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“Before disco, this country was a dancing wasteland. You know the Woodstock generation of the 1960s that were so full of themselves and conceited? None of those people could dance.” – Charlotte

Whit Stillman’s films are mainly known for their dialogue and have been compared with the works of Eric Rohmer. And yet, music plays a key role in their themes of civilizational anxiety. If some artists focused on the cracks of desperation on the facade of bourgeois respectability or social conformism(like in FAR FROM HEAVEN and REVOLUTIONARY ROAD), Stillman traced the lingering remnants of conservatism in a world committed to ceaseless change. And especially given the character of American Conservatism — to conserve the engines of free enterprise that facilitates nonstop constructive destruction — , there’s hardly any respite, let alone sanctuary, for the true conservative.

William F. Buckley held a stop sign to a locomotive moving at full speed but was in love with its very engine. Therefore, true conservatism is hopeless in America(and modern West in general) as everything is in constant flux amidst vast changes beyond the control of any individual or institution. And yet, vestiges of conservatism remain at the margins as part of human nature, more so among those with certain dispositions. Thus, for Stillman conservatism is less a political philosophy than a style and approach to life. It’s telling that the socialist in METROPOLITAN fits in very well with the hierarchy. At the very least, he has the manners and a sense of honor(that even leads him to call out the dragon to save the damsel). And in THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, the 70s music scene associated with shameless homos, salacious blacks, and tasteless goombas(mainly due to SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER) is presented as something like neo-camelot for the well-heeled and privileged.

Some of the songs in METROPOLITAN are by black singers, not exactly a marker of high society, but there is royalty in any kind of excellence. And, despite the story being set in 1969, the songs featured are of an earlier period, as if the Summer of Love and Woodstock never happened. (Keeping with tradition can be regarded as behind-the-times but also timeless, and the casual viewer could be forgiven for thinking the story is set in another time, earlier or later. In this, METROPOLITAN has something in common with David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET that seems set in the 80s but stuck in the 50s, or early 60s. When the film came out in 1990, the initial impression was of an upper crust variation of John Hughes brat pack movies. Given budget limitations, Stillman didn’t dwell much on period details and one could almost believe it was about some hidden socialite corner in the here-and-now. Stillman could be mistaken for a youngster himself when, in fact, he was a boomer born in 1952, nearing forty when he finished his first film. But then, John Hughes was even older and faked his rapport with 1980s youth.)

Since the Jazz Age, it’s been commonplace for whites to draw inspiration from black music, which had both a sharpening and loosening effect, like a strange drug. In one way, it could mean getting down and dirty, crude and vulgar, all nasty and shit. And yet, there was also hopeful desire to encourage or elevate blackness toward finer sentiments and higher passion. Some blacks internalized this, becoming self-consciously arty and turning jazz from popular idiom into bona fide art music. It was as if blacks had the voice and energy, but whites(many of them Jewish composers) had the finer sensibility.

For METROPOLITAN, Stillman chose black songs that are kinder and gentler, with emotions not so out-of-place in the world of Jane Austen. From Stillman’s quirky perspective, perhaps, there’s an overlap between the black world and the WASP(or UHB) world. Both exist in the margins, privileged or not. It is the late Sixties, when blacks were making the climb while the Wasps were beginning to feel the slip, but with neither commanding the center of American Life, up for grabs and soon to fall into the hands of Jews. (Even today, Wasp elite sentimentality toward blacks and hostility toward white ‘deplorables’ may derive from such mindset. If Wasps are to relinquish power and privilege, then blacks, with their soulful history of injustice and just being soulful, are more deserving than the ‘insensitive’ masses of ‘redneck’ truck drivers and ‘white trash’ with MAGA hats.)

METROPOLITAN is somewhat like AMERICAN GRAFFITI for high society youth. If George Lucas’ film depicts the more ‘innocent’ Sixties before everything blew up with drugs, race riots, and the Vietnam War, METROPOLITAN is like the last hurrah(or final whimper) of the socialite culture. Higher up in society, they could afford to be somewhat aloof and remain less affected by events on the ground; still, social changes have seeped into this world as well in lifestyle and attitudes — Nick Smith(Chris Eigeman) hallucinates to mescaline, albeit gazing at a Babar comic book. It’s also like a minuscule version of THE LEOPARD(by Luchino Visconti) though with comic than tragic overtones; it’s as if they’re doing it for appearances for maybe the last time before their world becomes a museum piece.

