Where are they all today? Where has the soul and conscience of our society gone? Where is the dissent; where is the beef? It is curiously and conspicuously absent...
Woodstock was not a big antiwar protest.... It wasn't peace, love and activism on the march so much as automatonic consumerism and self concern setting in for the duration"
I must admit, I often wonder how we got from there to here, America.
Is it possible that the movement really wasn't what it seemed?
"Woodstock: 40 Years Down The Road And A Nation Lost
By: bmaz Friday August 14, 2009
As you may have heard, we are on the precipice of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. The famous, and infamous, cultural milestone took place down on Max Yasgur's dairy farm outside of Bethel New York between August 15 and August 18, 1969. Thirty-two acts performed, during a sometimes rainy weekend, in front of nearly half a million concertgoers. The history and lore of Woodstock began immediately, it was clear to both those who loved it, and those who hated it, that it was a uniquely seminal moment....
Something had happened. Something big and transformational. But what? The prevailing view seems to be that it was a symbol of the discord and unrest of the 60's, the antiwar movement and the counterculture generation. It is also viewed as the ultimate example of the peace and love motif of "the hippies". I wonder about all that; in fact, I am more inclined to the view expressed by Jon Pareles in a great article in the New York Times:
Woodstock is, like so many larger than life things, what each individual makes of it. As Woodstock performer Sly Stone would say, it has different strokes for different folks. But, mostly, I think Pareles may have this about right. For all the sturm and drang over its impact, Woodstock was not a big antiwar protest; in fact, the promoters, performers and masters of ceremonies made a conscious decision to stay away from that. As an example, when Abbie Hoffman tried to take the stage to gin up mass emotion against war and oppression, Pete Townsend of the Who literally batted him off the stage with his guitar. Peace and love yes; conscious and overt war protest, not.
Yet for all the benign memories, Woodstock also set in motion other, more crass impulses. While its immediate aftermath was amazement and relief, the festival’s full legacy had as much to do with excess as with idealism. As the decades roll by, the festival seems more than ever like a fluke: a moment of muddy, disheveled, incredulous grace. It was as much an endpoint as a beginning, a holiday of naïveté and dumb luck before the realities of capitalism resumed. Woodstock’s young, left-of-center crowd — nice kids, including students, artists, workers and politicos, as well as full-fledged L.S.D.-popping hippies — was quickly recognized as a potential army of consumers that mainstream merchants would not underestimate again. There was more to sell them than rolling papers and LPs.
With the 40th anniversary of Woodstock looming — so soon? — the commemorative machinery is clanking into place, and the nostalgia is strong.
But if Woodstock itself was not the epitome of social protest and activism, the times surrounding it were. There was an immoral and unjustified US war and occupation a half a world away, there was a culture of government spying on its citizens and invasion of their privacy and there was a growing dichotomy in society. In short, eerily similar to what seems to be the case today. And there were people protesting. Loud and large. Out in the streets, on college campuses, in the public square. There was a lot of juice to the dissent and it was led by the youth, college students and academics.Where are they all today? Where has the soul and conscience of our society gone? Where is the dissent; where is the beef? It is curiously and conspicuously absent from our analogous circumstance. There is so much wrong, on so many fronts; and yet there is so much talent and ability. People are sick and tired of the state of the nation; and yet the ability and gumption to mobilize and make a stand seems lost. Why? Maybe Jon Pareles is right and Woodstock, for all the notoriety, really was "as much an endpoint as a beginning". It wasn't peace, love and activism on the march so much as automatonic consumerism and self concern setting in for the duration in America's youth....