Saturday, January 13, 2007

Question Authority

Glenn Greenwald points us to arch-conervative Rod Dreher's epiphany. Dreher, who came of age in the Carter-Reagan era, discovers when he examines his beliefs, that us old hippies were right all along.

Not that we right about everything. The "Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out" thing was a catchy slogan that went well with the psychedelic drugs that expanded our minds, but turned out to be not that realistic as a long term lifestyle. And when we dropped out of the materialistic world and went back to the land, we found out self-sufficiency wasn't all that easy and communal living didn't guarantee peaceful co-existence as long as there are freeloaders in the world willing to ride on the work of others. Eventually we tired of rice and beans and ripped blue jeans and drifted back to the creature comforts of our parents' generation. Free love died with STDs. Don't trust anyone over 30 was a popular refrain, but once we hit our middle years we found that philosophy didn't age well either.

But "question authority" was one thing we got right and has stood the test of time. We correctly perceived that the grown-ups don't have all the answers and that our government was willing to, and often did, lie to us to acheive their own political ends that weren't necessarily in our best interests. In fact they often ran directly counter to common good. So we agitated and demonstrated and fought for the social equity that defined our society for the generations since.

Today this philosophy of sharing is often sneeringly dismissed as socialism but that's a misnomer. Most of us didn't want the government to take care of us then, we simply asked our fellow man to share the wealth for the betterment of all, instead of the few. Eventually a lot of us embraced capitalism as a means to accomplish that goal but capitalism failed us, just as communal living did, when greed and the hunger for power eventually trumped altruism. So today we ask again for our govenment to respond to the needs of the people, not as a nanny but as a referee to ensure some measure of equality through reasonable regulation and the setting of agreed upon norms of conduct.

So we've come full circle. We're the grown-ups now and as far as I can see, we still don't have all the answers. And our government is still lying to us. The only thing that's changed is the lies are bigger and more destructive and in this administration particularly, they don't even try to hide them when denial and obfuscation works so well for their ends.

Never has our old mantra been more relevant and necessary. Question authority like your life depends on it. It does, more than ever.
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