Though we don’t see much dancing, the gatherings often center around debutante balls(or whatever such are called). These gatherings are in stark contrast with the kind of dance usually associated with the late Sixties where hippies, high on drugs, moved their bodies anyway they felt like(in tune with the cosmic groove?) On the evidence of GIMME SHELTER(The Rolling Stones film), maybe drugs-and-dancing should be avoided like drinking-and-driving. Though a key event in the Summer of Love billed itself as the Gathering of the Tribe, there was little that was tribal(in the real sense) among the hippies who were too loose to establish a lasting community. After all, tribal societies tend to be rather rigid and demanding, than trivial and libertine. Dancing in a primitive tribal setting serves a purpose. It could have spiritual significance or serve as a rite-of-passage. It’s not something youths do just for the hell of it. Even though the world of high society is far removed from primitivism, there is a link between the tribal village and high civilization in their observances of rites and rituals, in their insistence on cultural significance regarding certain acts. In METROPOLITAN, the young men and women aren’t just hanging out for fun but keeping with a tradition that has been handed down(and ideally should go on indefinitely). They aren’t merely of the whims of the moment but the bonds of history, which is perhaps why the betrayals of parents(though hardly seen) are especially painful as they failed in their duty to the graceful transition between generations.

For Stillman, dance-as-ritual is key to civilizational health. Without dance, society is stuffy and repressed, its vitality stifled. But then, dancing also poses a threat to civilizational order with its summoning of animal spirits and sensual delights. John the Baptist surely got nothing out of Salome’s dance. For this reason, Stillman prefers a kind of philosophy of dance, a compromise or even a compact between the exciting animal spirits and the sensible man-made rules.

The dance cultures of METROPOLITAN and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO are light years apart but have in common a sense of form and standards. The young men and women go about their lives in METROPOLITAN mostly oblivious to the cultural upheavals of the Sixties(rather like the mafia guys in GOODFELLAS), and the characters who frequent the club in THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO act as though the Sixties never happened. The most memorable dance moment in METROPOLITAN is a casual cha-cha-cha, a much forgotten number. The characters are hopelessly but charmingly are out of time. In contrast, the boys and girls in THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO are very much with-the-time(though to realize at the end that disco vanished as quickly as it appeared, and they are suddenly find themselves out-of-time), but what the older forms of dance and disco have in common is a sense of definition and criteria. No wonder SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER was about a dance contest. Can anyone imagine a hippie dance contest?

Though disco was no one’s idea of conservatism, it did come with a set of standards and hierarchy. It wasn’t just about dancing anyway you felt like but dancing well. And even though the disco look soon became the look, there were do’s and don’ts. You couldn’t be sloppy like the people at Woodstock. Not for nothing did Mike Royko write a column about confusing a hobo with a hippie.

Not that THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO has much in common with SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. (The John Travolta movie was the biggest thing associated with disco, but Josh is disdainful of it. If anything, the characters seem to cherish the exclusivity of their favorite haunt. While the club in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER is open to anyone, even an ex-priest and fat girls who can’t dance, the very appeal of the club in THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO it’s so damned hard to get in. Even the self-designated socialist can’t believe his good fortune.) Stillman seems to have a natural aversion to Deplorables and isn’t a true conservative but a conservatoid. For him, conservatism is less a matter of core values than style, look, and feel. It’s the kind of ‘conservatism’ that might argue ‘gay marriage’ is ‘conservative’ because some homosexuals dress well, maintain well-kept lawns, and salute the flag(while serving in the deep state). Just like Stillman would rather not think about the messy and slovenly Sixties, he almost never touches upon the white working class. Even though his films are mostly about well-heeled whites(mainly wasps), there is a nod to blacks(at least in music and as dancers); also, the honest working man is depicted by Negroes in DAMSELS IN DISTRESS. Just about the only reference to the white working class is the image of rough looking types with ‘Disco Sucks’ T-shirts and TV footage of proto-deplorables who took part in Steve Dahl’s DISCO DEMOLITION, a precursor to the 1/6 ‘Insurrection’, or Deep State Demolition.

