Talkin’ About My Generation

Last week a friend posted on his Facebook page a Boston Globe guest article by Bruce Cannon Gibney, author of a book released today, March 7. The article summarizes Mr. Gibney’s polemic entitled A Generation of Sociopaths: How The Baby Boomers Betrayed America.

Apparently failing at careers as a hedge fund manager and attorney, Mr. Gibney now claims to be an author. In choosing an inflammatory topic, perhaps he hopes to igniting interest and hence, sales.

I doubt he’ll gain either. The target of his scorn, the Boomer generation, are the primary buyers of books and there’s little chance they’ll spend money to hear his half-baked allegations.

Gibney, like my young friend who praised the article as “what he’d been waiting for,” has fallen for a half century of corporate propaganda meant to discredit Boomers.

In defense of my generation, here are a few rebuttals to his claims:

The author claims:

In 1971, Alan Shepard was playing golf on the moon. Today, America can’t put a man into orbit (or, allegedly, the Oval Office) without Russian assistance.

The truth is that Russian/American cooperation in space programs saves both nations money and furthers efforts to discover distant worlds, investigate dark matter, and watch for potentially deadly asteroids that may need to be diverted from direct impact. We are, after all, one planet facing a daunting universe. Space program advances not only include men and women living in space but also such amazing technological feats as the Hubble telescope.

The author states:

Improvidence is reflected in low levels of savings and high levels of bankruptcy. 

Assertions are free, so Gibney spends nothing but his credibility asserting that this state of affairs rests solely on some deficiency of the boomer generation and has nothing to do with old-money one-percenters and corporate profiteering over fifty years of gobbling up an increasing share of the economy.

Further, he states:

Interpersonal failures and unbridled hostility appeared in unusually high levels of divorce and crime from the 1970s to early 1990s. 

Hard to know how crime and divorce should be considered jointly, but here’s the thing about divorce. Until women gained better footing in the job market circa 1970s, divorce meant losing financial support. Women stayed with abusive husbands who, like Don Draper of “Mad Men,” caroused at their pleasure while the little woman stayed home to suck it up.

As far as rising crime rates, one only must look at the Nixon/Reagan drug war to figure out why the numbers went through the roof. Drug prohibition creates flourishing criminal markets and a marketplace that can only be policed by underworld gangs. It’s been 80+ years since alcohol prohibition, apparently too long for us to remember the lessons it taught us.

Gibney continues:

[Boomers] were the first generation to be raised permissively, the first reared on television and subject to its developmental harms, and the only living group raised in an era of seemingly effortless prosperity. 

Few of the Boomer generations escaped physical punishment by parents and teachers, so this idea of being raised ‘permissively’ is Gibney’s fantasy. We were also raised with regular schoolhouse drills to hide under our desks if nuclear war erupted. So much for the laissez-faire childhood the author imagines.

As far as ‘developmental harms’ caused by television, granted Boomers weren’t out in the fields each day hoeing cotton. But television made them more aware than any previous generation of the world around them—the plight of children starving in Africa, the devastation of the environment, and the butchery of war, a war that plucked brothers, lovers, and classmates up from whatever they were doing and dropped them into a fetid jungle with napalm and guerilla fighters. The world suddenly wasn’t what they’d been told, all those fairy tales about happy endings and the greatness of America. Watching their illusions die on television screens motivated Boomers to try to make America what the Founders had promised.

The author continues:

 In the 1970s, the older establishment had already begun bending to boomer power, though not always cravenly enough, a problem boomers resolved by becoming the establishment itself.

Patently absurd. The older generation never bent to boomer power. It bowed up as Boomers tried to stop the war, stop environmental destruction, and gain liberty and justice for minorities, disabled and women, not only beating demonstrators (and at Kent State killing  them), but more pervasively by sending them to jail. The drug war specifically targeted Boomers and provided a government tool to disenfranchise, bankrupt, and discredit an entire generation.

