instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

STILL OUT ON A LIMB

Talkin’ about my Generation…

As a college student 50 years ago, I got into arguments with my parents’ Old Left comrades. They criticized my generation for our long hair, ratty clothes and musical taste; they labeled our radical politics as indulgence. They didn’t understand our cultural revolution, didn’t approve of the tactics we employed to end the War in Vietnam and thought the concept of Black Power was madness. They told us we should be fighting for integration and organizing the working class. But we formed the core of a new movement that, along with the draftees in Vietnam who rose up against their officers, helped end the War in Vietnam. Our cultural revolution sparked the second wave of feminism and the gay rights movement. The militant cry for Black liberation echoed down the decades to be resurrected by Black Lives Matter.

In those years we, not our parents, had our finger on the pulse of the nation. We had a better sense of what fights needed fighting. We were inexperienced, impulsive, arrogant and, too often, obnoxious. We made stupid mistakes. But our analysis of what needed to be done at that moment was more accurate than that of the Old Left. In the long run we couldn’t sustain a radical vision and a cohesive movement strong enough to ward off the right’s counter offensive, and our dream of revolution crumbled.

Still, my parents’ generation failed to understand that while they had a lot to teach us, we had much to teach them. Could my generation be making the same mistake today?

Half a century later, radical Millennials echo who we New Leftists were in the 1960’s. We had the draft; they got screwed by the crash of 2008. We had nightmares about nuclear annihilation; they face global famine, resource wars, and mass social breakdown. They understand that the current political/economic system is unacceptable, that the approaching biospheric collapse means that everything has changed, and our politics must change along with it if most of them are to survive. Is it possible that we are too quick to dismiss their perspective just as our parents did with us?

Today, my age-mates argue that the two million young radicals (the core of Jill Stein’s 2.7 million voters) are just stomping their feet and holding their breath because Bernie is not the nominee. My age-mates reject young radicals’ argument that although Trump’s environmental policies are worse, both are unacceptable, since Clinton’s policies will cause us to cross tipping points that will destroy the productive capacity of the planet. Aging New Leftists counter that with Clinton in office we’ll have more time to save the biosphere. But does this ignore the science of tipping points and positive feedback loops? Some claim we can move Clinton towards our position, despite her history and her allies. Radical Millennials tell us no, that the environmental crisis has become so acute that maintaining the status quo against something that is even worse still jeopardizes our survival. Could they be right?

There are a few million aging but engaged 1960’s radicals and left-liberals in this country. What if those who live in deep blue states whose electoral votes will still go to Clinton even without their support, voted Green? What if a significant portion of them joined the Millennials who have picked up our banner? If that happened, the Green Party might reach 5% of the vote, qualifying them to be on the ballot in all states in the 2018 federal elections.

Maybe the growing climate change generated calamities of the coming four years will cause more of my old activist buddies to understand that Millennials who won’t vote for Clinton aren’t throwing temper tantrums, or wasting their vote, but rather, are looking ahead to build a movement for change. Maybe radical Millennials have more to teach us than we realize.
3 Comments
Post a comment