Wednesday 28 March 2018

Teaching Their Parents Well.

Marching For Their Lives: The huge achievement of the young organisers behind March For Our Lives is to have recognised in the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its political enablers, the same malign constellation of social and economic forces responsible for visiting the Vietnam conflict upon American youth fifty years earlier. The same glorification of physical force that gave rise to such obscene military expressions as “body count” and “search and destroy mission”, is today locked and loaded into the political Right’s fanatical reverence for the Second Amendment.

AS I WATCHED HUNDREDS-OF-THOUSANDS of young Americans marching for their lives on Saturday 24 March, these were the words in my head.

And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well,
Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.

Yes, I know, the song “Teach Your Children” is nearly 50 years old. Even so, there’s something so bitter-sweet about Graham Nash’s composition; something so touchingly intergenerational and solidaristic; that the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit simply took up residence in my skull and refused to leave.

 Released in 1970, on the CSNY album Deja Vu, the song climbed to No. 16 on Billboard’s Pop Singles Chart. Tellingly, the social and political context of “Teach Your Children” was every bit as polarised as that into which the March For Our Lives organisers decanted so many young Americans last weekend.

In the same month that the song was released, May 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State University had opened fire on unarmed students protesting President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, killing four and wounding nine. CSNY band-member, Neil Young, upon learning of the so-called “Kent State Massacre”, sat down and composed “Ohio” which was recorded and pressed with record speed to come out just days after the release of “Teach Your Children”.

From both an emotional and a political standpoint, the two compositions could hardly have been further apart. Nash’s “Teach Your Children” speaks tenderly to the shared hopes and fears of young and old alike, and to the need for honest communication between the generation of “parents”, who had grown up during the Great Depression and World War II, and their post-war baby-boom “children” (the oldest of whom were then in their early-20s). Young’s song, by contrast, is a raw and angry cry of protest, capturing perfectly the shock and horror of witnessing “Amerika” – “The Establishment” – literally turning its guns on its own children.

Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming,
We’re finally on our own.
This summer I hear the drumming,
Four dead in Ohio

 The huge achievement of the young organisers behind March For Our Lives is to have recognised in the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its political enablers, the same malign constellation of social and economic forces responsible for visiting the Vietnam conflict upon American youth fifty years earlier.

The same glorification of physical force that gave rise to such obscene military expressions as “body count” and “search and destroy mission”, is today locked and loaded into the political Right’s fanatical reverence for the Second Amendment.

The same authoritarian, quasi-fascist, worship of toughness which mandated full-scale war in Indochina, manifests itself today in the compulsive need of all those Americans who cannot cope with difference to amass deadly “defensive” arsenals of semi-automatic weapons and handguns.

And just as the 1969 My Lai Massacre made clear what happens when young men are encouraged to believe that the hearts and minds of civilian populations are best won by pumping them full of lead; the deadly, twenty-year epidemic of US school shootings has demonstrated the horrific consequences of arming the narcissism and nihilism of alienated and aggrieved young men at home.

The assignment which today’s young anti-violence activists have taken on is, however, a much tougher one than the anti-war crusade of their parents’ generation. The decision to fight “international communism” in Vietnam was strategically and politically motivated. As such, it could be reversed and the war it propagated brought to an end. America’s gun culture is a considerably more intractable phenomenon. Born out of White America’s deeply-entrenched fear and hatred of “the other”, it can only be successfully overcome by completing the cultural revolution begun in the 1960s.

This is a very big ask for 15-20-year-olds. In a very real sense, the political history of the United States since the end of the 1970s has been the history of the American Right’s unceasing effort to halt and roll-back the kinder, gentler America that Graham Nash, and thousands like him, were attempting to sing into existence in the 60s and 70s.

But, if the mission confronting this new generation of activists is enormous, it is not impossible. Crucial to its success will be the extent to which today’s young activists are able to teach their parents well. And that can only mean persuading them to confront the truth about what’s wrong: about what’s always been wrong; with American society.

Forty years of right-wing counter-revolution has left its mark on the Baby-Boomers. For too many of them it proved a lot easier (and much more profitable) to give up the fight for a kinder, gentler America. For those “of tender years”, the trick will be to convince their parents and grandparents that the March For Our Lives is a march for their lives too.

