On the 60s

Lately, I’ve been hearing the term “60s” used rather dismissive and derisively. For example, in discussions about an author, text, movie, work of art, or piece of clothing, I so often hear, “oh, that is so 60’s.”

Now far be it for me to question anyone’s right to form judgments or express them. I am, nevertheless, curious about a couple of things.

How is it that people come to look down their nose on an entire decade and its products so easily? Was the entire decade really a wash, or were some parts of it redeemable, even exceptional?

What gives us the authority to say we, simply by virtue of living four decades later, have something right that others got wrong?

Is it instead possible that something like the opposite is true: that they had some things right that we’re missing, forgot, or even have entirely wrong?

For example, is it possible that in the 1960s there were people with the ability to access certain kinds of texts who no longer exist? That is to say, were there minds back then capable of making critical judgments about things like society and culture that are just not around anymore?

Last but not least, if you define human subjectivity in terms of a capacity for critique (of oneself, one’s life, history, world, etc.), what’s the possibility that human subjects existed in the 1960s, and that only zombies exist today?

You know zombies. Back in the day we used to call them squares, or people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

There are zombies in every age, but in this one they’re the creatures who simply parrot the opinions of others (or mindlessly dismiss them). That is to say, without analyzing, interrogating, digesting, or otherwise engaging them on any but the most superficial levels.

Listen to me, I’m 42 and I’m already scolding the young ‘uns. Anyone who takes offense to the tone and/or content of this message is probably not a zombie, btw.

Zombies criticize without critiquing, coating everything with a fine veneer of disdain, because complexity is just too much to deal with. And because, at the end of the day, it’s just not “cool” to feel much of anything at all.

If one would be truly revolutionary today (I know, how passé!) one would be a romantic (ugh, even more so!) because those guys and gals knew something.

They knew how to accord to passion the philosophical, moral, and aesthetic status it deserves.

Anyway, more later. I’m still fuming over the reaction to the Sotomayor hearings, so I’ll probably have something up on that soon.


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