We're a Long Way From Woodstock

Classic garden-variety 1960s hippies loved to celebrate feminism, radical environmentalism, and “fairness,” just like today’s progressives, and they certainly weren’t immune from groupthink. But they were also strikingly anti-establishment.  They celebrated nonconformists. They demanded “power to the people,” advocated rebellion, and never, ever trusted “The Man”—at least, as it’s now a cliché to point out, until they got older and actually became “The Man.”

Have you ever met someone who has no idea what his or her personality is really like?  This would be, for instance, the “really laid-back” guy who insists on calculating how much each diner owes, down to the penny, after a 14-person restaurant dinner. It’s the young mom who tells you she’s a “strict disciplinarian” while her child is gleefully whacking her on the head with a giant plastic octopus. It’s also that “totally organized, type-A” friend who is successfully—but unintentionally—growing  a stellar crop of magic mushrooms, fed by forgotten McDonald’s French fries, in the back of her car.

This malady—let’s call it Personality Unawareness Syndrome—also applies to a healthy handful of modern leftists. Back in the good old days (or the bad old days, depending on your perspective), left-leaning activists may have been a little wacky, but they also used to believe in at least some form of personal freedom.

Classic garden-variety 1960s hippies loved to celebrate feminism, radical environmentalism, and “fairness,” just like today’s progressives, and they certainly weren’t immune from groupthink. But they were also strikingly anti-establishment.  They celebrated nonconformists. They demanded “power to the people,” advocated rebellion, and never, ever trusted “The Man”—at least, as it’s now a cliché to point out, until they got older and actually became “The Man.”

Classic leftist hippies also, as evidenced by the rather wild ride of the ’60s, liked to have a good time.  Rain-soaked outdoor concerts, rampant drug use, and public square “love-ins” may not be your cup of tea, but they’re certainly not activities for the uptight.  

Fast-forward to today, when the self-proclaimed heirs of the progressive counterculture appear to be the most uptight people on the planet.  Last week, writer Jon Gabriel visited Netroots Nation, a leftist conference for online activists that showcases, as Gabriel wrote, “America’s finest example of unchecked liberal policy.” 

The highlight of Netroots Nation—aside from a fervent, folk-music tinged appeal to draft the ever-dour, hyper-liberal Elizabeth Warren as the next Democratic presidential candidate, which might just be my craziest right-leaning dream come true—appeared to be a serious panel on “comedy.” 

The panel, titled “Only the Jester Speaks the Truth,” offered various recommendations on how to tell a non-racist, non-sexist, non-ageist, completely non-offensive joke. (One audience member, it should be noted, suggested that the safest way to do this was not to tell jokes to black people.) Along with various “social justice comedians,” the panel also included an employee of Russia Today, an outlet funded by what is perhaps the least funny country on earth.

“The audience had several questions about what they were allowed to joke about,” Gabriel wrote, “and even how comedy works.” 

The jokes, as they say, write themselves. Humor certainly erupted at the Netroots comedy panel, but, as you probably know if you hang out with hard-core progressives on a regular basis, it was mostly of the unintentional kind. Good jokes tend to require a bit of the unexpected.  Unfortunately for the most earnest of leftists, they also require a bit of transgression and free thought. 

Last week, in a fascinating essay at The Federalist, James Poulos outlined the rise of what he calls “the pink police state.”  Speaking with The Atlantic a few years back, he described the concept this way: “Citizens of a Pink Police State (I should say subjects) are apt to surrender more and more political liberty in exchange for more and more cultural or ‘personal’ license. And the government of a Pink Police State tends to monopolize and totalize administrative control while carving out a permissive playpen for the people.”

America’s growing government administrative control, as we’ve seen in our country’s recent debates raging over health care, religious freedom, and more, inevitably overlaps into our personal lives.  It does this while insisting it is acting on behalf of “freedom.” This, it seems, is the odd, depressing logical endpoint of the “free-spirited” ’60s counterculture: government-guaranteed “fairness” paired with forced, humorless conformity. 

If you ask a leftist friend how they feel about freedom, they’ll say they love it. Your next question should be what they think freedom really means.  Somehow, as LSD-fueled “acid tests” morphed into discos, and discos morphed into raves, and raves morphed into people sitting in front of their computers eating Doritos while taking a Buzzfeed.com personality quiz (my favorite: “Which Black Best Friend From the ’90s Are You?”), that concept of “freedom” has morphed into a vision of statist micromanagement. 

As Plato’s Socrates constantly reminded his interlocutors, it is important to “know thyself.”  Many modern progressives, as the Netroots comedy panel deftly illustrated, lack a basic understanding of what they’ve become.  “Man, when you lose your laugh,” as ’60s icon and Merry Prankster Ken Kesey once noted, “you lose your footing.” 

Despite their enthusiasm for a growing, invasive state and a community-based thought police, many leftists seem to believe they’re just like those free-spirited hippies of yore, or community activists fighting the power. Perhaps it makes sense why they would think this way. Otherwise, I don’t know how they could live with themselves. It would be no fun at all.

 

Heather Wilhelm is a writer based in Austin, Texas. http://www.heatherwilhelm.com/

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commented 2014-07-28 23:22:23 -0400 · Flag
Tom writes:

I find myself asking these very questions Every day as I wander around in astonishment,
so these are the hyper liberals who protested Vietnam, identified Nixon as Pure Evil and Corrupt, Ok I’ll bite,

But Now you Remain Silent, on the NSA, the IRS scandal, the Wall Street / Government power arrangement, these Liberal FREAKS are the Biggest Frauds to Ever Roam the Planet, there is Nothing at their Core except a zeal for Power, they live in self contained bubbles and simply parrot back to one another the Tosh that flows from there self-satisfied, vacuous, narcissistic world, they are FRAUDS.

Interestingly, the one hyper liberal from the sixties that I actually respect, is Daniel Ellsberg, who wrote in a Washington Post editorial more than a year ago, If I did what I did during the 70’s I would be in jail under the Obama Administration.

The Secular Progressives have been masterful in there strategy & approach, they have taken over the institutions that were supposed to operate as the counter force to these very transgressions, namely: the Academy (so called higher learning) & the Media.

Human Nature, it never really changes, the Base Behaviour for Power and the ability to lord over people has always been with us, No Thanks.