They had the Beatles. We have the Bieber, who is apparently preparing a Christmas single, an indignity the Beatles at least reserved for their solo careers.
They had Jagger. We have that song about moving like Jagger – which, these days, is slow and sort of creaky.
They had Woodstock and Berkeley.
We have — Occupy Wall Street, I guess.
“I wish we had real things to protest,” people say, sitting under their damp tarpaulins in squares across the country. “In the ’60s, they were lucky enough to have real, serious problems that everyone could see and get behind, like Segregation and Mad Men. We all share certain grievances, but we still are having difficulty passing any coherent resolutions, and the iPhone charging station is overcrowded.”
Perhaps it’s fitting that protesters were being arrested by the dozens as the Martin Luther King memorial was dedicated. Both are present-day homages to the ’60s version.
Everything seemed so much better then.
When protesters clashed with police, they really clashed! There were no Blackberry outages. Hunter S. Thompson rode around the country with a motorcycle gang, ingesting what I assume was paint thinner. Now we have newsroom policies that prevent that sort of thing.
Our popular culture is embracing the ’60s again — possibly just as an excuse to be sexist on television. In the ’60s, you could call a stewardess a stewardess. There were Playboy bunnies. Everyone wandered around with lank, stringy hair, feeding flowers to tanks and singing off-key songs. And it was spectacular — or rather, groovy!
All our notions of what constitutes a model protest? Not Tahrir Square. Berkeley.
Maybe it’s the retro fashion. Maybe it’s the desperate search for Meaning. But sometimes it looks as though the gatherings in our squares are just elaborate seances assembled for the purpose of summoning the ’60s back.
But we are no longer like this. We couldn’t pull off a real ’60s protest movement if we tried.
Obscurely we sense that this is the boomers’ fault.
We have never really had the opportunity to be carefree. First we had to worry about getting into college. Now we have to worry about paying off student loans and getting jobs in this economy. And if ever we wound up doing anything untoward, everyone posted pictures of it on Facebook minutes later. Misspent youth? Not a chance. We were too busy being shunted to environmentally sensitive choir practice by our tiger mothers.
Naturally we dislike the boomers. They had all the fun that we were supposed to have. They had down time. They did not realize that wandering through the countryside holding hands and growing out their hair would make them unemployable.
Now we’re unemployable too, but we didn’t get to have any fun first.
Meanwhile, they’re on Wall Street in suits devouring our livelihood, except for the three in California who stuck with the movement and are off teaching alpacas to communicate by signs.
There was something carefree about the ’60s that we can’t quite recapture. It’s the same reason you don’t take your iPhone to the beach.
We’re unemployed. We’re young. But we also think of ourselves as responsible. We run Web sites. We design clothes. We entrepreneur, if that’s the verb I’m looking for. Notice how many of these protesters have jobs.
We are too self-aware to pull this off, and it embues the proceedings with a certain inescapable whiff of irony. We’d all like to talk to the media on behalf of our organizations, but, please, point that camera elsewhere if there will be any controlled substances going around.
All the things that define us also set us apart from the ’60s. They were earnest. We’re ironic. They had drum circles. We might have an app for that. Simple life in tune with nature? How about a simple life in tune with technology?
Groovy? Look elsewhere.