People coming here in response to David’s article in the Australian today (Green Wowser is no Leftie), may also be interested in an article about Hamilton that I wrote for Spiked last year : “Liberal Tyranny on the World Wide Web“
Also, few months ago it was the 40th anniversary of Woodstock so the media was full of articles about it. Hamilton wrote one which he entitled “From Free Love to Narcicissm”. I began drafting a response to it, but as is fairly usual for me, I became distracted by other stuff before I finished it. However it seems appropriate to publish what I had written up to the time I stopped, rather than leave it languishing on my hard drive. It’s not really finished, and should really be edited a bit …. but better to just put it here than wait till I have the time and inclination to do any more work on it . So here it is:
The recent anniversary of Woodstock has prompted various public intellectuals to whip up media pieces on the legacy of the ’60’s era. I was particularly irritated by Clive Hamilton’s piece “From Free Love to Narcissism“, published in Crikey. But I’ve since noticed the similarity between his and several other articles. On some levels they could have been woven from the same cloth.
It’s especially irritating that these people are so ready to describe Woodstock as a (or even the) defining event of the worldwide upsurge of the 1960s. It clearly wasn’t. Throughout this period, young people around the world fought real battles which actually changed things. The counter-culture which emerged alongside these struggles most certainly had its rebellious side, but it was also heavily influenced by the ‘turn off, tune in, drop out… ‘all you need is love’ mentality. And that aspect of it was struggled against by the leadership of those groups fighting for serious change. The idea that a mass stone-in at a rock n roll concert could be a world-changing event was not one that was widely embraced. At best, Woodstock reflected (rather than drove) the general rebellious spirit of the times. It may have been a demonstration that the youth were no longer prepared to accept the old social conventions, but it was not a centre-piece of any particular struggle.
However, 40 years later, it suits both the overt Right and the pseudo-left to look back on Woodstock as some sort of pivotal event. The pseudo-left is quite comfortable redefining the ’60s era as having been all about peace, love, harmony, tolerance, while the Right has fun lampooning the idea that a muddy gathering of half a million drug addled, group-thinky, tie-dyed, incense burning kids, should be viewed as having been of positive significance.
Ayn Rand wrote:
“The hippies are the living demonstration of what it means to give up reason and to rely on one’s primeval “instincts,” “urges,” “intuitions” – and whims. With such tools, they are unable to grasp even what is needed to satisfy their wishes – for example, the wish to have a festival. Where would they be without the charity of the local “squares” who fed them? Where would they be without the fifty doctors, rushed from New York to save their lives – without the automobiles that brought them to the festival – without the soda pop and beer they substituted for water – without the helicopter that brought the entertainers – without all the achievements of the technological civilization they denounce? Left to their own devices, they literally didn’t know enough to come in out of the rain. “
I actually have some sympathy with Rand’s view, although her contempt is far too extreme for me.
Poor old Clive Hamilton wants to have it both ways. In his Crikey article he wrote: “The original Woodstock festival was imbued with a sense of harmony and tolerance and was everywhere seen as a ‘victory of peace and love’ “. The rest of his article is a sermon about the sixties movement more generally in which he explains that it’s time we woke up and realised that in reality the “rebellion [which] shook the foundations of conservatism in the sixties and seventies [ has resulted in] the most materialistic, egocentric and decadent societies the world has ever seen”.
Apparently we were conned, instead of winning we really lost because the main impact of winning more freedom and greater personal autonomy was the unleashing of … da Market Monster!!
Continue reading ‘Yes, Clive, “all that is solid melts into air”, you just don’t get it…’