Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Kalb on the 60s

Jim Kalb has written a piece for Crisis Magazine about the 1960s. He takes a generous approach to the 60s radicals, arguing that their reaction to a materialistic culture was understandable but that their solutions made things worse.

It's written to Jim Kalb's usual high standard and is well worth reading. I'm not sure, though, to what extent the 60s radicals really were motivated by idealism (I'm not old enough to remember that decade).

When I looked into the main figures that Australia contributed to the 60s counterculture (e.g. Richard Neville, Germaine Greer) I found that many of them had been members of the Sydney Push. And the Sydney Push itself was strongly influenced by the left-libertarian philosophy of John Anderson.

Anderson's philosophy was not exactly idealistic. I've written a more detailed account here, but in short he laid the groundwork for some of the beliefs of the 1960s radicals by arguing that there is no morality embedded within reality; that reality can only be understood through a scientific methodology (scientism); and that the only "good" activities were those which were free, critical and creative. This meant that what mattered was not reform but an attitude of opposition.

Anderson also believed that sexual repression was a major means by which freedom was constrained. You were not supposed to have sexual hang-ups (jealousy, attachments etc.).

So the underlying philosophy of the Australian leaders of the 60s flower children was, seemingly, a harshly soulless one from the beginning (but, again, I wasn't there - maybe some of the rank and file were attracted by the idealistic sounding slogans of the movement).

14 comments:

  1. "Anderson also believed that sexual repression was a major means by which freedom was constrained."

    I'm inclined to think that Aldous Huxley was closer to the mark in Brave New World - that in practice sexual freedom goes hand-in-hand with political repression. Sexual freedom is the carrot that is offered to us in order to persuade us to accept totalitarianism.

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    1. I think that might be right. One thing I've never forgotten from my time at uni was talking to an older Marxist (Trotskyist). He told me that everything that wasn't aimed at revolution was a waste of time, except for sex. I asked him why sex was allowed and nothing else. He said that sex would still be permitted after the revolution. He seemed very sincere in saying this - it wasn't meant as a joke.

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  2. Ironically, even though modern liberal society is in some ways less sexually repressed than traditional society, it tends to make anxious introverts more sexually repressed, and expects unrealistically high standards of impulsive extroverts.

    Many introverted males are being criticised for avoiding dating, and are becoming increasingly addicted to online hard core pornography or transgender fantasies and fetishes, while extroverted males are being criticised for avoiding long-term relationships in favour of casual hook ups and prostitutes.

    Anti-social sexual behaviour is increasing for two reasons. One reason is its readily available and lightly regulated (which sends the message that its OK) and the other is that sexual obsessions and fetishes are related to neurosis and stress levels. The more isolated and stressed people feel, the more they will engage in anti-social sexual behaviour to relieve anxiety, depression and boredom,

    Liberal society expects people to engage in sex in moderation. However, this isn't happening because an unstable society of stressed and atomised individuals, which is increasingly encouraged by the market to indulge in a wide range of vices, will inevitably engage in high levels of anti-social sexual behaviour.



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    1. I remember reading about a study that even though casual sex is becoming more socially acceptable in our society, there is less and less actual sex actually happening according to people's self-reporting. Even worse, the sexual activity that is happening, we traditionalist Christians know, is more and more damaging.

      Sadly, our Churches do not seem to have any response, if they even recognize the problem. The best they can come up with is silly abstinence and anti-pornography campaigns amongst young people. The actual solution to the problem, the renascence of Christian marriage and a society (even if only a sub-culture) entirely supportive of young people getting married, eludes even some of our better Churches who instead rely on the rearguard abstinence campaign. All this does is increase disillusion, especially amongst those young males who are not natural alphas.

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  3. I was only a child in the 1960s, and my parents were not members of the counter-culture. However, we did live in married student housing at the University of Wisconsin during some of the most tumultuous years, so there were plenty of freaks nearby. People of my age have had to trudge through life just behind the 1960s generation, so that when we got to college and adult life it was the smoking ruin that they had left it. And of course they have been our immediate superiors in every hierarchical organization since high school. I don't think there is an ounce of idealism in those bastards. There is a great deal of goopy sentimentality, and a love of shaking their fists from the top of the barricade when no bullets are flying, but their real essence is selfishness and narcissism. Christopher Lasch nailed that one.