Gibney evidently has zero understanding how Boomers transformed from the materialism embedded in 50s upbringing to a New Age of awareness. Mind-altering drugs along with the events of the times fostered a change in consciousness. Boomers walked away from corporate jobs, fancy houses, and the latest fashion in shoes.

Nothing could have terrified the corporations more. Their entire marketplace was at risk of going bankrupt. Together with government already in bed with the military-industrial complex, corporate power brokers destroyed what they could of the Boomer generation’s credibility and co-opted the rest. By the end of the 70s, ‘hippie’ had become a dirty word.

So no, the “older establishment” did not bend. They came back with Reagan and it’s been a street fight ever since.

The author conveniently skips over the 80s when Reagan handed a death sentence to worker unions and then Geo W Bush followed on his heels, both the manifestation of corporate power and ‘older establishment” control. To claim that Clinton served the selfish Boomer agenda with disastrous results is simply making it up as you go along.

But hey, this guy has a book to sell.

Gibney tries to have it both ways as he explains that all the excesses, failures, and wrongheadedness currently facing the nation is a result of this sociopathic generation when in fact every possible side of politics and social attitudes can be found within this large population of people. To claim that despite the staggering diversity of the generation, they somehow all arrived at a more or less equal degree of selfishness and shortsightedness is clear evidence that Gibney has a theory in need of real facts.

He states, for example, that

The 1 percent is, by definition, just 1 percent, unable to dictate national policy on its own.

But that’s exactly what the one percent does with ownership of the jobs, real estate, and the wealth upon which the other 99% must depend for survival. It also owns the government, most assuredly since the SCOTUS decided that corporations had the same rights as real people.

In his desperation to bend reality to support his paper-thin thesis, Gibney states that

Reagan lowered taxes on income while raising them on capital gains (when boomers had salaries but not portfolios)

as if Reagan, hero of the aging Silent Majority, suddenly reversed his position and catered to the Boomers.

Then there’s Gibney’s outrageous claim that the increase of the national debt is due to Boomer extravagance while he ignores all the other factors that have created the debt, towering above all else the corporate exodus to third world countries for cheap labor and lack of environmental regulations.

The author states:

Finding decent growth requires stretching all the way back to the 1990s, and even so, the 1990s barely edged out 1970s’ squalor on a per capita GDP basis. Thanks to boomer policies, the new normal is 1.6 percent real growth, well below the 2.5 to 3.5 percent rates prevailing from the 1950s to the 1980s. For the young, the price will be incomes 30 percent to 50 percent lower than they could have been.

In truth, real growth has been dropping as the nation exploited the vast trove of natural resources gained when settlers killed off the native population. Within a relatively short time, the gold and silver was mined, most of the forests cut, and natural fisheries depleted. A modest growth spurt occurred with the development of technologies that produced food without armies of people hoeing crops or steel girders without men scorching their faces as they poured molten metal into molds. The downside was that with each wonderful technical advancement, people lost jobs. As more and more jobs fell to technology and cheap foreign labor overseas, more of the per capita GDP dropped.

The author’s whine is loud and long. ‘If only’ those self-indulgent shithead Boomers hadn’t been such sociopaths, incomes today for the ‘young’ would be 30 to 50% higher. I’m wondering what magical metric he used to arrive at these statistics.

Mr. Gibney’s vantage point is that of a disillusioned young man with enough anger to fuel him well into his 50s. I suggest he get out of his suit and out of the big city and wade around in the real world for a while where millions of Boomers go about their lives with dedication, caring, and enthusiasm. I could almost forgive him for this screed, considering that I know how hard it is to sell books. But I won’t. His immature ideas malign an entire generation without offering any rational solution for his litany of woes. Short of nuking the entire generation, I’m not clear on what Gibney wants to do about it. [I won’t be reading his book to find out.] At the least, his writing outlines a self-serving excuse for his failures.

One thing is certain. If it weren’t for the Boomers, he and his fellow millennials along with the rest of those younger folks looking to assign blame would live in a much more dismal, broken world.

