Today’s Revolutionaries Aren’t Like Their ’60s Predecessors

A torn American flag hangs from a barricade in protest at the police in the “City Hall Autonomous Zone” in New York City, June 26, 2020. (Mike Segar / Reuters)

They are much more dangerous.

In In the 1960s and early 1970s, the US was baffled by massive protests calling for radical changes in the country’s attitudes to race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. The Vietnam War and widespread postponement of lectures were likely the fuel that caused previous peaceful civil disobedience.

At times, the demonstrations turned violent, such as the Watts riots of 1965 and protests at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago. Terrorists from the Weathermen (later called the Weather Underground) bombed dozens of government buildings.

The 1960s revolution introduced everything in the country, from hippies, communes, free love, mass tattoos, general blasphemy, rampant drug use, rock music and high divorce rates to the War on Poverty, massive government growth, feminism, positive action, and race curricula / gender / ethnic college

The enemies of the 1960s counterculture were the ‘established order’ – politicians, companies, the military and the ‘square’ generation in general. Leftists attacked their parents who grew up in the Great Depression. That generation had won World War II and had returned to create a thriving post-war economy. Growing up with economic and military adversity, they sought a return to comfortable conformity in the 1950s.

Half a century after the previous revolution, today’s cultural revolution is vastly different – and much more dangerous.

Government and debt have grown. Social activism has already been institutionalized in hundreds of newer federal programs. The Great Society inaugurated a multi-trillion dollar investment in the welfare state. The divorce rate increased enormously. The nuclear family declined. Immigration, both legal and illegal, skyrocketed.

So America is much less resilient and a much more divided, debt-rich and vulnerable target than it was in 1965.

Today, radicals do not protest against the conservatism of the 1950s, but rather against the radicals of the 1960s, who now rule as old liberals. Now many of the current enforcers – governors of blue states, mayors and police chiefs – are from the left. Unlike Democratic Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley in the 1960s, today’s forward-thinking civic leaders often sympathize with protesters.

The 1960s protests aimed at racial assimilation and integration to set the agenda of Martin Luther King Jr. update to make the race incidental and not essential to the American mindset. Not so with the contemporary cultural revolution. It tries to ensure that racial differences form the basis of American life, dividing the country between alleged non-white victims and alleged white victims, past and present.

In the 1960s, radicals rebelled against their teachers and professors, who were often highly skilled and the products of fact-based and inductive education. Not so in 2020. Today’s radicals were not taught by traditionalists, but by less educated older radicals.

Another important difference is the debt. Most public education in the 1960s was sparse and relatively inexpensive. Since there were no plush dorms, latte bars, rock climbing walls, diversity coordinators, and provocation inclusions, real dollar tuition was much cheaper.

The result was that student radicals from the 1960s graduated without much debt and, despite their hipness, were able to enter a thriving economy with marketable skills. Today’s angry graduates owe a $ 1.6 trillion collective debt to student loans, much of which is borrowed for mediocre, therapeutic, and politicized courses that employers are unimpressed with.

College debt hinders adulthood, marriage, child education, home ownership and saving money. In other words, today’s radical is far more desperate and angry than its college guess.

Today’s rift is also geographically fashionable in 1861, not just generations like the 1960s. The two blue shores seem to despise the expansive red interior, and vice versa.

Yet the scariest feature of the current revolution is that many of its supporters haven’t changed much since the 1960s. They may be rich, powerful, influential and older, but they are just as reckless and see the current chaos as the ultimate victory in their own long ’60s march.

Companies are no longer seen as bad, but as contributors to the revolution. The military is no longer smeared as belligerent, but has been hailed as a government employment agency where race, class and gender agendas can get the green light without a messy legislative debate. Unlike the 1960s, there are essentially no conservatives in Hollywood, on campuses, or in government bureaucracies.

So the war no longer creates radicals against conservatives, but often socialists and anarchists against both liberals and conservatives.

In the 1960s, a huge “silent majority” finally had enough, elected Richard Nixon, and slowed the revolution by locking, absorbing and moderating criminals in prison. If today there is a silent mass of traditionalists and conservatives, it will remain in hiding.

If they remain silent in their true mental monasteries and lament the violence in silence, the revolution will continue. But as in the past, when they finally break through, decide enough is enough and reclaim their land, even this cultural revolution will splutter.

© 2020 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Today’s Revolutionaries Aren’t Like Their ’60s Predecessors

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the most recent author of The case for Trump.


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