of disenfranchised youth that were kind of “left over” from the events of ’67.

    One experiment that was tried to correct the “vibe” was a full regalia “Funeral for The Hippie” on Haight St. They marched with a coffin, and everything.

    The message of that street theater was simple: Change Ways! It was an illusion! It doesn’t really quite work that way!

    Maybe a funeral for The Boomer is in order: a caravan of big black SUVs; a ceremony in a shopping mall parking lot; a card-burning ceremony (s.s. cards, this time); and then everyone can adjourn to a meditative sit-in by some railway tracks – this time not to prevent the passing of nuclear weapons (a la Ginsberg) but to try, through the shear power of mindful meditation fueled by ginseng energy drink, to make a 21st century rail system somehow appear out of nowhere (a la Hoffman and the Pentagon levitation).

    -t

  • http://debunkr.blogspot.com Debunkr

    Tim, thank you for your honest opinion. As I think about the discussion and the follow-on comments, I think I’ll go back to a different rule — it’s not good to generalize. When we criticize the “Boomers”, it’s because “they” were happy to wear the label during the good times and “they” have been in power all the way to where we are today (as far as the X’s and Y’s can see). But I think your comment highlights the fact that the average never represents a real entity, especially the larger the population.
    I think the frustration I expressed is that the post triggered a violent response because it does represent what we see in our governance structures today (whether business or political). One-dimensional forces fighting for dominance, neither of which represent the balance that seems so obvious to a silent, reasonable majority (I hope). As someone who is subject to the outcome of this system, it’s extremely frustrating. I apologize for taking it out on you as you clearly are trying to rectify the situation.
    However, you have to admit that many roads lead to a generation that has, and continues to, dominate the discussion and governance of the systems that lead us here today. I do think there is an inter-generational conflict occurring today as your generation learns to let go of the reigns. Your comment about how Wendell Berry has been commenting on the topic since I’ve been in diapers is emblematic of the type of responses in this conversation.
    You talk about my ability to reflect back on my opportunities to create change — I’ll be happy to whenever I’m given the chance. The resources, controls and agenda are still being controlled by a different generation. Barack Obama represents the first real change to this paradigm and it will be interesting to see not only what results he achieves, but the new methods a new generation brings to the table.