First, We’re Democrats

peace-flag-at-antiwar-protest-P

An emerging narrative from Bernie supporters alleges that the Baby Boomer generation ‘shit all over’ the younger folks and now it’s time for us to step out of the way. The militant rhetoric evidently serves as a potent recruiting tool. Too bad it’s completely bogus.

Yes, there are some of the Sixties generation who tuned in, turned on, and then made a U-turn in the middle of Main Street to become some of the greediest, most soulless people on the planet. But a few rotten apples did not spoil the whole barrel. The rest of us accomplished amazing things for which we have yet to receive any credit.

To you newbies dissing the Boomers, shut the f*** up and think about this: that yoga meditation that you enjoy? We brought you that. Your baby delivered by a midwife? We gave you that. Those organic salad greens you just bought at your local supermarket? Yeah, us.

The reason you male members of the Bernie True Believers haven’t been drafted and sent to the Middle East with a rifle in your hand is that we forced an end to the draft. We were the generation that lost nearly sixty thousand of our brothers and lovers in Vietnam and spilled our own blood in the streets to make it stop.

You female members of the Bernie True Believers are empowered to be out there on the streets with your political action groups largely because we burned our bras and filled university and government buildings with our sit-ins demanding equal pay and equal rights. We didn’t settle for an apron and dust mop. We elbowed our way into the mainstream.

We pushed our reproductive agenda and got a Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion. We celebrated our freedom to choose with new technology like birth control pills, so that whatever child was born was a wanted child. We pushed aside the obstetricians with their convenient forceps deliveries and anesthetized mothers and birthed our babies into darkened rooms where the fathers were part of the experience. You were floated in warm baths and held to our breasts in a revolution of childbirth every bit as radical as any Bernie slogan.

We demanded clean food free of pesticides and additives and organized our own food cooperatives. We trucked in hard-to-find organic produce and flour. Many of us went back to the land to raise organic beef and grow our own gardens where our children could eat fresh peas straight off the vine.

We cast aside centuries of misogynist religion to embrace the greater spiritual power of the Universe. Did you think your yoga studio appeared out of the Fifties like Athena sprang from the forehead of Zeus? No—we traveled to India. We read the books. We followed the gurus in order to reframe our embrace of the Divine.

We shared our dorm rooms, our jobs, and our farms with gay men and lesbians, strenghtened their public arrival with our acceptance in spite of the brutality that they encountered in the rest of society. We opened our homes to African Americans and other minorities and joined in their protests. We saw all people as our kinsmen.

We are the reason you can access acupuncture and Asian medicine, holistic practitioners, therapeutic massage, and the proliferation of alternative medicines that spread before you today like a feast-laden table. We sought out health in a world filled with sickness, in world where ‘medicine’ fulfilled all we knew about healing.

We took our children to protests, meetings, and hearings. You played outside in the sunshine while we stuffed envelopes and called friends. We changed the world without social media or computers.

We sacrificed days, weeks, even years of our lives in the fight to save our forests and oceans, our waterways and air from pollution. We fought for the whales and the wolves. We wrote letters, stood in cold wind and glaring sun with our signs, took up residence in trees. The environmental protection you may take for granted came about because of us.

We had help from older generations. Some of them fought to the end just like us. We’re still fighting. Many Baby Boomers are active in Bernie’s campaign.

Whatever disconnect exists between what the Boomers accomplished and the platform from which you launch your tirade is not because the Boomers failed. The disconnect derives from the same power brokers who manipulate every new generation into following certain paths. We called it The Man, The Machine. Their message? If you want the new car, the nice house, all the toys, then you’ll toe the line. Pass the drug tests. Conform.

The history of any war is written by the victors. In the still-simmering culture wars, the corporations want you to see us as the enemy. You have to dig deep to uncover the fullness of what I’ve said here in a few words. You want to change the world? Join the club.

