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Woodstock at 40: Woodstock Forever

John Pareles of the New York Times reminds us yesterday that "Baby boomers won’t let go of the Woodstock Festival" Of course not--baby boomers won’t let go of anything they think is a totem of their essential difference and, ahem, moral superiority. I’ve long thought that if the Census Bureau included on its questionnaire "Did you attend Woodstock in 1969?", something like 5 million baby boomers would check the "Yes" box. Has there ever been more nonsense written about an ordinary event? (Pareles points out that there were comparable events at the time, and larger events subsequently, none of which acquired the exalted metaphysical status of Woodstock.)

The most fatuous assessment of Woodstock belongs to Time magazine, which wrote in 1969: "Woodstock may well rank as one of the significant political and sociological events of the age. . . [T]he revolution it preaches, implicitly or explicitly, is essentially moral; it is the proclamation of a new set of values. . . With a surprising ease and a cool sense of authority, the children of plenty have voiced an intention to live by a different ethical standard than their parents accepted. The pleasure principle has been elevated over the Puritan ethic of work. To do one’s own thing is a greater duty than to be a useful citizen. Personal freedom in the midst of squalor is more liberating than social conformity with the trappings of wealth. Now that youth takes abundance for granted, it can afford to reject materialism." They must have been smoking a lot of dope in Time’s newsroom that weekend.

Not to be outdone, lefty Andrew Kopkind wrote that Woodstock represented "a new culture of opposition. It grows out of the disintegration of old forms, the vinyl and aerosol institutions that carry all the inane and destructive values of privatism, competition, commercialism, profitability and elitism. . . For people who had never glimpsed the intense communitarian closeness of a militant struggle—People’s Park or Paris in the month of May or Cuba—Woodstock must always be their model of how good we will all feel after the revolution. . . [P]olitical radicals have to see the cultural revolution as a sea in which they can swim." At least Kopkind wrote in the magazine High Times, which means this can be safely read a self-parody.

I rather liked the comic--I think it was Jay Leno--who joked about the 20th anniversary that aging baby boomers who went back to the scene would likely need to bring LSD suppositories.

Discussions - 4 Comments

I never got the appeal of Woodstock. Of course, at the time, I was getting my ass shot off in Vietnam so I have a different perspective. Let's just say that if I met the guy who wrote that drivel for Time, I'd probably bitch-slap him.

Wow, your ass was shot off? Sounds like an awful injury. I guess you automatically win any debate on any issue at all - especially the significance of Woodstock - because your ass was shot off in Vietnam. Apparently it also gives you the right (or the sense that you have the right) to "bitch-slap" people - even fellow Americans - with whom you disagree. Lose ass, but win arguments and be able to slap strangers with impunity. Continue gnawing on your raw steak, He-Man!

Time's assessment of the attitudes of those who attended the Septic Mud Festival seems to me to have been criticism as much as advocacy. The line "To do one's own thing is a greater duty than to be a useful citizen" suggests that the writer viewed the libertinism and stone-ed "philosophy" was neither as commendable nor realistic as imagined.

Btw, Craig, I couldn't tell from your comment -- did you attend Woodstock?

No, Kutsen, I didn't attend Woodstock, why?

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