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    1. Agree 100%. Hillary Clinton is a good example of former '60s movement type who has transitioned to the dreary combination of hedonistic materialism in personal life and corporatist leftism in politics.

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  4. I was born 1960 and was a child and youngster in 1960-70. I think that the constant threat of immediate nuclear destruction which we all lived with may explain quite a lot about why things went as they went. I can tell you that everybody on earth went to bed fearing that he would not live the next day. This fear was endemic in the 60's and 70's and diminished in the 80's.
    When annihilation is threatening hedonism thrives.

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    1. I was born in 1962 (in the US) and remember nothing of the kind.

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    2. I was born in 1957 and I don't remember anyone worrying about nuclear annihilation.

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  5. Anonymous writes: "I can tell you that everybody on earth went to bed fearing that he would not live the next day."

    As one who is only a year younger than "Anonymous", I can say, this is pernicious tripe. On 99 days out of 100, most Westerners born in the early 1960s took the whole nuclear thing entirely in their stride (matters seem to have been different for a week or so in 1962 during the Cuban crisis) and the only people worried on a career basis about nuclear annihilation were the crazed Marxist harridans too repellent for even Germs G herself to tolerate.

    Of course, debauched mountebanks like Sydney's John Anderson owed their prosperity and popularity to being funded by the Poor Bloody Taxpayer. High time more Australians got the message spelt out here by American lawyer Robert Hale: that state-subsidised education is a catastrophe, intellectually and morally:

    http://www.fgfbooks.com/Hale/2014/Hale140917.html

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  6. I think there was an element in the 1960's hippie movement that Jim Kalb correctly describes. You can see that in the "Back to Nature" movement and the fact that books like "Lord of the Rings" and Dune were popular then. Heck, there was even a Christian hippie thing going on then. But, I feel all this got overwhelmed by the other parts of the 60's movements, which were far left. Feminism, Multiculturalism, Maoism, and other parts of the the left became the norm, and any good done by the reactionary hippies was gone by 1975 if not sooner.

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  7. I think there was an element in the 1960's hippie movement that Jim Kalb correctly describes. You can see that in the "Back to Nature" movement and the fact that books like "Lord of the Rings" and Dune were popular then.

    I think that dragged on a bit into the early 1970s, especially with some of the folk and progressive rock music coming out of the UK and Europe. However, this tended to be seen as a nerdy middle class white male scene that wasn't considered particularly cool or fashionable by the hipper counter culture critics.

    For example, the music of the band Yes was very anti-hedonistic, while early Genesis and Jethro Tull were staunchly English eccentric, anti-American, and anti-consumerist. Pink Floyd only took off because they had a more mainstream blues-rock sound that was easier to market.

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  8. It is the positively surreal concept of Aussie state politicians travelling to international rock festivals to woo the local vote for precisely the same reason - ingratiating themselves with younger voters. That this actually happens is a damning indictment on how reliant Labour/Socialist politicos have become on the Third World vote if they are ever to regain power - especially in the regions and especially after they have hooked up with the AWU and the politically correct Union movement ie criminals/Slipper/Thompson.

    Many people will be flabbergasted that such Third World practices can occur in say rural Australia. These flabbergastees however, do tend to be foreign. Auusies, immersed in a cauldron of rapidly warming multicultural soup and floating alongside a clearly overheating yet curiously blasé frog, have been subjected to such a relentless barrage of propaganda over such a lengthy period of time that most fail to realise what is being done to both themselves and their country.

    Their votes are worth nothing and the foreign reactionaries are getting to choose pour Parliamentarians! Partly its the "Sixties" effect - everyone HAS to have some political clout even if they know absolutely nothing about what to do with it! Is it any wonder the sexuality of the current generation lies in tatters and they are freebasing on pleasure whilst their parents debate moral issues at home over a vat of Chardonnay!

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  9. Kalb is being way too hard on the 1950's, and giving way too much credit to the counter-culture. In a poll taken in the 1950's in the U.S., 90% of Americans said that they believed in the Divinity of Jesus Christ. Church membership has never been higher in our history, before or since. Cardinals had TV shows rated in the top ten. Almost all moral indicators were much, much higher than now. Soul-less materialism? Kalb has been reading too much stuff written by the Counter-Culture, and should know better. Sure, any era can use a Christian revival, people being what they are, but there was nothing special about the 1950's in that regard.

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