Just keep in mind that because Bernie says all the right things doesn’t mean he’ll lead you to victory. Maybe you’ve never heard about our work for McGovern, walking door to door, keeping faith that we could usher in a New Age. In 1968, we never saw Daly’s henchmen coming or the disaster that would befall the Democrats as a result of that convention. We didn’t anticipate the backlash, all the haters and religionists ready to answer the clarion call of the corporate machine. We invested our future in the hope and change promised by Democrats and watched in horror as Richard Nixon won two terms.

Maybe you never understood what happened to our next great hope, Jimmy Carter. It’s instructive to review how he lost to Ronald Reagan:

  • Carter later wrote that the most intense and mounting opposition to his policies came from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which he attributed to Ted Kennedy’s ambition to replace him as president. Kennedy surprised his supporters by running a weak campaign, and Carter won most of the primaries and secured renomination. However, Kennedy had mobilized the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which gave Carter weak support in the fall election. (Wiki)

Or the loss of Al Gore not because George W. Bush was such a stunning candidate, but because the Democratic left wing blindly flew to support Ralph Nader and his pie in the sky oblivious to the very real possibility that by splitting the progressive vote, a Republican would win. Perhaps some of this language will sound familiar to Bernie fans:

  • Nader’s campaign rejected both parties as institutions dominated by corporate interests, stating that Al Gore and George W. Bush were “Tweedledee and Tweedledum.” A long list of notable celebrities spoke [in his favor]. The campaign also had some prominent union help… (Wiki)

FYI, that could happen again. All the visceral emotion you’re feeling now about us, about Hillary as our ‘representative,’ you’re feeling that for more reasons than you may realize. For over two decades it’s been the Republican end game against a woman they’ve always known could be a successful president.

If their first-wave tactics work, you’ll bring Bernie a successful nomination. Then they’ll begin their second wave, this time against Bernie: Socialism. Higher Taxes. Universal Healthcare. Lions, tigers and bears, oh my! In November, a Republican candidate will win.

You may live in a bubble where pot is legal, polyamory is accepted, and social progress is a straight line from here to there, but you haven’t faced the reality that 70% of the population still identifies as Christian. A third of those folks are evangelical, meaning they will show up and they will vote no matter what you do. They are the active force behind the Republicans, agitated and directed by the corporate money masters.

Your disdain for the Baby Boomers is the result of their careful plan. You like Bernie? So do I. Want to make him president? Go for it. Just keep in mind that if Hillary wins the Democratic nomination, you’ll have a choice. If the Machine is successful, you’ll be so angry at the Boomer generation and Hillary in particular, you’ll not vote for anyone but Bernie.

By indulging your cleverly fomented rage and refusing to support a Democratic candidate other than Bernie, you will play right into the hands of the machine. Another Nixon-Reagan-Bush waits in the wings.

So cultivate your anger with knowledge. Wake up to the real history of the Boomer generation. We had big hopes too. But just because all our goals weren’t completely met doesn’t mean we’ve failed. We’ve moved the ball forward. We welcome you to the fight.

But don’t forget–we’re not the enemy.

Gift of the Season Day 6 — Price Markdown

Aquar Rev faded coverThey were the hippies, the drop-outs, the radicals. They came from New York, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and bought cheap Arkansas land where they could build lives with meaning. Often the topic of heated rhetoric and armchair analysis, those who went ‘back to the land’ rarely speak in their own voice. Now documented in these personal interviews, their stories reveal the guts, glory, and grief of the 1960s social revolution.