Stillman is about hierarchy, and he appreciates the world of style, manners, and knowledge. Even the socialist in METROPOLITAN may be egalitarian in thought but elitist in manners and erudition. As for blacks, Stillman regards them as the royalty of popular music. Of course, we’re not talking of gangster rap and the like, which Stillman most probably doesn’t care for. But there was a time when black music aspired to higher emotions than just wallowing in the morass of ‘muh dick’ and ‘muh booty’. Back then, they were the Duke of Earl(at least on stage) than Da Kang of Bling. Whiling away in a hospital(over what turns out to be a trifle), Charlotte Pingress(Kate Beckindale), the most amoral and conniving character(though rivaled by Des McGrath), begins to sing “Amazing Grace”, either exhibiting her softer side or her self-delusion(that she has any redemptive bone in her body); still, if she’s a phony, she’s a ‘real phony'(like Holly Golightly in BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S) because she sincerely believes in all her self-justifying rationalizations. But on another level, the use of the song could be an allusion to the slave trade and the complex relationship between whites and blacks, though disco is too fun and happy for anyone to think about anything.

THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO is mostly apolitical — the only explicitly ideological character is the IQ-conscious socialist Dan Powers(aka Departmental Dan), an object of mild mockery — , and the characters could be Republicans, Democrats, Independents, or depends-on-the-issue types. What matters is status, prestige, and position, which back then were possessed or accessible through many more options, which is no longer the case. In our time, just about the only path to elite prestige/position is through the Democratic Party and globalist ‘values’. The GOP is still well-represented in government but only electorally through the votes of the white middle and working class(and even the poor). All other pathways to privilege and power require one to be a Democrat, a self-abasing RINO(who caves to Democrats at every turn), or a Neocon(who has the backing of super-rich Zionists who take care of their attack dogs). Even though Democratic domination of elite institutions has a long history, one could gain position and respectability as a conservative in the Cold War era. Many more views were acceptable and tolerated on a host of controversial issues. There were holdouts in academia and media for people with views that could get anyone ‘canceled’ in an instant today. One could even be an ‘Arabist’ and hold high position. There was a time when Pat Buchanan was one of the most widely read columnists in America. One could admire Robert E. Lee and hold critical views of nonwhites. And of course, the Cold War reserved a place for the American Right. Today, they tear down Robert E. Lee monuments, and even whites in the South just hunker down in shame or cowardice.

This sad state of affairs for the Republicans might be traced back to Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon who played hard for the white working class and southern white vote(even though neither man was a strong social conservative). While rank-and-file Republicans may be about core values, the elites of the movement always put status and social approval above all else. They figure, what’s the point of being conservative if one can’t enjoy the fruits of privilege and respect, which nowadays only come by the way of globo-homo and the like. If the problem with conservatism in the past was it couldn’t win over enough ordinary people, the problem today is it offers little to snobs and social-climbers. The biggest problem for the GOP is it’s toxic to the elitist-minded.

Country Club Republicans and the moderate wing were okay with someone like Dwight Eisenhower who didn’t take a particularly strong stand on anything. This way, the Republicans could gravitate toward whatever was fashionable among the movers and shakers. Increasingly, the white working class and southern whites were falling out of favor among the elites, but Nixon appealed to both hard in 1968 and 1972(though his policies ended up stabbing both in the back). Fast forward to the future, and the GOP is downright apologetic about its two electoral pillars being the white middle and southern whites. If American politics were genuinely democratic or populist, this wouldn’t matter, but the real power is held by the elites, and GOP’s appeal to them is hampered by its reliance on the two most disreputable groups in America: The Deplorables as lowlife losers and Southern Whites as ‘redneck-white-supremacist-racists’. Why does this matter? Because in winning over those groups, GOP became radioactive to the elites and wanna-be-elites whose values came to be directed toward homo-celebration and black-worship under increasing Jewish domination.

