[sixties-l] Re: 60s - link to today...

From: Ted Morgan (epm2@lehigh.edu)
Date: 10/13/00

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    My somewhat grumpy, swamped-by-information-overkill comment a few days back may have
    given the wrong impression that I don't consider the discussion of today's Middle East
    bloodshed relevant to this list.  I do, and it is horrific.  I appreciate, too, Tom
    Nagy's effort to make that link explicit (but also appreciate the comments of others
    --including the ever-lurking Bob Buzzanco-- to that effect).  I'm tempted to wade in on
    the Vietnam comparisons --seeing many and feeling that Jerry West's use of My Lai
    exceptionalism has the effect of obscuring the structural fact that the American War in
    Vietnam was --all the rhetoric, government & media propaganda, and, yes, all the
    efforts by individual soldiers, peace & service workers, etc. aside-- in effect a
    consummate act of massive violence against the people of Vietnam (and Indochina
    But, I "won't wade in" at this point... :>)
    I also appreciate John McMillian's response re. student organizing today, and the
    comments he and others have made regarding comparisons to early days of the New Left.
    I think that discussion thread is a most promising one to pursue.  Some of John's
    comments, I think, reflect our tendencies --at different times and in different
    circumstances-- so see the glass half-full or half-empty.  Certainly there is an
    upsurge in student (and youth) activism.  Much has gravitated towards the globalizing
    of capital, from WTO/Seattle, to IMF/DC, to the 2 conventions, to Australia, to Prague,
    to Nader-exclusion protests (Boston), etc.  I don't for a second belittle the
    significance of this.  My own response to the initial inquiry reflected the fact that
    among the local 6-college student bodies, there have probably been only about two-dozen
    students in all involved in any of these actions.  And there's still precious little
    on-campus stuff happening.
    In one interesting (to me) example, John states:
    > One other, marginal point: Ted Morgan writes below that one of the
    > obstacles to student activism these days is "the spread of consumerism."
    > I'd argue that it's just the opposite - among many undergraduates,
    > mindless consumerism has come under the sharpest of critiques.  More and
    > more, students are reacting against symbols of corporate or consumer
    > culture, and taking an identifiably jaundiced attitude toward
    > chain-stores that litter the city (most notably, Starbuck's, the Gap,
    > and Barnes & Noble).
    John is on point in stating that awareness of the spread of globalizing capitalism --in
    this case, that mass marketing, Big-Box Malls & stores, etc are eroding our
    communities, independent businesses, etc-- is growing. No doubt.  Groups like
    Adbusters, etc. have been having an impact, too.  My point, I guess, is partly that
    these are the 'half-full' (well, 1/8th? full) side, whereas I see the majority of
    student on Lehigh's campus, blissfully oblivious to this phenomenon, indeed exhibiting
    all the manifestations of mindless conformity to consumer culture (e.g., logo-bearing
    t-shirts, etc.) while frantically pursuing their own self-advancement.  But, in part,
    too, I worry that there's an aspect of this very "awareness" that is co-optable by the
    'hip' consumer culture (unless it makes its way to the roots of the problem in
    capitalism). See, for examples of this, Mark Crispin Miller's brilliant essay "Big
    Brother is You Watching" in his Boxed In, or Tom Frank's The Conquest of Cool and the
    essays from The Baffler published under the title Commodify Your Dissent.  And, linked
    to this, I am currentlly deeply involved in an effort to block the replacement of a
    light-industrial zoned area in Bethlehem, PA, with a large-scale mall, anchored by the
    ever-growing Lowe's Home Improvement Center and either a huge supermarket or a
    SuperTarget store (that carries sweatshop products) [this is a particularly dumb
    development, threatening as it does a nearby middle school and residential areas, but
    also two other malls that are less than a mile away and have had a hard time keeping
    store space full].  It has been enormously difficulty to mobilize the citizenry (too
    busy, too "invisible" a "future" threat, etc.) against this single development (in a
    region that has already been heavily Malled!) --to say nothing of raising public
    consciousness about how this development is, in fact, linked to globalizing capitalism
    and the fight for market control; .. to say nothing of how to get across to people a
    way that they can see to fight THAT!
    So, those are some of the reasons for my earlier comments.

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