Gotta get down to it
Soldiers are cutting us down
Should have been done long ago.
What if you knew her
And found her dead on the ground?
How can you run when you know?

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 27 March 2018.


Andrew Nichols said...

The vulgar decadent violent society and need for an enemy to unite the nation is typical of all sick empires. This one's on the way out and I am convinced is going to start WW3 in a vain attempt to maintain its rule. We are in a repeat of 1913. The media in full war ferment and a choice of three maybe four "Sarajevo" flashpoints in 1. Syria where at any moment the Empire may decide to do a shock n awe after another fake CW incident 2. East Ukraine where the West Ukes armed to the teeth bristling with belligerent NATO advisors and feeling invincible after doing nothing to fulfil Minks goes on the attack and 3. Bolton gets his way and attacks Iran with new buddies the Saudis and Israelis in support and 4.the US Navy does something really stupid in the South China Sea and the Chinese waste a Yank carrier.

I think it's likely to happen inside the next 12 months. We are just so stupidly complacent.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Two of my favourite songs. Along with the best anti-war song ever – a walk in the light green – these do some up the institutional violence of the 70s. But this is the US, and the Conservatives have already begun their attacks on the young people who are leading the movement. Interesting how quickly the NRA among others of the gun lobby went from "thoughts and prayers" (two of the most useless items ever) to "puppets" "immature" "can't understand the complexities" "lesbian" and the like. Personally I think these kids are more sophisticated than we were in the 70s, and are showing the adults up for what they are. They might have a more difficult job (well actually on consideration that's a given because of the entrenched gun culture in the US) but the tools they have access to a much more sophisticated than those of the 70s. Time will tell I guess. But as I said to 1 of them on Quora, you are going to have to toughen up and grow a very thick hide, because the abuse will come thick and fast and there will be outright lies told about you and your motivations. Because the opposition also have the tools that are accessible to the kids.
But there is already a poster/meme around. I hope this lead you to it.

Kat said...

And.......The Grateful Dead.

Throwing Stones

Picture a bright blue ball
Just spinning, spinning free
Dizzy with eternity
Paint it with a skin of sky
Brush in some clouds and sea
Call it home for you and me
A peaceful place or so it looks from space
A closer look reveals the human race
Full of hope, full of grace, is the human face
But afraid, we may lay our home to waste
There's a fear down here we can't forget
Hasn't got a name just yet
Always awake, always around
Singing ashes to ashes all fall down
Ashes to ashes all fall down
Now watch as the ball revolves and the nighttime falls
And again the hunt begins and again the blood wind calls
By and by again, the morning sun will rise
But the darkness never goes from some men's eyes
It strolls the sidewalks and it rolls the streets
Staking turf, dividing up meat
Nightmare spook, piece of heat
It's you and me, you and me
Click, flash blade in ghetto night
Rudie's looking for a fight
Rat cat alley roll them bones
Need that cash to feed that jones
And the politician's throwing stones
Singing ashes to ashes all fall down
Ashes to ashes all fall down
Commissars and pin-striped bosses role the dice
Any way they fall guess who gets to pay the price
Money green or proletarian gray
Selling guns instead of food today
So the kids they dance, and shake their bones
And the politician's throwing stones
Singing ashes to ashes all fall down
Ashes to ashes all fall down
Heartless powers try to tell us what to think
If the spirit's sleeping, then the flesh is ink, yeah
History's page, it is thusly carved in stone
The future's here, we are it, we are on our own
On our own. On our own. On our own.
If the game is lost then we're all the same
No one left to place or take the blame
We will leave this place an empty stone
Or that shinning ball of blue we can call our home
So the kids they dance, they shake their bones
And the politicians, throwing stones
Singing ashes to ashes all fall down
Ashes to ashes, all fall down
Shipping powders back and forth
Singing "black goes south and white comes north"
And the whole world full of petty wars
Singing "I got mine and you got yours"
And the current fashions set the pace
Lose your step, fall out of grace
And the radical he rant and rage
Singing "someone got to turn the page"
And the rich man in his summer home,
Singing "Just leave well enough alone"
But his pants are down, his cover's blown
And the politicians throwing stones
So the kids they dance they shake their bones
Cause its all too clear we're on our own
Sing ashes to ashes, all fall down
Ashes to ashes, all fall down
Picture a bright blue ball just spinning, spinning free
It's dizzying, the possibilities
Ashes to Ashes, all fall down

greywarbler said...

