Beaton: Liberals became the Man, and he’s so boring
The Aspen Beat
Let me get this straight: You’re real cool and edgy.
You think global warming is the greatest threat to America, Maya Angelou is better than Shakespeare, people with more money than you have too much and big government is suited for every task except the task of defending the country. Oh, and you’re way into, like, several Eastern religions.
To which I say, “Yawn.”
Come on. You think exactly what your college professors told you to think, exactly what government bureaucrats told you to think and exactly what your friends told you to think — all because your goal in life is to be exactly like them.
And I’m supposed to give you credit for being edgy?
Let’s take a little historical journey into edginess. If this makes you feel in need of a “safe space” protected from views with which you disagree, well, turn the page now.
Back in the 1950s, American culture was homogenous. Most people wanted a car, a house in the suburbs, a job to which they could wear a skinny black tie and a litter of children.
A Democrat war president was succeeded by a Republican war general who was succeeded by a Democrat war hero who cut taxes on the wealthy. When he was assassinated in 1963, we grieved in unison.
Later in the ’60s, cracks developed in the monolithic culture. There was a war. More than 50,000 Americans died. Some of us thought the war was mismanaged.
Racial minorities had a lousy deal. The days of separate drinking fountains were over, but there was still real and ugly discrimination.
Women didn’t have such a great deal, either. They were restricted to low-paying jobs like flight attendants. (They were called “stewardesses” back then, and one advertising slogan was “fly me.”)
This was all considered just fine by professors, parents, government and the rest of the establishment, whom we called “the Man.” (This noninclusive, hetero-normative phrase may offend you in a microaggression sort of way, but that’s what we called the establishment.)
A lot of young people thought this wasn’t fine at all, and we said so. “Change” was our mission, not just our slogan. When expressing disagreement didn’t produce change, we took to the streets. We marched, we protested and — I’m not proud of it — we even rioted.
Here’s the important thing, however: We fought for others, but we thought for ourselves.
Our decisions were often the opposite of what we were told to think by our professors, our parents, our government and many of our friends. We took on the Man.
We were edgy before edgy was cool. It wasn’t by design — real edginess never is — and it had nothing to do with how we dressed or the length of our hair.
Then a funny thing happened in the ’70s and ’80s. We won. The anti-establishment took over the establishment.
But in beating the Man, many of us became him. The politics of college professors are now more monotonously correct than in the ’50s. It’s the same with priests, corporate CEOs, lawyers, cubical-dwellers, government bureaucrats and everyone else.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss — but more so. They’re groupthinking scolds who demand conformity from everyone over whom they can exercise their ever-increasing power. Their ideas are about as interesting and original as the Soviet-style apartment buildings on the outskirts of Moscow.
In the protest days, two independent-thinking newspaper reporters brought down a president. Today, the kowtowing mainstream media prop one up.
Ridiculously, these new establishment clones and drones still see themselves as anti-establishment. These establishment anti-establishmentarians wear their faux edginess like a Che Guevara T-shirt. The T-shirt naturally comes with green tea (organic, of course) and a yoga mat.
Imagine what true edginess might look like today. Imagine a young woman who wants to start her own software business. Imagine a man who thinks he should know someone pretty well before exchanging body fluids.
Imagine a student saying to a professor, “I think that system was tried in East Germany and didn’t work.”
Imagine people who think their long-term future is with a radical who was tortured to death 2,000 years ago for teaching that there’s a kingdom within us ruled by a power higher than big government.
Now that’s unconventional. That’s interesting. That’s thinking for oneself. That’s courageous, even outrageous. That’s edgy.
Glenn K. Beaton lives in Aspen. Correspond and subscribe at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter and Facebook.