While the characters in THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO could still conceivably be Republican, all such well-educated urban types today in New York and other big cities would certainly be Democratic. In the short run, the loss of the white working class to the GOP was a big blow to the Democrats, but it was also cut the party loose from deference to corrupt Labor Unions and economic nationalism. By adopting ‘free trade’ and deregulation, Democrats could be more acceptable to Big Capital that relished the moral high-ground held by the Democratic Party. And, end of the Cold War meant the Democrats could no longer be accused of being ‘soft on communism’, and the shift from Big Labor to Big Capital meant the Democrats no longer needed to pander to losers and could finally bank on the winners of society. And over time, immigration would diminish the electoral power of the white working class at any rate. And now, we are told the American middle class has less wealth than the top 1% that is solidly in the Democratic aisle.

Of course, even as GOP depends on Deplorable votes, it does little but pander to the super-rich even more than the Democrats do. Why do the successful lean heavily to the Democrats? It’s because the elites are nothing without conceit of superiority, not only economically and culturally but morally. And as the post-ideological America re-conceptualized morality and values in terms of special identities, mainly centered around Jewish, black, and homosexual, the elites and wanna-be-elites naturally go along. Of course, education played a key role in this, and there are plenty of people with no elite aspirations who nevertheless spout the same nonsense coming from the ivory tower. Still, the main reason why kids of elites study so hard has less to with love of truth and knowledge than want of success and acceptance, though they’re too self-deluded to realize this.

The reason why many white haute-conservatives went over to the Democratic Party is mostly about status. Take Christopher Buckley, son of William F. Why did he vote for Obama? And why did National Review magazine turn into National Disgrace? How come the new ‘conservatives’ are so eager to flash their pro-homo credentials? Some on the Right believe hierarchy = conservatism, but elitism can come in many flavors, especially if the elites don’t have to practice what they preach. Christianity had a long run among European nobility because they didn’t have to act very Christian. They only needed to signal their sanctimony once in awhile. And it’s usually enough just to show that you support BLM and globo-homo(and got many covid shots) without actually having to live in da hood or take it up the arse as a badge of honor in the Current Year. Whit Stillman, a conservative by sentiment than core conviction, is mostly about sniffing for the vestiges of conservatism(real or delusional) in a world where conservatism is all but dead.

The elitism in METROPOLITAN is plain to see(however doomed it may be), but it takes a special kind of mentality to maintain the facade of conservatism/hierarchy in the post-60s age. Then, it’s no surprise that the theorists of dance in THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO and DAMSELS IN DISTRESS are borderline cuckoo. Most people into Disco never gave it much thought. Thinking about disco is like bringing a book to a rock concert. Disco just happened. And soon, even non-disco acts got into the act, with the Rolling Stones releasing SOME GIRLS and Rod Stewart singing about people wanting his body. And given its Afro-funkery and homo-narcissism, it was no one’s idea of conservatism or respectability. But for Josh Neff(called ‘loon’ by on/off friend Des), it’s more than the latest trend or fashion in music. “I love the idea that there’d be all these great places for people to go dancing after the terrible social wasteland of our college years… I still consider myself a loyal adherent to the disco movement.”

Now, ‘movement’ implies something radical, like the French Revolution, and there is a morally zealous and reformist side to Josh that evokes Robespierre. It could be his zeal to fight corruption is an extension of his own struggle with inner demons. However, in his need for form and order, there is a semblance of conservative sensibility as well. There are facets to Josh’s character that can lean radical or conservative. Depending on where his mood, he could be a hardline crusader or a defender of propriety.

If this is conservatism, it is of oddballs who don’t quite fit into the normal world but don’t want to surrender to anarchy either. Perhaps, a kind of paradox comes into play among certain natural weirdos. While some weirdos are happy in their weirdness, others are acutely aware that something about them is off and is in need of balance & stability. The character of Des takes his normality for granted, indeed so much so that he plays loose and gets reckless at times. Why not take chances when he can easily go back to being boringly normal again? In contrast, normality is something Josh has to constantly grasp for through mental discipline, medication, dedication to rules, and the philosophy of disco(perhaps as only he sees it)… but then, there are some who see ‘conservative’ messages in THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW, so he’s not alone. Thus, oddly enough, the ‘loon’ is the most righteous and ‘normal’ character in the film.