Andrew Nichols
On complacency in a similar country and where it led. I remember an anecdote; in Australia when the contentious My Lai, Vietnam massacre by USA troops in the war found its way into the media, a local newspaper published it thinking it would be a sensational scoop. I think: My Lai Massacre (Article from Melbourne Australia Sunday Observer, 14 December 1969)
That issue was a failure, piles were left unsold. Australians did not want to be informed. The Australians wanted to remain complacent and ignorant of unpleasant reality, as do we.

The Sunday Observer was connected to Peter Abeles, who sold NZ the debt-laden Ansett and passed the foreseeable acrimony of its demise to us, despite that we had a NZ presence in the directorship I think. He was a close business partner of Murdoch and his newspaper empire. He also became a close personal friend and advisor of Labour's Bob Hawke, who relied on his advice and judgment greatly.

What chance do Labour values have when meeting such an accomplished finagler? Such people have a side door into the ears and minds of politicians who want the people to be complacent, and just hear the good stuff that will keep them so and re-elect the person and Party in power.
Sir Peter occasionally cut a controversial figure with alleged business tactics,[citation needed] and was seen as unsympathetic towards minority shareholders.[by whom?]

He was also caught up in the allegations of corruption that centred on then NSW Premier Sir Robert Askin, with journalist David Hickie accusing him of buying his 1972 knighthood from Askin,[citation needed] and giving Askin a seat at the board of TNT, plus 110,000 shares.[5]

He has been accused of being an associate of crime boss Abe Saffron and of being involved in drug trafficking with the Nugan Hand Bank.[6]...He did, however, admit to having given another mafioso, Venero Frank "Benny Eggs" Mangano (now the underboss for the Genovese crime family), a 'consultancy fee' of $US300,000 for 'advice' on how to acquire an east coast shipping line, Seatrain, and other matters related to the New York waterfront."[8]

Abeles was also connected to Rudy Michael Tham, leader of Local 856, "the second largest Teamsters' branch in San Francisco and mafia 'associate'."[9] In the 1970s, TNTs US operations were besieged by a number of "strikes, shootings and bombings."[9] These stopped when Tham intervened.[9] It was Tham who introduced Abeles to Fratianno, and Mangano, associate of Frank Tieri, the, then, boss of New York's Genovese family.[8]

Abeles' denial of any knowledge of mafia involvement in his business is supported in an interview conducted by the Australian Federal Police with Fratianno in San Francisco in 1979 when he told them that "I don't think that he knew these guys had connections."[10] The payments, Fratianno said, were all legal, paid to corporations to ensure there would be no Union trouble on the docks; nothing was given "under the table."[10]

Abeles ended up knighted for being so clever at getting on in the world and becoming a really big and rich businessman. He possibly is the template for many of the Gnashional persuasion here, and they would be as protean in their values as he was. The complacent here could absorb that complex behaviour if in NZ similar capability and energies provided jobs, important infrastructure, export earnings and useful overseas connections.

This is where complacency and under-developed financial morality can lead a country. When you can swallow that sort of stuff and give the person a knighthood for it, dead rats don't make you gag. Apparently, he knew how to charm, unlike our Sir Bob who has rattled a few recently.

sumsuch said...

It's a strange place, our 2nd cousins's country. Til our cousins turn away from their rulers it will remain so. They will strangulate themselves according to their course. Diversions are are always 'quicker' than solutions. Short term will destroy us.

David George said...