Previously listed at $15.95, now for a limited time the paperback is available for $11.95. A lasting gift! Amazon buy link

“Denele Campbell’s informative ‘Aquarian Revolution: Back to the Land’ fills a much-needed niche in the history of the Counter-Culture movement. Unlike in more crowded Europe, America’s rural expanse offered an escape, a new beginning in the 1960s, from a social cancer spreading through the dominant culture. The dream of finding land to till and an alternative life style had been an American dream since its founding. America’s cities, mired in racism, sexism, poverty, and riots, seemed doomed. The ‘baby boomers’ sought escape by going to the land, many for the first time. Denele Campbell has carefully chronicled the personal stories of thirty-two pioneers who opted to create their utopian vision in the Ozarks. As such, their quest is at times fascinating, amusing, and often painful. Yet, it is a good read for those who lived through this era as well as today’s young.” —-T. Zane Reeves, Regents’ Professor Emeritus, University of New Mexico and author of Shoes along the Danube.

Domes

zome is stretched dome

A ‘zome,’ a stretched dome. One of several domes constructed in South Washington County Arkansas at a rural intentional community.

In the 1960s and into the early 1970s, geodesic dome structures cropped up around the world, including in Northwest Arkansas. Some lasted, many did not.

Based on the idea that what we see externally informs how we understand ourselves internally, domes epitomized a philosophical approach to human habitation.

dome1Traditional architecture with its multiple separate rooms leads to a segmented self view, according to this argument.  Rounded open space such as provided in a dome fosters a more holistic view of self and the world in general.

The dome concept was developed by Buckminster Fuller. Fuller discovered that if a spherical structure was created from triangles, it would have unparalleled strength.

3-8ths or half geodesicIn 1928, he wrote:

“These new homes are structured after the natural system of humans and trees with a central stem or backbone, from which all else is independently hung, utilizing gravity instead of opposing it. This results in a construction similar to an airplane, light, taut, and profoundly strong.”

looks like a zome

None of the eleven or more domes built at the intentional community have survived.

The sphere uses the “doing more with less” principle in that it encloses the largest volume of interior space with the least amount of surface area thus saving on materials and cost. Fuller reintroduced the idea that when the sphere’s diameter is doubled it will quadruple its square footage and produce eight times the volume.

Fuller worked towards the development of a Comprehensive Anticipatory Design Science which he defined as, “the effective application of the principles of science to the conscious design of our total environment in order to help make the Earth’s finite resources meet the needs of all humanity without disrupting the ecological processes of the planet.”[i]

eye doc dome

Optometrist office in Fayetteville, newly built in 1970s.

Domes were built not only by idealistic hippies pursuing an improved state of consciousness but also ended up in use at commercial locations. A enhanced dome built to house an optometry practice in Fayetteville, Arkansas remains in good condition.

Newman's dome homeOne of the surviving residential domes in the area includes bump-outs and other additions that make for a more family-friendly features. This one includes a basement and a rear deck.

Other commercial uses included the Southern Energy Fast Oxide Reactor (SEFOR) built in south Washington County near Stricker. SEFOR operated from 1969 to 1972, when the original program was completed as planned. It was privately operated by General Electric and funded by the United States government through the Southwest Atomic Energy Associates, a nonprofit consortium formed by 17 power companies of the Southwest Power Pool and European nuclear agencies.

Southern Energy Fast Oxide Reactor, Stricker, '78 (SEFOR)The facility was then acquired by the University of Arkansas in hopes that it could be used as a research facility. However that never happened and the university has been paying $50,000 in maintenance fees yearly since. SEFOR is still considered contaminated and the University continues to seek federal funds to clean up the site.

Climatron, St. Louis, '77Another example of dome construction in commercial application is the St. Louis Climatron, part of the Missouri Botanical Gardens built in 1960. Controlled environment in this large dome re-creates a lowland rain forest.

Due to limitations of materials and use requirements, domes today are built for only a few applications, most notably sports arenas and as a complement to other structures such as churches where a separate dome feature may add another dimension to sacred space.

 

 

Photographs courtesy of Denny Luke, a longtime resident of the area.

[i] http://bfi.org/design-science/primer/environmental-design-science-primer

A Moveable Feast

dickson copyDickson Street, 1970. Old rock buildings with narrow profiles and high pressed-tin ceilings. An abandoned railroad depot that trembled when freight trains thundered past. A declining backwash between campus and the downtown square of a town still embracing its provincialism.

