‘There must be some kind of way out of here’
To the handful of ’60s holdouts still fighting the Revolution, I bring bad news: It’s over. Not that it hasn’t been over since Nixon resigned, but now it’s really over. The last representative of the revolutionary spirit, the icon who warned us that a hard rain’s gonna fall, has sold out. Alas, Bob Dylan is appearing in a TV commercial.
I don’t even know the product, for by the time Dylan got around to the pitch, I’d already zoned out, spaced back to another time when we were so naÃ¯ve that we really thought we could change the world. Turned out, the world changed us – and not for the better.
Indeed, the times they are a-changin’. But it’s certainly not the way we envisioned it, eh? It never is, I suppose, but sometimes I wonder if the pendulum will ever swing back to embracing the ideals of peace, love and the brotherhood of man we espoused long ago. I look around now and see nothing but nationalism, capitalism, imperialism and self-absorption, the polar opposites of the values of sharing, cooperation, altruism and universalism we’d hoped for.
In other words, as the Talking Heads would say, “Same as it ever was.”
Dylan pitching product is not the problem, merely a symptom of the problem. No, the real malady that threatens to doom this society – perhaps should doom this society – is that the bottom-up form of government we advocated never had a chance to materialize. When we were in the streets shouting “Power to the People,” what we meant was that our collective voice must be heard in order for a true democracy to flourish. We weren’t (at least I wasn’t) saying that anarchy should replace our form of government, rather that those we elect must be held accountable to the people who elected them. We were saying that the true center of power rests in the collective consciousness of the people governed, not in the vested interests of the few who govern. Politicians were supposed to be statesmen, beholden only to those who trusted them enough to allow them to represent them.
Of course, in retrospect that was a hopelessly infantile way to look at it, so what happened was that most of us who held those lofty ideals, once it became apparent that it was a lost cause, simply gave up. Rather than fight the system from within, many of us became apolitical for awhile, retreating to our little boxes in the suburbs, getting real jobs, becoming capitalists, telling ourselves that we’d grown older and wiser. Like Dylan, we took the money and ran. Instead of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, it morphed into the Age of Acquisition.
All we really did, though, was get older. If we’d grown wiser we’d not be in the situation we’re in right now. Which takes us back to the original problem – our form of government. Those we elect to lead us are almost never the best qualified for the task, and there could be no better example than our current administration. The scary thought is that perhaps Bush the Butcher is more representative of the baby boomer generation than the hippies and radicals. He thinks that (let me clarify that – Rove tells him to think that) democracy and free-market capitalism will solve all the world’s problems, which is a more naÃ¯ve position than our thinking that all we needed was love.
No, I refuse to believe that Bush is the best my generation could come up with. I choose to believe he is an aberration, a fluke, a bad dream that kept getting worse. He is a product of system that can be manipulated, that has been corrupted past the point of redemption, that needs a radical overhaul in order to function as a true democracy. The vehicle that Bush rode to power – not once but twice – is in need of more than a tune-up but is not quite to the point of a trip to the junkyard. What this hot rod we call democracy needs is a chassis adjustment.
My dream is that Bush’s place as the worst president in US history will also make him the last president in US history. He will be remembered as the person who provided the impetus for America to scrap its form of four-year terms for its executive to a form of parliamentary democracy in which the legislature (parliament) may call for a vote of no-confidence at any time in the executive’s term. This spares us the messy specter of impeachment, holds the chief executive and his cabinet accountable, and provides instant change when it is needed most.
Unfortunately, it’s too late for us when we need it most, which is right now. But at least when future generations make a gross mistake like this one did, they’ll get a do-over.
And that, my friends, may be the answer that’s blowin’ in the wind.
To comment on this column, email Ogi Overman at firstname.lastname@example.org.