Some critics dumped on the film for being rather staid and square for a disco movie, but they missed the point. It’s not about disco but how members of a social class one wouldn’t naturally associate with disco nevertheless find their own existential meaning from it. Stillman is a sort of disconservative, or discon.

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, one of the funniest films I’ve seen, has a similar character, both funnier and more disturbing. If Josh is borderline ‘loon’, Violet(Greta Gerwig) is a functional nutter. Granted, the film is a comedy whereas THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO is drama with comedic touches. Several roles in DAMSELS IN DISTRESS are caricatures than characters, and the situations are often set up for laughs. And yet, pathos also come into play. Violet, though pleasantly goofy and upbeat in her helpfulness, is really quite fragile and walks a mental tightrope, and we stop laughing when she spirals into depression and contemplates suicide.

One reason for her eagerness to help others is as a distraction from her own problems. And she’s obsessed with dance forms(as opposed to mere dancing) as a mediator between chaos and civilization. Dancing brings out the animal spirits, but dance-forms give them shape and erect fences around the barbarism inherent in music/dance. She’s like Nurse Ratched and Randall McMurphy(of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST) rolled into one. If the vulgarized form of Foucaultism says to let loose your inner craziness, Stillmanism says to strive for normality and clarity through the mental fog even if it is an insurmountable Sisyphean feat. The nobility is in the struggle than in the surrender.

There is nothing to suggest POLITICAL conservatism in DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, but as in THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO, there is a conservatoid yearning for form and meaning rooted in tradition. While Violet’s fixations may not be a red-blooded right-wing patriot’s idea of conservatism, it is distinct from the liberal tendency of letting go and abandoning oneself to the ‘liberation’ of senses. Even as she’s drawn to the sensuality and excitement of dance, she needs the security of rules and standards. She’s open to change, the evolution of dance, but feels most at home with dance forms requiring technique and training. (The flamenco-inflected dances in BARCELONA are also big on proper form and technique. Sensuality contained in tradition.)

I haven’t paid much attention to dance trends over the years, and I’m sure one can find plenty of young ones doing impressive things in countless music videos, but dances that come to my mind over the years are the retarded punk dance(where people just pile onto each other like the demolition derby), 80s club dancing(without any distinct form), bumping-and-grinding(especially with the rise of hip hop), heavy metal hair-shaking & beer-burping, and of course, ‘twerking’ of late where women, especially black ho’s with big booties(though some homo men seem to get into it too) pump their asses up and down like they’re having sex. Stillman is obviously too much of a gentleman(or craven coward) to touch to on the black problem — he’d rather swoon about early 60s black songs and philosophize about the disco era — and falls back on associating barbarism with Steve Dahl’s Disco Demolition crowd or the beer-can frat boys who don’t bathe enough(at least with the proper soap) and wage inter-frat war on those aspiring toward better taste. Still, given what has happened to the culture of dance — mostly skankass ho’s ‘twerking’ their asses or simulating sexual motions than being seductive — , Stillman’s philosophy of dance may seem quaint, but it is also like an oasis, the last refuge of some semblance of sentiment, manners, and form in a world gone totally sheboonic.

“Disco will never be over. It will always live in our minds and hearts. Something like this, that was this big, and this important, and this great, will never die. Oh, for a few years – maybe many years – it’ll be considered passé and ridiculous. It will be misrepresented and caricatured and sneered at, or – worse – completely ignored. People will laugh about John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John, white polyester suits and platform shoes…” – Josh

 

