[sixties-l] 60s Awakenings

From: Ted Morgan (epm2@lehigh.edu)
Date: Fri Jun 16 2000 - 14:47:52 CUT

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    In the hope of reviving this list's pursuit of worthwhile discussion --despite
    the moderator's reassurances, I am concerned that the quality of the list is
    endangered by the recent flap over Horowitz postings-- I would like to pick up a
    thread last mentioned I think by Rosalyn Baxandall about a week ago. I hope she
    and others interested in it are still on the list. Ros began with a critical
    comment about the 'maleness' of the list's discussion [I can only imagine what
    she must be thinking now with the recent stuff!] and brought up some of the
    material, including her own forthcoming book, on the women's liberation
    movement. I have been doing a lot of reading in some of the new 'histories' and
    documents from that movement --books like Susan Brownmiller's In Our Time, Ruth
    Rosen's The World Split Wide Open, and the collection of women's liberation
    materials collected by Rachel DuPlessis and Ann Snitow called The Feminist Memoir
    Project: Voices from Women's Liberation (which includes a great piece by Ros
    Baxandall). My interest has been in the kind of "awakening" that took place as
    women first began to attend & join women's groups, C-R groups, etc. --awakenings
    of consciousness that led to political consciousness and then action, which in
    turn created great feelings of liberation, exhilaration, and empowerment, which
    culminated in forms of collective action which brought about instrumental change
    ('political' empowerment) in the larger society. [Not that this is as linear as
    my writing suggests; it's much more interactive & cyclical.] The dynamic
    contains both strains of identity reconstruction (linked to "expressive
    politics") and agitation for (instrumental) change in the larger society. The
    women's liberation writings are full of these kinds of expressions, as is the
    rich literature from the civil rights movement awakenings in the 50s and early

    My thesis (briefly!!) is that something similar was happening to individual
    people who became involved in all of the 60s movements --the student movement,
    the antiwar movement & Resistance, the black power movement, Chicano movement,
    Latino movement, American Indian movement, Gay Rights movement, ecology movement,
    etc. That, individually, people were first drawn to activism by something that
    sharpened their awareness of wrong, injustice, etc. and their sense that
    something should and could be done about it. This happened for people of
    different ages at different times during the 20 or so years of 'the Movement,'
    and this "awakening" varied in part because the times were changing, the
    environment that stimulated action was becoming transformed during the 1960s
    --with a major transformation occurring around 1964-65. So, individual paths to
    activism varied dramatically (also, of course, because individuals came from
    quite diverse backgrounds, from red diaper babies to Goldwaterites, from
    upper-middle-class whites to diverse minorities, etc.). [I think, too, one can
    point to a general shift in the decade's zeitgeist corresponding to awakening,
    action, empowerment, radicalization, etc. ]

    [It is also my thesis is that this kind of consciousness-action-empowerment
    dynamic is what a healthy, full-fledged democracy nurtures in (and for) all

    One thing I'm interested in is whether people on the list have specific memories
    related to this awakening in their own experience or that of others they knew
    --particularly in movements not so richly documented (civil rights - women's)
    --i.e., the other 'equality movements' and/or student/antiwar movements (or
    ecology if one is younger). I'd be real interested in hearing these, or having
    good sources suggested.

    I am also very interested in the ways in which the mass media interacted with
    these movements, these awakenings and actions. Here I discern a fundamental
    difference between the way the mass media dealt with movement expressions (at any
    time in the 60s) that "fit" within the mainstream ideological framework
    (liberalism, equal rights, etc. --like much of civil rights) and those that
    veered outside this framework (i. e.., were 'radical' critiques of institutions
    justified by liberal ideology; e.g., critiques of the Vietnam war as an immoral
    assault by the United States; critiques of Great Society liberalism from the
    left, etc.). It's also part of my thesis that this interaction greatly affected
    the trajectory of the Sixties (along with the war, among other things). So I'd
    welcome hearing from anyone with stories or suggestions re. to media-movement
    interaction, along these lines. Marty Jezer has written critically of some of
    the "revolutionary" fringe of the late-60s, early-70s; I see this fringe (along
    with the countercultural cooptation) as, to a significant (but hardly exclusive)
    degree, a function of the media interaction with young people committed to these
    movements, to a radical critique, etc. These media-hyped/ media (and war,
    repression, etc.-)-inflamed "excesses" are what the mass media and 60s-bashers
    have kept alive as the definitive "Sixties" (or, in Jonathan Yardley's phrase the
    "bad Sixties" post-1965).

    Some people writing in recently --in disgust about the recent round of
    'dialogue'-- have suggested that they're more interested in currently-relevant
    discussion. I would suggest a topic, related to my interest described above.
    Namely, what has happened to this process of "awakening" today, especially for
    younger people. How has it been affected by the mass media culture --by rampant
    consumerism, the spreading market society, globalization-- and by 60s-bashing
    propaganda and media treatments (movies, etc.). What are the implications for
    awakening a radical democracy movement today? Cf. WTO-IMF protests, etc....

    What do you think?

    Ted Morgan

    ROSYBAX@aol.com wrote:

    > The women's liberation was de centralized and real different in different
    > cities and different neighborhoods and hard to chart. I was on the Lower East
    > Side and involved in day care a forgotten issue, WITCH, Red Stockings,
    > abortion, anti sterilization and so so much. There was also a shared culture
    > of pamphlets and writings and we travelled lots for next to nothing then,so
    > there was cross pollination and exchane. Most history has covered NYC, the
    > media center but Barb Winslow is writing on the wlm in Seattle and Amy
    > Kessleman on New Haven. Linda Gordon and I just finished a book DEAR
    > 2000.We cover 1965- 77 in many places but I fear mainly NYC, Chicago although
    > we do have some work from South Dakota, etc.
    > Ros Baxandall

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