The university drew them, intense intellectuals seeking knowledge, misfits seeking community, young men determined not to die in Asian jungles. In between time in class and demonstrating against war, they settled into the street’s cheap real estate to paint murals and make free love. Abandoned warehouses and decrepit brick structures a hundred years old became head shops, bars, and art galleries. Downscale restaurants heaped alfalfa sprouts on whole wheat bread sandwiches—radical. Cooperatives sold tobacco and honey in bulk, locally made tofu—far out.

Sweet smoke hung in the air. Street festivals celebrated music of hope and rebellion. People wore crazy hats and stood on the corners laughing and hugging. Dickson Street crackled with excitement.

All this made it a place people wanted to be. Straight people, women wearing hosiery and high heels, men in suits—they loved the experience of freedom, even if they themselves couldn’t be free. They dared to step out of their establishment lives and feel the beat, smell the smoke they didn’t inhale. Well, maybe they inhaled—who would know? On the street, they became part of a separate world, joined a conspiracy in which all participants shared the secrets.

Not everyone loved the street where long-hairs had carved out a world of their own. What on earth went on down there, they lamented—police, city fathers, wives of husbands who slipped out for a drink at one of the dive bars and ogled the braless young women. Owners of real estate along the street stopped repairing the roof and the plumbing, inflated the prices so that the restaurants couldn’t own it for themselves, so the art galleries couldn’t afford the rent. The hippies needed to go.

By 1990, value created by the alternative culture gave the establishment reason to retake the street. There was money to be made. People wanted to eat there, shop there. The street was cool. Never mind that the coolness had been bestowed by starving artists, by inventive bohemians, by fledgling entrepreneurs selling worn-out blue jeans for respectable profits.

The rich bought the street. They demolished landmark gathering places to put in shops selling diamonds and art from back east. They came dressed in their finery to eat at chain restaurants and watch traveling Broadway shows.

The street is now a shell of its former raunchy self, an extravagant display of fakery in expensive plastic packaging—a back to the land scene where the joyful family piles out of their brand new SUV to view nature, a credit card ad with Beatles music playing in the background. There’s no getting it back. They don’t even understand what’s been lost.

Excerpts, Aquarian Revolution

“We’re in the headwaters. It’s pretty wild and wooly. There’s times we have to hike out. We have a highwater trail, and we park our car on the bluff and it takes about a fifteen-minute walk to get down to the house, because the creek’s roaring and we can’t get in or out.” Chapter 1

“If you wake up in the morning and you’re happy, happy to see the sun rise, happy to see your wife or husband lying next to you, happy to be doing what the day promises for you, then I guess you’re in a good place, you’ve done what you’re supposed to do.” Chapter 2

“On really windy days when we couldn’t cut, he’d climb up to the top of the tallest pine and tie himself on and yell and scream. I started doing that. He said, you’ve got to make sure you don’t drink anything for several hours before you go up, because you’re going to pee your pants, totally lose control. The tree tops would make a twenty foot arc—we’re talking Ponderosa pines, or big Douglas firs that are probably a hundred feet tall.” Chapter 4

“I did have to make a living since I was a single woman. I went to Wall Street at that point, doing marketing for tax shelters and oil drilling funds. Pretty successful at it, working for a big brokerage house and pursuing my alternative lifestyle at night, carrying my briefcase, getting on the subway every morning completely dolled up in my full douche regalia, going to work, and then on the weekends going to the Fillmore East and seeing the Grateful Dead. That lasted until ‘71.” Chapter 5

“I loved Haight-Ashbury. Before I went to Haight-Ashbury, my apartment was raided by the Fayetteville police on the rumor that I had a matchbox of marijuana. I had moved out three weeks before. Next scene, Haight-Ashbury. At Haight-Ashbury, people were yelling on the street corners ‘Acid, grass, speed, Berkeley Barb.’ It was like going to the candy store. You couldn’t get arrested.” Chapter 6