As memes go, “Okay Boomer” goes a long way. Though on surface hardly damning or even insulting, it stings precisely because the boomers made such a big deal of themselves. Nothing they did was just ‘okay’. It was meant to be ‘world shaking’, like Cool Hand Luke’s antics. The Boomer Bible would have us believe all previous generations(and cultures) existed only to lead to the Great Boomer Moment, and all successive generations shall live in the shadow of the boomers. So, when a youngster in the Twilight of the Boomers mutters, “Okay Boomer”, it cuts deeper than outright condemnation. At least condemnation implies the boomers still matter, that they are the focus of attention, the center of controversy(as the debates about Woodstock were for several decades). Many boomers probably feel like the overgrown spoiled brat in THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS who gets his comeuppance alright(and many times over), but no one is around to care or even remember why he’s due for a great fall. “Okay Boomer”, slyly more mocking than “Damn You Boomer, You’re the Worst Scum that ever lived”, implies boomers were ultimately no different, hardly special, from those who went before and came after. They had their day in the sun but grew old like everyone else in history. And in the coming decades, they will drop like flies like the generations of World War I and World War II without anyone really noticing or caring(not least because most of them are white, now a discredited people in the West).

Despite their self-aggrandizement, a certain anxiety haunted the boomer psyche. After all, the most emblematic boomer movie, THE GRADUATE, ended on a note of ambiguity. But then, its writer and director were pre-boomers, and indeed so much of boomer mentality was actually shaped by their elders. BONNIE & CLYDE was directed by Arthur Penn, who was born in 1922. Given the difficulty of breaking into the movie business, film culture in the boomer era was dominated by members of the ‘greatest generation’, even if it sometimes pandered to boomer passions. Rock Music was the true expression of the boomer generation because its main trend-setters were either boomers themselves or born on the eve of boomer-dom.

But, Rock Music also poses the biggest challenge for the boomers. A culture so devoted to youth was bound to make the boomers seem increasingly irrelevant and even ridiculous as they aged. Does anyone really want to see another Rolling Stones or Who concert? No wonder Nik Cohn, in his ROCK FROM THE BEGINNING, mused the Stones would have done good to die in plane crash before turning thirty. As it happened, many Rock stars did die young, adding to their romantic mythology, but the details were sordid and ugly, sure signs that the Counterculture was given to self-indulgence and self-destruction(and a hazardous model for younger generations).

Even boomers who steered clear of pitfalls of excess were impacted by the heady idealism. In Albert Brooks’ LOST IN AMERICA, a yuppie couple decides to embark on a journey of self-discovery inspired, rather belatedly, by EASY RIDER. But even the late-blooming idealist acknowledges the guys in the landmark movie had a nest egg: “They sold cocaine”, which gives the lie to the idealism. So, in the end, was it really about dollars and cents, a delusion of searching for meaning fueled by greed and laziness? There is a Jewish angle to LOST IN AMERICA as well, significant as Jews turned out to be the most consequential ethnic group who had most to gain from the vast social and cultural changes wrought between the eve and the end of the Cold War.

In a way, the arch of boomer history has become depressing. Look at the photos of young Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham, and for all their delusions and egotism, one senses a certain idealism, a resolve that their generation will be ‘different’. And John Kerry was part of the anti-war movement. Yet, what kind of politicians did they turn out to be? Just as corrupt, conniving, and slimy as their predecessors. Perhaps, this shouldn’t be surprising to anyone with a conservative disposition: Human nature is what it is and cannot be ‘saved’ or ‘redeemed’ by spurt of idealism or radical will.

Still, the contrast between their youthful dreams and professional compromises are so stark, in a way, worse because the boomer elites seem less reflective and redemptive, more smug in their sense of rightness. And they took fewer risks. After all, the three presidents of the Sixties Era all paid a heavy price. John F. Kenney was shot dead. Lyndon Johnson’s presidency imploded with the Vietnam War and the race riots. Richard Nixon was brought down by Watergate.

In contrast, for all their spectacular failures, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama enjoyed two term presidencies unscathed(mostly) and haven’t shown the slightest hint of self-reflection. The tragic boomer figure could be Donald Trump but for the fact that his presidency was such a clown show that, instead of failing nobly, just fell flat on its ass(though QAnon morons will claim The Donald meant to do it as part of 4D chess). As it happened, the Boomers took most of the credit for the social changes/progress brought about by the Greatest Generation(for good or ill), and this sense of moral narcissism led to an entitlement mentality whereby they felt justified by the virtue of spouting for the umpteenth time some platitude about ‘racism’ and MLK.

