Mar 11, 2014
Civilization and Its Malcontents
Posted on May 26, 2011
By Mr. Fish
Regretfully, however, after spending my entire adolescence memorizing, first, all that had inspired the ’60s enlightenment period—namely, the turn-of-the-century European and Russian intellectualism as demonstrated famously by the worldwide propagation of Marxism, psychoanalysis, existentialism, individualist anarchism, modernism, bohemianism, naturalism, realism, nihilism, agonism, futurism, decadence and absurdism—followed by a thorough examination of all the players responsible for igniting the democratizing era that ran for about 14 years known as The Sixties, I eventually came of age in a culture composed of significantly less symbiotic parts than I’d been preparing for. Gone, suddenly, was the worldwide peoples movement that had promised to socialize empathy, communalize self-reliance, intellectualize the passions of the id and to institutionalize a radical intolerance of institutions. In its stead was something that appeared to be its opposite, exemplified by such things as the war on drugs, the yuppie movement, Reaganomics and fashion trends that, like a network of completely perplexing diseases, sociologists are still wary to approach for close analysis for fear of contracting a truly virulent strain of Jan Hammer.
Staring open-mouthed at 17 in my Buddy Holly glasses, chinstrap beard, espresso-stained insides, putrid Chuck Taylors and newsprint-smudged fingertips, I wondered what had happened to the world into which I was hoping to enter so well rehearsed. Had the idealism of the ’60s been so ethereal as to have dissipated like cherry smoke, a victim of its own weightless optimism, or had it been dismantled by the super-sizing of corporate America? Had it been forever destroyed by the massive deregulation and privatization movements begun in the 1970s and early ’80s; movements that had given unprecedented amounts of power and influence to business markets which had then in turn—by being, at their philosophical centers, nothing but private anti-democratic tyrannies capable of corrupting even the most humanely driven among us (Jerry Rubin being the most famous example) with what Lewis Lapham once referred to as “enlightened selfishness”—bribed its participants, literally, away from their ideals with the most excessively narcissistic and ego-gorging of creature comforts?
Existing both in celebration of all that was promised to my generation by the artists and writers and public intellectuals from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s and in mourning of all that the 21st century has failed to collect upon with respect to those promises, I find myself everyday straining hard against the tether of time, back toward a past that had every indication of becoming some sort of dawn for the Age of Aquarius and away from a future that more and more feels like a pre-apocalyptic dusk that pre-empts the inevitable arrival of a very brutal and very dark nighttime, and I have to ask myself: Where is one expected to direct his rage when the enemy is the turning of the whole wide world and you’re met with the agonizing realization that, no, you didn’t say you wanted a revolution?
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