Revenge of the Hippies: The Prescience of Bernard “Bernie” Sanders

For my first blog entry I am posting my comment on someone’s response to Sarah Lyall’s New York Times article about the young Bernie Sanders, saying that he’s bringing Beatnik back, and that inspired me to look more carefully at her review:

See article

In actual fact, the young Sanders was post-Beatnik, to use an unflattering term for the highly respected literary movement, somewhat involving life-style, actually called The Beats. He was more of the Hippie Movement, which Beat originator Jack Kerouac rejected but his strongest co-founder and close friend Allen Ginsberg allied himself with.

Along with some friends and my younger sister’s friends, I founded an underground newspaper back then: some local news and many of the exact same kinds of articles Sanders and his friends were writing. What is strange in reading the NY Times article, which is mocking Sanders, et. al., is the degree to which much of what they were saying has come true! Even I didn’t think that so much of what he and we were publishing would be as prescient as it turns out to actually have been!

This writer even makes fun of the fact that “His current workplace, the United States Senate, is not exactly known for its thrill-a-minute dynamism.” But, seriously? I mean the Senate certainly has its problems but Bernie freakin’ Sanders went from what and where he was to the United States friggin’ SENATE – c’mon!

I am not one to lay off making fun of the “movement” I was somewhat allied with back in the day, and the oldsters who still only listen to the old hippie music, dress and wear their hair similarly to then, smoke the same dope, and cover the rear end of their old compact cars with “motivational” stickers rooted in that time – but I can since I was part of it. This is why I think I’m justified in complaining that Ms. Lyall, born in 1963, is being just a little bit too snarky.

Is there really anything to argue with about young Bernie’s opinion on the nature of work? I mean, have the masses of Americans really “progressed”? Is this statement from her article actually justified in fact?

The piece began with an apocalyptically alarmist account of the unbearable horror of having an office job in New York City, of being among “the mass of hot dazed humanity heading uptown for the 9-5,” sentenced to endless days of “moron work, monotonous work.”

“The years come and go,” Mr. Sanders wrote, in all apparent seriousness. “Suicide, nervous breakdown, cancer, sexual deadness, heart attack, alcoholism, senility at 50. Slow death, fast death. DEATH.

Well, OK, these are not the deepest thoughts I’ve ever heard, and maybe his CAPS key was sticking and he didn’t have enough money to fix it. And Viagra wasn’t invented yet, but who would have seen that coming? Then Lyall disparages the “freelance journalist” from Burlington yet again:

In “Reflections on a Dying Society,” he declared that the United States was virtually going to hell in a handcart. Its food was laden with chemicals; its environment was being ruined; the threat of nuclear annihilation or “death by poison gas” was increasing; people were suffering from malaise and “psychosomatic disease”; citizens were being coerced and duped by the government and the advertising industry; and the economy was based on “useless” goods “designed to break down or used for the slaughter of people.”

The extent that our economy depends on the sale of sophisticated weapons of war and the manufacture of firearms hasn’t grown smaller – it’s larger! If you don’t believe me, ask the NRA. I’m sure they’ve got figures they’d proudly show.

It seems to me that The Times should be paying more attention to someone who’s attracting thousands of supporters of all age groups and whose careful lists of current positions perfectly describe the progressive agenda. He may not end up as President of the United States of America, but he is surely having a major impact on the politics of this era. Though he still has “wild curly hair,” as she notes, his “brash Brooklyn accent” has been softened a lot by life in New England,  and his writing way back then may include an embarrassing column on sex (though it concludes with some timeless wisdom) on the whole, what is most notable about the writings of young Bernie Sanders is actually how extraordinarily well his thoughts hold up today, rather than the reverse.

Postscript: I have to laugh, having just checked the bio of the writer, to find out she’s a preppie with a degree from my alma mater, Yale. She apparently works from the London office.