I recently read an article, What the Old Don’t Get About the Woke, by Sahil Handa and doing so fired up my alter ego …
Sahil, you just poked your worst nightmare: the 73-year-old guy at the end of the bar who’s spent the past five years yelling at the TV. I’m assuming that makes me “old,” and if there’s anything that pisses off this old man more than being lectured to by somebody who’s lived fifty fewer years than he has, I’m not sure what it is. Fifty years, dude. That’s fifty years of failures, fifty years of successes, fifty years of trying to make fucked up organizations work, fifty years of watching our country’s business, religious, and political leaders screw up this country, and sometimes even making it work.
What the hell could you possibly have learned compared to an old man who has spent the last 50 years with his eyes and ears open, with his heart bared to the devastation that is America’s educational system for the poor? And don’t tell me about campuses in the 1960s. I lived on those campuses. Your gang is having less sex than we did? You and yours must be practicing celibacy. You need to do some more research. The vast majority of the over 1800 colleges in the late 1960s were as exciting as oatmeal and were not even close to experiencing what was going on at Berkeley and Columbia at the time.
Here’s the deal Sahil: 99% of Americans never heard of Foucault or Marcuse and the like, nor will they ever hear of them, nor will anything either of them ever espoused have any impact on those Americans because there are too many SEC or Big10 football games on tape, too many interesting videos on Pornhub, too many social media posts to respond to, and for at least half of those Americans, there’s also the small matter of stressing out over paying their rent, and half of those folks are worried about how they’re going to feed their kids.
I want to see some Harvard yokel pull together a community meeting of poor people of color and tell them, “I’m here to bring about a zero-sum hierarchy among fixed identity groups, all based on power structures.” Are you serious? America just suffered through four years of political hell because Harvard elites and their ilk managed to steal defeat from the jaws of victory in 2016, because they made the mistake of thinking they knew what most Americans were thinking and valuing, and they kept making things worse by using words like “existential” that most American college graduates cannot define. Okay, things have changed. I will acknowledge that young, progressive elites have managed to restore some semblance of democratic sanity to America, albeit led by a 78-year-old man.
I will also acknowledge that “four years at an Ivy League college is one of the only ways to guarantee a place at the top of the meritocratic dog pile,” but that dog pile is precisely the poison fatally polluting the body of our country. The pile continues to accumulate more and more of our country’s wealth, and except for a very few of the wealthiest humans in the world, the wealthy act as though they are entitled to their largess, while the bottom 50% of American households average around only $27,000 of net wealth. 50%!
This is the point when I stop yelling at the TV, take a deep breath, and acknowledge that in the 1960s we Boomers knew that there was a poverty problem in the US. Many of us heeded JFK’s admonition to …
Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
It’s why thousands of my Boomer brothers and sisters joined me in entering the teaching profession: we knew how much money we’d be making, but we didn’t care because we were being of service to our country. Those of you at Harvard, woke or not, only have skin in the game because you want to make it to the top of that pile of meritocratic dog crap by applying what your years of high-octane preparatory high schools and Harvard have honed: self-centered, egomaniacal, greed-driven power directed only to the benefit of yourselves.
I know this because I have lived half-a-century longer than you, but more importantly, I know this because, as you have noted, we Boomers forgot about what we had discovered, what we had demonstrated for, and in some cases, what a few had even died for. And in doing that, we became what you are: self-centered, self-righteous zealots deeply devoted to power and its handmaiden, wealth. As the Eagles sang in The Sad Café …
We thought we could change this world with words like “love” and “freedom”
… but we were wrong. Actions do speak louder than words, and too many of us became complacent. Our actions—mine included—became banal. In less than a decade we went from a generation of radical activists to The Me Generation. Disgusting. Embarrassing. Shameful. Like the woke generation that is currently slipping and sliding to the top of that pile of meritocratic dog crap, it is unlikely that the Boomer Generation will be remembered favorably. It’s just that your Woke Folks, Sahil, are so much more blinded by the esoteric and useless mysteries of Foucault.
I’m becoming more and more pessimistic about the future of our American Dream due to the two greatest challenges that have faced our society since the arrival of Europeans in the early 1600s. One challenge is Jefferson’s Great Lie, which denied the reality of slavery at our nation’s inception, and by ignoring it, affirmed the acceptability of racism, which endures despite Jefferson having identified all men being created equal as an essential ingredient to “the pursuit of happiness” (which, it should be noted for wannabe wokies, is a concept that Jefferson borrowed from Lucretius’ De rerum natura).
A second challenge, and to my mind the greatest challenge, is the wealth gap between the richest and poorest of us. For four years, the wealthiest Americans have gorged themselves on Billionaire Welfare, while poor Americans have continued to experience economic hardship that the 1% cannot fathom. JFK—your fellow Harvard Alum—said one thing more in his Inaugural Speech sixty years ago that I often quote because history has supported his prophesy:
A free society that does not help the many who are poor, cannot save the few who are rich.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau offered up this related and choice bit of wisdom, which metaphorically came true in France in 1787 and in Russia in 1917, something that may ultimately be visited upon successful Harvard Alums, something about which “being woke” does not offer safe haven:
When the people shall have nothing more to eat, they will eat the rich.
For more on this topic as it relates to Education, please see Public Education and Eating the Rich.
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The featured image is me, and I have to admit, there’s a bit of acting involved; normally, this is me: