I am old enough to remember the power to the people movements of the 60’s and 70’s. But, I am also young enough to have been a teenager in the early 80’s. This gives me an interesting perspective on the efforts of my parent’s generation and the subsequent misfire of realizing their ideals as the rest of the 20th century played out. Most of us get caught up romanticizing the influence of the 60s-70s counter culture on things like Sex Drugs and Rock & Roll. However, there was much more that happened that was about politics and power. In fact, the Sex Drugs and Rock & Roll piece is actually a huge distraction to the politics of mass movements that is the real story of that time.
There was a war in Vietnam that was considered unjust and a waste of American lives by my parents community, my tribe. However, there were a lot of people in government and society who saw the war as a way to prevent the spread of communism. This was the basic ideological framework for division in this country at the time. There has already been a huge amount written about this conflict, it’s not my purpose today to analyze it. The key points I want to mention are about how people overcame what they called “The Establishment”. This is an interesting phrase that is still used today to denote aspects of our society that have become entrenched and calcified into the structures of our economic, political and social institutions. Back in the 60’s and 70’s the media was not yet part of the establishment in the same way it is today. Back then there were lots of published newspapers, and broadcast media that were held in high esteem as the ”free press”. Today that system of information distribution does not exist, it has since been centralized into the establishment of corporations. It is common knowledge that in 2020 all media sources such as newspapers, radio stations, TV networks, and even social media outlets are owned by 5-7 specific business entities.
The reason this is relevant to consider is that back in the 60’s and 70’s people could actually see, hear, and read details about the way the war was going, and see images on their TV screens of the Vietnamese people being killed. The social discourse about why we were fighting the war was varied and diverse, and our media was subject to the rules of something called the fairness doctrine which required that if you had a license to broadcast radio or TV you had to offer equal time for the counterpoint, facts, and beliefs in any discussion or debate. This open discussion on national media made it clear over the course of the war that it was an immoral use of force. Additionally, it became clear that there was a profit motive involved for businesses who wanted to capitalize on the resources of Vietnam, as well as the profits of selling the weapons to the US government which were being used to fight the war. The discussions of this information were not subject to the kind of disinformation and “fake news” propaganda practices that are currently part of our media landscape in the US. The clarity of information was a galvanizing force in bringing together people to oppose the war.
Make no mistake, in the 60’s and 70’s the people of the united states got together and broke all the rules. Through pure love and the power of numbers, we stopped a war and changed the cultural landscape forever. New ideas were tried, we expanded how we live our lives. Earth day was born, “ecology now” was a potent meme. Organic food began to be cultivated in small commercial ways, there were food co-ops, and people tried social living structures that broke with conventions of the past, we called them communes. White people started their journey toward uncovering the history of colonialism, slavery, and the destruction of the native indigenous population that are all at the foundation of the formation of our country. People came together and began to break down the dominant paradigm of our social structures. We were able to gather in huge rally’s consistently for over 5 years, despite tear gas, and cops with battens, people stood for change and their slogan was “Make Love Not War”. This fundamental activity of mass gatherings shook the foundation of the power structure. People were simply relentless in their willingness to share their time, energy, and attention with each other. Something woke up in people and they stood together for common principles. They stood together and their voices were heard in halls of government as well as society at large. Eventually, this heartfelt movement penetrated the media, the movies, music and culture. The power of it was the unity of purpose and collective desire for a more loving sane world. There were very few distractions, and there was no way to shame people into abandoning each other and the shared vision for a better world. Fierce love and willingness to stand together against water cannons, tear gas and the refusal to be divided along ideological lines. People were willing to adhere to principles of peaceful protest, tolerance for others, shared resources. We stood side by side ready to die for peace, love and a better world. Their power was undeniable, they took over industries, design aesthetics, and packaging initiatives before branding was a known thing. The famous Coca Cola jingle with the line, “ I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony” is an example of an advertisement that bent to the ideals of a whole new world of possibilities. War profiteers, businessmen, and politicians were set back on their heels along with conservative evangelicals who watched Jesus be redefined by a musical Jesus Christ Superstar.
For a brief period of time, It looked like the world was going to change forever. That was until dark forces were able to drive a wedge into the unity that had been the core power behind this metamorphosis. These dark forces, the remnants of military industrialists, corporate heads who realized that their goose was cooked if they didn’t do something, began to slowly galvanize their own power. You can see the results of this reassertion of social messaging, and advertising influences in our divided culture now. Back then it began with the distribution of cocaine, and the re-emergence of self-centered ideals of the “Me” generation instead of the All Power To The People” cultural phenomena that won so much freedom and had broken open the possibilities for a more peaceful economic approach.
Then, in the 80’s we got the election of Ronald Regan, the emergence of even more crack cocaine and the beginning of the media consolidation, slowly but surely the ideals of the old guard were able to reassert themselves. People who did not want to give up power did their homework and realized the role of media in the process of galvanizing public opinion. Bit by bit money and ownership began to chip away at the way we communicate and share information. Soon, we had wars in the middle east and cultural separation being practiced in the way art and music were served up in the marketplace. Just like the bins in the record stores, we were subjected to the impacts of demographic slicing and dicing. It all started with the Rock vs Disco, battle in the late 70’s and went downhill from there until we had the east-west hip hop battle sowing division and hatred of others. Meanwhile, big corporations began to buy up media conglomerates. Newspapers, and radio stations slowly but surely fell under the editorial control of the few. Many of these corporate entities did not want to see their profits eroded by a progressive vision of a peaceful world, with shared resources, clean power, organic food, and true freedom.
I watched as the vision and energy of 60’s counter culture was eroded and replaced by niche marketing, economic division, and an increase in fear based media advertising. We began to worry about long hair, and fashion again. Advertising drove messaging that took back a lot of the ground we had staked out for free expression and eschewing the establishment. Even the promise of the internet got co-opted by the arrival of social media centralization. Facebook purchased every emergent network competitor and began to leverage our personal demographic data as their product instead of creating a broad context for liberation. Social media has corralled us into even more polarized division and separation consciousness, as meme farms and propaganda sites mine our likes and preferences and appeal to our lower base instincts and foster our biases and divisions even more precisely.
Yet, all is not lost! The truth is, we can still galvanize ourselves and come together! People Power is still stronger than the complicated web of social context we think holds us down. Just look at the rise of environmentalism, Yoga, organic food, and LGBQT rights. When people decide, nothing stops the marketplace of ideas from rendering a new social paradigm into existence. Love is still the answer and the world is again waking up to the possibility of a new way of being together more and more each day. Despite the challenges of disease, and environmental degradation, people are using their power of imagination to comeup with new possibilities, new solutions The examples are all around us, Elon Musk built a solar power company that can charge your house and your car. Life coaches teach mindset, meditation, manifestation, and transformation. Yoga and organic diet are growing exponentially. In this wake of evolutionary thinking, quantum shifts in conscious awareness of our personal impact, people are looking for ways to change the dominant paradigm again. It has always been clear that war is simply an unsustainable and poorly engineered way of changing how we manage our economic and social structures. In fact, the USA is a primary archetype for the power of the ballot over bullet. The promise of a new world is still alive in this idea of resolving our differences through shared decision making.
It comes down to the power of individual choice. Those dark forces are still trying to sell us fear. But more and more we have examples of how love and sharing the world together is becoming the obvious solution. Co-operation has been identified as the superior path to biological evolution, it turns out Darwin doesn’t get the last word. Science is showing us the true value of our shared spaces, the commons, and the path to happiness is not in hoarding and having more to ourselves in isolated enclaves, but in community and coming together. But we have to activate our intention, we can’t be passive and sit behind our devices blinded by memes and hypnotic screens. The better world is waiting for us. All we need to do is practice consistent discernment, to choose love over fear and the lies. The message of competition and scarcity does not have to be how we live our lives. Innovation, Ingenuity, and Integrity are calling us to galvanize our communities. Our young people are already designing incredible innovations to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The truth is, we actually have all the power we need in our collective choices to have the world we want! Together, using the power of our collective imagination, dedication and willingness to let go of the old story, we are bringing a new world into being.