Thursday, October 10, 2013

Inequality, the Vietnam War and Lennon's 73rd Birthday...

Hard to believe that John Lennon would have been 73 today. He died just as the Baby Boomers were settling down en-masse. No longer radical (as if they ever really were); they settled down into their jobs and their new cars and had their babies that were superior to almost every other baby born in any generation (they called them the "Indigo Children"); the kids helped along with the very best of Scandinavian Wood Train toys and swimming classes for 8 month olds. And Good Night Moon read at night (it was short). Yes, the Baby Boomers became Republicans in the 80's.

They moved to the Suburbs so that their kids could go to school with other White kids. Egalitarianism from previous generations was gone; killed by the draft and the Vietnam War and the thinking that you deserved to die if you couldn't figure out a way to get out of going to war. Kids found God and got religion for the deferment. Kids went to college for the deferment. It set an ugly precedence, got us used to a whole divide of people less fortunate than us. It set the table for the tax cuts to the rich and the unbelievable wealth transfers to the Upper Classes.

The elder Baby Boomers, those born before 1954 who had turned 18 in time to vote for McGovern (but not in great enough numbers). After that war ended it was career and cars and a focus on  the immediate family. Normal stage of life stuff for about sixty million peers. It was a time for "meritocracy" in Chris Hayes terms. "I deserve this house in the ex-burbs, due to my own brilliance". Reagan came along and it was morning in America again. And most Baby Boomers bought it. And they bought into the materialism: the SUV's, the Monster Houses, the stereos and an increased love of gadgets. The age of political activism was done; time to raise family. Yet this family raising was done in isolation with the belief that with enough early exposure to Mozart, my kid could develop into a renaissance child. Public schools got neglected in order to create Magnet Programs. Charter schools. School choice. Anything that would get my kid the advanced status he/she deserved. Meritocracy, you know: we earned it.

Those were awful years. Clinton became President, the first Baby Boomer Executive in Chief and he immediately declared that the age of big government was over. Old tried and true socialist health programs were ignored to try and create some complicated private market mess called Hillary care. It flopped. The war on the poor ramped up; Welfare was reformed so that taking money on the dole was no longer possible for the poor for more than a few months; only Trustfunders could receive a monthly stipend for life.

A second Baby Boomer President came along in 2000. A not too bright C student son of privilege by the name of George W. Bush Jr. 911 broke our hearts and rather than seeing it as a sophisticated criminal act, W decided it was good cause to settle some old scores against his Daddy. We began a decade of war. Cost trillions of dollars (all off budget). And it secured the vast oil fields of Iraq for western corporations. One of the first acts of the invasion of Iraq was to eliminate the state owned Iraqi Oil Company.

More awful years. Now the Baby Boomers were nearing retirement. So what did Baby Boomer Romney do? He created a plan whereby the best Medicare plan would continue for the older Baby Boomers. Younger brothers and sisters would get vouchers and would expect to pay for their healthcare on the private market. The program that had worked since 1967 would remain the same for the elder Baby Boomers. An unfair system, but that didn't matter; this generation had become used to inequality from the time the boys received their draft number and they had to scramble to figure out a way to avoid the Vietnam War.

And I wonder how John Lennon would have responded to all of this? Would his songs remain political. At all. Or would he sing of organic veggies and awakenings to spiritual leaders, GURU's with seven digit incomes. The old line churches melted away, only to be replaced by either the Suburban Pop Church with their pop psychology, drum sets and action groups for divorced lonely Boomers. It was either that or a flight into a world denialism, a nilhism, represented by self actualization and meditation combined with a bit of herbal juicing, organic gardening and either Tarot card Divination or Astrology. Sometimes both.

Alternative medicine became all the rage. Andrew Weil MD, with his Marxian whiskers, had absolutely nothing in his approach to health that was even slightly communal. He made a fortune; bought a bunch of BMW's, a huge house in Tucson with an Olympic sized pool and reminisced about the days when he used to look for medicinal plants in the Amazon.

Nobody talked much of class anymore. Nobody mentioned egalitarianism. Tax rates were brought down to obscene levels where the wealthy paid LESS than the working poor. And this monster bulge of Baby Boomer population went along with it. They reveled in it. They created it.

The Sons and Daughters of the Greatest Generation decompensated into what Hunter Thompson called a "Generation of Swine". Yup. As it turned out, the Baby Boomers departed from the social contract in many ways: They escaped to Gated Communities. They created private police forces. They created school choice and Magnet schools. They became very comfortable with poverty and the return of homeless beggars.

These kids, who used to agitate against Apartheid in South Africa ended up living their own American Apartheid where their kids went to magnet schools and their families lived in the ex-burbs in houses that had three car garages and four bathrooms.

Back to Lennon? Would he be happy with his generation? Would he create  social commentary that saw through the inequality. The racism. The White privilege. At the end of his life, John Lennon, like many of his peers, became enamored with Ronald Reagan. Amongst the Baby Boomers, there was no reaction against the materialism. No reaction against the inequalities in education. There was no reaction against the tax system that favored the wealthy and taxed the elites at levels where their anti-social behavior became trendy. No. Lennon lost any interest in Lenin years ago. I'd suspect he'd end up just like the rest of his generation: happy to enjoy the fruits of wealth with a martini in one hand and a joint in the other.

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