The Clare Spark Blog

November 25, 2014

Reflections on the Ferguson aftermath

mike-brown-protesters-ferguson
Having lived through the 1960s, later chronicling the rise of the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements on Pacifica radio, then going to graduate school in history at UCLA where I studied 19th and 20th century social movements and how they were taught by UCLA’s radical faculty, I have thoughts on the violent response to the Ferguson Missouri’s grand jury’s decision not to indict policeman Darren Wilson, which was met by lumpen mayhem and/or “protest” in the streets, not only in Missouri, but in larger cities with radicalized minority populations and sympathetic “liberal” white grownups of a certain age.

In response to the looting and burning, conservative pundit Andrea Tantaros suggested on the Fox show Outnumbered that families should sit down and talk to their (adolescent) kids, presumably to keep them on the straight and narrow. This is an understandable wish, but hopelessly naïve. Why?

As most parents know, puberty and adolescence are harrowing times, for youngsters, with or without the discipline of fathers, are rejecting parents for peer groups, and often indulge in ritual rebellions (as in their preference for the “romanticism,” drugs, fast cars, and the defiance of rock and roll). Add to this that the current population of American kids have been instructed by 1960s-70s veterans of social movements that were often New Left in orientation, hence undisciplined and attracted to anarchy and chaos, unlike the comparatively disciplined pre-war 1930s communist activists to whom they are often linked by populist conservatives.

Jimmystewartfather

Indeed, academics sometimes link the New Left spirit to that of the Jazz Age in the 1920s. There is the same primitivism and the same fantasy that pre-capitalist or “Third World” societies are closer to Nature, are uncorrupted by technology, and hence are instinctually liberated. It is imagined, incorrectly, that there are no rules about sex or aggression amongst, say, South Sea Islanders. (I have written about this misunderstanding ad nauseum. See for instance https://clarespark.com/2011/05/12/the-great-common-goes-to-the-white-house/, retitled “Rappers, primitivism, and ritual rebellion.” Or try this more recent blog on Robert Redford’s movie The Company You Keep, with its fantasy of a reconstructed happy family close to Nature: https://clarespark.com/2013/11/17/rehabilitating-the-weathermen/. Or, compare Marx to Lenin: https://clarespark.com/2014/06/07/marx-vs-lenin/.

I have left out one crucial cause of the looting, burning, and general protest, and it involves American communist politics in the 1960s. The Old Left should have known better, but having supported a Black Belt in the Southern US in the 1930s, later communists rejected the peaceful,  integrationist, pro-American strategy of Martin Luther King Jr. for what should be described as contemporary fascism or proto-fascism: the separatism and anti-“Euro-centricity” of the law-and-order West. It too found supporters in disaffected youth, herded together in ghettoes dominated by the Democratic machine.  (I chronicled this partly here: https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/.) The Right has correctly pointed out the power of the Democratic machines in opposing school choice, but fails to understand child development, while overestimating the power of the “strong Father,” whose authoritarianism may incite revolt in the children.

It would be better for liberals, moderates and conservatives alike to pay attention to this recent history, which remains alive today. Historians of fascism as disparate as George L. Mosse and Robert O. Paxton similarly agree that European fascism was partially sparked by youth revolt, participants in the disillusion and brutality of the masses that were traumatized and ready to rumble after the horrors of the Great War–a cataclysm whose after effects still haunt us.

The action faction, sadly, is not dead.

redblackprotester

October 3, 2012

The Sexual Revolution (2)

In part one of this miniseries on the “sexual revolution” said to have been accomplished during the second wave of feminism, I retrieved an ad from an upscale magazine distributed free to my neighborhood in Southern California (see https://clarespark.com/2012/10/03/the-sexual-revolution-1-2/, and its lookalike https://clarespark.com/2012/11/15/female-genitals-as-red-flag/.) Don’t miss this painting showing how New Women as mothers transmit their demonism to their closely held sons!). It was obviously a backlash to the “liberated women” of the 1920s, taken from a Belgian artist who viewed the new woman as creating Pierrots out of their sons, emasculated doubles of themselves. Mother became puppeteer, turning the male child into a zany figure from the Commedia d’el Arte: Pierrot was a mask for Cain, a fratricide; while some saw Pierrot as feminized, the outsider who could never escape his mother’s influence. He was in the eternal grip of Mother, revealed now as Femme Fatale. (For more on this theme see https://clarespark.com/2012/07/29/girls-or-the-new-lost-generation/. The Mother figure in Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture is no heroine.)

