Sunday, May 18, 2008

Up Against the Wall, MotherF__ker!

You have to be pretty close to 60 now to remember when that phrase literally rolled off the lips of college students from one end of America to the other. It was the late 60's/early 70's and American youth, or a good number of them, were in revolt. They were tired of a war without end, tired of the killing, tired of the draft, tired of blatant, institutional racism.

I was in the states doing my undergrad at the time and what a time it was. Protests everywhere, seemingly a daily event. On campus the SDS or the Weathermen, no one knew for sure, got into the Army ROTC building one night and what the blast didn't destroy the flames certainly did.

For all its absurdity and contradiction, it was a cleansing moment for America. It couldn't last and it didn't. The long-haired radicals shaved, put on Brooks Brothers suits and button-down Oxford cloth shirts and became investment bankers. But it was important while it lasted for it exposed the deep wound in American society and forced everyone to see it and, when that happened, Washington had to respond.

America could use another of those radical, cleansing moments right now but it's not going to happen. Why not? Because there's no generational divide, no draft and no powerful mass media.

The Bush wars are being fought by America's "all volunteer" army which is technically correct even if those hapless volunteers didn't understand they might wind up being held hostage by their own government and forced to fight year after year after year. It's a hidden draft, a perverse blend of voluntary enlistment and indentured servitude. It's wicked cruel, the handiwork of cowards, rapscallions and utter reprobates.

The trick, of couse, is "all volunteer." If you don't sign on for it, you're safe. You can forget all about it. And that's exactly what most American youth are doing, forgetting about it. The effects are plain. After 9/11, nine out of ten recruits were high school graduates. That's now down to seven of ten. In addition, the use of moral waivers to allow the military to accept volunteers with criminal records or other issues has skyrocketed. And even that isn't working which is why many of those early volunteers are now serving their fourth tours in combat, tours that have been extended to 15-months a pop.

Because there's no draft, at least not yet, America's youth, especially the privileged kids (and their parents) have nothing to fear. So long as you can hold that all volunteer army captive, they're safe.

No draft, no generational divide. When old people begin sending draft notices to young people, the chasm opens instantaneously. Anger and resentment and distrust build rapidly and settle in.

No powerful mass media either to make the American people see what's being done to their country. No courageous mass media to raise proper hell over the abuse of the all-volunteer soldiers. There's the obligatory occasional story, sure, but they're far and few between and not enough to make those who prefer not to see look at it, certainly not enough to trigger public outrage. There's nobody to expose the deep wound in American society.

And that, kids, is how America came to have so many motherfuckers and so few walls to put them up against.


Simon said...

Nice post mound. You're right about the draft. As long as Americans can't count on an army of the poor and the uneducated fighting for them...the war can be a big issue one day and all but forgotten the next. Now they are bribing these poor crackers with $25,000 dollar pay when you signup bonuses...but they are still being forced to lower their standards and accept druggies and gang members. And extending deployments is causing massive damage to their army. So you wonder how long this situation can last.
BTW can my generation use that slogan? Or did your generation...before they put on their banker suits...copywright it? :)

P.S. I think your blog is really cool...for a curmudgeon.

The Mound of Sound said...

Simon, thanks for your very kind comments. Your generation is more than free to breathe life once gain into UAW/MF. Bet you didn't know there was actually a band by that name. John Lennon liked it but thought the name doomed it - and he was right.

In fact your generation ought to be picking that up and revisiting the psyche of youth from that time.

Your generation faces its very own Venn diagram of threats and excesses and abuses - political, environmental, social, you name it - that you and your children are going to have to endure when my generation checks out.

From my perspective you have every right to be furious about this collective, existential indifference and self-destructive greed. Don't count on my generation to fight that battle, it's all yours. I find it discouraging, however, to see how self-absorbed, apathetic and even meek your generation is about these things.

I'd be delighted to see teens and those in their 20's and early 30's rise up and demand this lunacy be stopped. In fact I'm pretty sure that will happen - eventually - but I also suspect it'll happen much too late to be of any practical help.

I'm sorry to be delivering a sermon but look to the young people in the states who've flocked to the primaries. They have been the force that tipped the Democratic nomination to Obama instead of Hillary. I hope that's not just a flash in the pan of youth activism.

Larry Gambone said...

"The long-haired radicals shaved, put on Brooks Brothers suits and button-down Oxford cloth shirts and became investment bankers."

Not true. The movement was only a minority of the generation. The investment bankers came out of the conservative majority. Many of the radicals are still at it - see the new SDS and its fraternal organization MDS - and those who aren't political went into organic farming, cooperatives, trade union work, alternative medicine etc.
The myth of radical to reactionary has been sewed by the media to uFrom a 1960's student rad - still at it

Larry Gambone said...

That last statement should read "the myth of radical to reactionary has been sowed by the media to help destroy hope for a better world. "

The Mound of Sound said...

There's no question that the hard-core movement was a minority but that's always the case. The war and the draft, however, spread their views much more broadly than you might imagine. And yes, I knew those who went from olive drab to blue pinstripe.

The news SDS doesn't seem to have had much impact as far as I can tell. With powerful legislation like the Patriot Act in place, their form of dissent is awfully vulnerable.

Organic farming and cooperatives aren't going to stop wars without end or the evolving political oligarchy. They will, however, produce many delicious vegetables.