The ongoing mass murders require us to consider the root causes; is it correct to assume that they are simply a reflection of a violent society?
One of the Columbine killers had this to say: "The human race isn't worth fighting for, only worth killing. Give the earth back to the animals. they deserve it infinitely more than we do. Nothing means anything anymore"
Sounds more like the thoughts and feelings of a suicidal - deeply nihilistic with the view that Being itself is contemptible and to be destroyed. This is not the work of the strong, courageous man. How can this be happening in the face of decades of promotion of cooperation and compassion in our schools and broader society; "safe" spaces and the supposed tyranny of the expression of uncomfortable reality?
Jordan Peterson has a chapter (6) devoted to these questions in his book 12 Rules and just released is one of the finest interviews I have ever heard; Peterson and former Aussie deputy PM John Anderson. Remarkeable!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The ongoing mass murders require us to consider the root causes; is it correct to assume that they are simply a reflection of a violent society?"

This is a question that crops up regularly on US websites. And it deserves looking at a little deeper than they tend to. "Pro gun" advocates constantly stress the fact that people who commit these egregious acts are in some way mentally ill. Neglecting the fact that conservatives who are almost all "pro-gun" are the very people who have reduced psychiatric services, not only in the US but over much of the Western world. But then conservatives often seem to have very little trouble withe cognitive dissonance.
And it's all very well to consider the root causes, but the presence of semiautomatic rifles/pistols with large magazine capacity is what they call in the army a "force multiplier". Not too many people have been killed by someone who pointed their finger at them and shouted "Bang!".
Something should be done about the over root cause – that is American gun culture. "Pro-gun" people live in constant fear – of crime, and of their government. Because one of the premises on which their culture is based is that guns are needed to combat a tyrannical government. And if you read some of their writings about how to conduct yourself in public, which stress constant alertness and vigilance, and judging who among the people temporarily surrounding you are dangerous – well put it this way, it's a little like watching people with PTSD. The symptoms are remarkably similar.
And of course, the NRA is a supremely efficient lobby group, not because of the huge amounts of money they spend – they don't – but because their supporters are fanatical, and will contact their political representatives every time it seems that their Second Amendment rights might be infringed. They keep their supporters in a constant state of fear by exaggerating every so-called "anti-gun" proposal. And they are not in fact the most uncompromising of gun owners organisations I find to my surprise.
Which is why I wish these young people well, but I'm just a tad cynical about the end result of their protests. Still hopeful but.

greywarbler said...

I have just listened to Jordan Peterson and John Anderson and I consider the points made in that interview to undermine every advance we have made in human relationships since cross and witch burning. And why I would use such an emotional expression, is in reaction to the florid tone of Peterson's own words and his dogmatic advance of right wing regressive ideas.

He suggests that parents get their children to leave the class whenever systemic racism and gender is referred to. He says this is not teaching what the children need to know, it is ideology, it is pernicious neo marxism and post modernism, and in another broadside he talk about equity or equality of outcome as being 'murderous'.

He talks about reaching an understanding of one's own nobility of character by feeling the depths, recognising the 'monster' within you. He says that you should never let your children anger you apparently because it might let 'the monster' within us all out.

This is a ploy used by violent controlling men revealed in domestic abuse cases, and also in patriarchal cults. If the underlings can be cowed by belief that violence or unpleasantness will likely occur if the 'boss' is unhappy, just a stare is enough to quieten an unwelcome move without a touch. Psychological bullying!

This behemoth of words, speaking fast, talking absolutes, knowing it all, with the comfort of a term at Harvard University and now psychology at Toronto University behind him, is bloody dangerous. He can stick his 12 Rules where the sun never shines - I won't even bother to read them. But
he will win many people to his cause because he mixes the right amount of confidence in pronouncements, authority of higher learning, ability to dominate a discussion, verbosity, and his appearance of a mature, informed, man-of-the-moment. He carries the right RW messages that seem to provide answers to present dilemmas; blame them on the new wave of ...feminists, teachers; then he praise the left but then finds holes in it.
He appears rational, but is more of a ranter than Slavoj Zizek who attempts to take us forward and get our critical cortices going. Peterson just wants modernisation to peter out, preferably with saltpetre on it.

greywarbler said...

Thank you for that poetic comment. It is outstanding.

David George said...