Yesterday, Oct. 2, 2012, the Obama campaign created an e-card directed to the female voters, depicting a flapper with the message “Vote like your lady parts depended on it.” The image was taken down before the end of the day, but it revealed the primary message of still-regnant second wave feminism: the liberation of women signified nothing but sex and the loose morals we associate with the Jazz Age, notwithstanding the recent passage of women’s voting rights. It is true that for many women, single and married alike, the need to control the timing of reproduction is not a “single issue,” but one at the forefront of  consciousness, for her economic status and life chances depend on controlling the timing of reproduction. But to propose, as the Obama campaign clearly did, that a Republican victory would mean regression to the bad old days is, in my view, absurd and objectively unproven as a claim.

On the popular Fox show The Five (Oct.2, 2012), Bob Beckel chided Dana Perino and Andrea Santaros for seeing Gloria Steinem as a washed-up feminist, implying that Steinem had paved the way for the cushy jobs enjoyed by Perino and Santaros at Fox. This sent me back into my memory bank. Gloria Steinem was indeed a much publicized star of the second wave. A strikingly beautiful young woman, she was considered “a babe” and was also known for her connection to powerful male editors in journalism. It is true that second wave feminists had an enormous impact on the culture, but the takeaway was 1. sexual freedom, even promiscuity as the central demand of “women’s lib” and 2. having emerged from the civil rights movement, many of the 1960s-70s feminists soon subordinated their goal of liberating women to anti-imperialism, joining with men in the anticapitalist crusade, and of course, ignoring the subordination of women in South America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. The West was now worst, and “white male supremacy” the enemy for right-on feminists. (For a related blog see https://clarespark.com/2012/09/01/sex-sex-and-less-sex/.)

But Beckel forgot a major fact of history: It was 19th century feminists of the first wave who were the original trail blazers, and their crusades on behalf of votes for women were linked to abolition, higher education for (excluded) women, entrance into the professions, temperance, and the uplift of prostitutes. Such were the “middle class puritans” decried later on by bohemians as Victorian battle axes. (Some of their number included Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Stady Stanton, Harriet Beacher Stowe, the Grimké sisters, Louisa May Alcott, Julia Ward Howe, and more.) The most important writers after the Great War fled this menacing figure, running off to the South Seas or, better, Harlem, Paris, Italy, and Spain. Gangsta rappers of today partake of the same bohemian reaction to middle-class mothers and to emancipated women in general. as all women became “bitches.” (See illustration in the first of this series.)

Herbert Marcuse was correct when he warned of “repressive desublimation.” The fashion and cosmetic industry, plastic surgeons, hair stylists, and a host of women’s magazines urged  all women to cultivate their sexual attractiveness, even into old age. The sex could be dark, as fashion photographer Bruce Weber and others eroticized the submission to male fetishes, for instance, stiletto heels. (For a more extended commentary on the regnant S-M, see https://clarespark.com/2009/07/13/eros-and-the-middle-manager-s-m-with-implications-for-multiculturalism/. On the link between misogyny and antisemitism see https://clarespark.com/2009/11/16/panic-attacks-and-separation-anxiety/.)

What then, has been the effect on young women and girls? The Hollywood celebrities today have come out for Obama and for sex. Their innocence lies solely in their ignorance of the past. Along with the bohemian authors of the 1920s and afterwards, they have gone native, in flight from everything that the first wave feminists advocated. Can we sink any lower? (For more on the first wave feminists of the 19th Century, see https://clarespark.com/2013/06/02/hair-and-make-up-megyn-kelly-smackdown/.)

Frida with cat

Frida Kahlo with cat in classic come hither position

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