Kesey was right, our generation’s “gone bad”

by Jim Britell

Photo by Jmabel, CC BY-SA 3.0

The roots of the epic transfer of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the rich which began with Reagan and peaked with the recent billionaire explosion can be traced to a series of events between March and November 1968.

July 1967 – Thousands converge in San Francisco for the Summer of Love

March 1968 – Robert Kennedy enters the Democratic Primary for President

April 1968 – Martin Luther King assassinated

June 1968 – Robert Kennedy assassinated

August 1968 – 75 million watch 5000 protesters clubbed and beaten on national television at the democratic convention in Chicago

January 1969 – Nixon sworn in as president

August 1969 – Woodstock

These events estranged a whole generation of young people who concluded that working within the political process was definitely not hip. They abandoned the political process. Many radicals, progressives, liberals and populists have avoided “hands on” electoral politics ever since.

Until 1966 or so the great mass of politically active youth in the country found outlets for their idealism in collective civil rights work in the south. While everybody didn’t go down there certainly the most active and committed did and those that didn’t wanted to go. Political action was very hip. When the psychedelic carnival era arrived, the energy that hitherto was absorbed by the civil rights movement was diverted into the hippy movement. A description of how this occurred was captured by Tom Wolfe. He described the devastating effect the introduction of acid had on political activists.

“…the political thing, the whole New Left, is all of a sudden like over… Some kid who could always be counted on to demonstrate for the grape workers or even do dangerous things like work for CORE in Mississippi turns up one day – and immediately everybody knows he has become a head… He sees them (political activists) as still trapped in old ‘political games’ unwittingly supporting the oppressors by playing their kind of game and using their tactics, while he, with the help of psychedelic chemicals, is exploring the infinite regions of human consciousness…

“…great rallies at Berkeley that used to pull 10,000 are now lucky to get a thousand.”1

While a generation of yippies metamorphosed into yuppies and the counterculture transmogrified into an espresso counter-culture, inner cities have been trashed; schools turned into stupid students factories; and the deforestation of our forests has almost been completed. My generation could graduate from high school, take an entry level  factory job and afford to buy a house and a car and raise a family on that one salary. Our children often cannot afford to rent a studio apartment or often even a bedroom in somebody else’s apartment on a college graduate’s starting pay. The generation that followed the hippies has essentially been turned into wage slaves.

Even the social change organizations we lead give their workers about as much freedom as medieval serfs. When the younger generation figures out what we did to them they will round us up, stuff Avocado toast down our throats till we choke and run over us with our SUV’s.

1 Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test