Thank you for the comment, that's quite the reaction Grey Warbler.
I really do believe that we need to take some of the issues raised a little more seriously; there is very real danger inherent in pursuing the identity politics doctrine and history supports Peterson's contention the it has led to absolute mayhem and bloodshed on an industrial scale. The modern versions of Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and their fellow horsemen are sharpening their scythes. How much difference is there really between the radical third wave feminists and the racists for example; if the belching sewer pipe of hate emanating from some quarters is any indication, they are as bad as each other.
Resisting that might be considered "regressive" - if you believe human progress is a continuum with university safe space replete with teddy bears the peak achievement of our civilisation to date. I have grave doubts, there is something very wrong with all of this.

I was particularly impressed with Peterson's epic Biblical series and the revelations (to me) of the Biblical stories. No doubt the Cain and Abel story is the most relevant to our discussion on the school shooters but, more broadly, does anyone seriously believe that we can ignore the lessons passed down from our ancestors; that modernity has all the answers?
Here's a link to a very worthwhile discussion on the relevant virtues and dangers of strong and weak men with relevance to the school shooters:
And a link to episode five of the Biblical series, Cain and Abel: The Hostile Brothers:
Best Wishes to all for Easter.

David George said...

One further point; in relation to your interpretation of Peterson's assertion that one shouldn't allow children to anger you, you are making the claim that this is part of a strategy to impose tyranny. That is wrong.
His point is covered in chapter 5 - Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them. This is a call to correct bad behaviour, as soon as it occurs and to show your child reasonable limits so that you, as a parent, don't become resentful or inclined to carry that forward and punish them later as a form of vengeance. Allowing the child to perpetuate behaviour that will make the wider world, a world that isn't imbued with your parental love, hate them is real child abuse.
It's a common sense chapter on sensible parenting for the life long benefit of the child; to construe that with self serving tyranny is, well, to put it politely, wrong.

greywarbler said...

I went to the Salvation Army church on Friday morning and enjoyed and was uplifted by the service and the innovative way that we were led to think about the meaning of Easter. It was not about fear of the 'monster' within us that Peterson refers to, or something being 'murderous', even though that is the feature of Easter. Jesus was actually murdered by an invading state dealing death to this person they saw as a troublesome political stirrer gaining a great following.

This was about life lived well and loving and goodness. If you concentrate on those points and look elsewhere for leadership about life than Peterson, you will find a higher plane of direction for your thoughts. The things he talks about with force and some venom, are all products of past bad attitudes and policies throughout society, and can be countered by being understanding, listening, and making some changes. But these changes would be firm in following the good quartet of Kindness, Understanding, Respect and Practicality.

We will go a long way towards a 'life lived well' if we consider that quartet in everything we do and the attitude will help us to solve or come to terms with things that you fear and Peterson spouts about.
He seems more demagogue than academic except that his ideas are both conceptual and precarious.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Oh God Jordan Peterson again. A grand theory of "cultural Marxism" – whatever that is – taking over the world. If they were really that successful, he wouldn't have a platform. Craps on about stuff that is outside his area of expertise, and gives racism a gloss of intellectual rigour that it doesn't deserve. Supported by young, angry white males who can't cope without their privilege, and can't handle the idea of strong women. He is ideas have been picked apart by people who actually know stuff, but that only seems to add to his fan boys' (80% of them are boys) determination to treat him as some sort of substitute for religion. You get a bit sick of them actually, and it led to me putting a complete ban on watching any YouTube video in which someone "destroys" "wastes" "schools" a "feminist" "SJW" "leftist". I haven't got so much life left that I can waste it on this guy.

David George said...

Thank you for your comments Guerilla Surgeon. Everything you have written is wrong. I can only wonder at your obvious anger and your motivation for such a blatant mischarcterisation of a fine man, to say nothing of such oddities as the "angry white males" quip.
For those still following this thread with an open mind here is a Message to the school shooters: past, present and future.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Kiwi Dave. If you think that everything I say about Peterson is wrong, you obviously haven't studied him at any depth, you obviously haven't read his critics, and you obviously don't know anything about his supporters. Your blind support suggests you are a prime candidate for the YouTube license I was talking about in another thread. And I'm adding to my list of YouTubes I don't watch, any that are associated with the words "open minded". The way it is used today is simply to support shit that woo meisters like Deepak Chopra put out. Your mind, as someone once said is not meant to be so open that your brain falls out.

Victor said...

'Cultural Marxism' is surely an oxymoron.