Dissent writer Danny Goldberg offers a criticism of “professional progressives,” while defending the “spiritual side” of politics. The article is a couple of months old, but I’m catching up.
In a post for the Daily Beast Michelle Goldberg lamented, “Drum circles and clusters of earnest incense-burning meditators ensure that stereotypes about the hippie left remain alive.” At Esquire, Charles Pierce worried that few could “see past all the dreadlocks and hear…over the drum circles.” Michael Smerconish asked on the MSNBC show Hardball if middle Americans “in their Barcalounger” could relate to drum circles. The New Republic’s Alex Klein chimed in, “In the course of my Friday afternoon occupation, I saw two drum circles, four dogs, two saxophones, three babies….Wall Street survived.” And the host of MSNBC’s Up, Chris Hayes (editor at large of the Nation), recently reassured his guests Naomi Klein and Van Jones that although he supported the political agenda of the protest he wasn’t going to “beat the drum” or “give you a free hug,” to knowing laughter.
Yet it is precisely the mystical utopian energy that most professional progressives so smugly dismiss that has aroused a salient, mass political consciousness on economic issues—something that had eluded even the most lucid progressives in the Obama era.
Since the mythology of the 1960s hangs over so much of the analysis of the Wall Street protests, it’s worth reviewing what actually happened then. Media legend lumps sixties radicals and hippies together, but from the very beginning most leaders on the left looked at the hippie culture as, at best, a distraction and, at worst, a saboteur of pragmatic progressive politics. Hippies saw most radicals as delusional and often dangerously angry control freaks. Bad vibes.
Not that there is anything magic about the word “hippie…..”
The arguments aren’t anything new, but they are directed to a younger generation urban-based old left milieu who missed the “Old Left/New Left” debates of the 60s and 70s for whom, believe it or not, the subject matter is fresh. It provides a great intro to a post I’m working on about the New York democratic socialist old left intellectualism which I’ll post sometime within the next week or so.
A minor point to the article, but so very annoying, is the perpetuation of the myth that Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee” was written in earnest. People! It was a joke! It was satire! Irony! Remember my 50 liberal country songs? Why do you think I included it? There was actually quite the discussion on it in the thread.