At least during the Sixties and perhaps for the first time, there was a sense among boomers that the biggest crimes committed by the US have been abroad, especially as so many natives perished in the Vietnam War. One would think the boomer generation would have been more reflective about foreign policy, but oddly enough, they fell into the groove of post-Cold War triumphalism and committed themselves to new rounds of hegemonism that, steered by the newly ascendant Jewish elites, turned US foreign policy into more wars and/or hostilities against any nation or people on the Enemies List of the Cabal. Muhammad Ali has been lionized over the years for having stood by his conscience in protest against the war. It was as if America’s conscience about its own past was reshaping its place in the world. One would have thought the boomers of all people, in coming to a deeper understanding of the righteous demands of blacks, would have felt likewise about the rest of the world. And one would have thought blacks, whose political culture owes so much to Sixties activism, would join with White Boomers in shaping US foreign policy toward a friendlier role in the world. Instead, something else happened. In sacralizing the likes of MLK and welcoming/promoting sacralized blacks in the military and key government positions, US revamped its image as a reformed nation with renewed moral license to do as it pleases around the world. US went from Ali refusing to serve in the Vietnam War to whites & blacks in the Air Force painting bombs & missiles with BLM signs to justify wars against Arabs(and whomever happens to be on the current Jewish hit-list).

So much of the promise associated with the boomers turned out to be a bummer. Today, the oldest of the boomers are in their mid-70s, and the world they left behind is no better(and in some ways considerably worse) than the pre-boomer world. Boomers were better dreamers than doers, not least because so many of their ‘ideas’ only made sense as fantasy. Try to make real world sense of John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Worse, the generation associated with Anti-War protests and CCR classics like “Fortunate Son” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain” has turned out to be even more nihilistic as global imperialists and warmongers… though globalists are blind to their aggression as their way is to transgress unto others as you allow others to transgress unto yours. A kind of mutual conquest, “We send our sons and daughters(and all the genders in between) to invade and occupy your lands, and you send your sons and daughters to replace our native folks.” A fair-minded kind of mutual imperialism?

Perhaps, most problematic of all is the Teflon nature of the New Elites. If the old Wasp elite power could at least be criticized and checked, this is no-go with Jewish Power shrouded in the Holocaust Cult. Allied with blacks and homos, two other sacralized groups, the most powerful elites in the US now carry on without any criticism. This is surely more a tribal problem than a generational one, i.e. if Wasps or White Americans continued their elite dominance with the boomer takeover, there would likely be a healthier debate about who has the power and what they’re doing with it. But with Jewish domination in key fields, who dares to speak the obvious lest he be labeled with the career-and-reputation destroying charge of ‘antisemitism’? Does the A.C.L.U even stand for free speech anymore?

One take on the boomers is they turned out just like everyone else. That was Mike Nichols’ point in his ending of THE GRADUATE. Older than boomers by a decade and having honed his skills in the cynical world of comedy, he had fewer illusions. Ben and Elaine will become like their parents. Nothing wrong with that but for the fact that the boomers made claims. Wild claims about how they, as a collective, was like the Second Coming, the End of History, the finders of the Fountain of Youth. Just like Christians come across as worse hypocrites with their sanctimony, Boomers seem insufferable for their fabulous claims. It wasn’t long before their self-absorption with youth turned into self-absorption with materialism(especially in the Eighties). In a way, the shameless hedonism so integral to 60s youth culture paved the way for a more brazen ‘rock star’ kind of capitalism.

In the end, the only lasting contribution of the boomers will be their music. It’s so easy to both overestimate and underestimate this aspect because its impact was so sudden & overwhelming. For countless people since the 60s, Rock Music has been the only music that mattered, and it changed fashions and tastes all over the world. But, so much seem diminished in retrospect(not because the newer music is better, which it certainly isn’t, but because the Zeitgeist has not only passed but been forgotten). The most obvious example is none other than the Beatles SERGEANT PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, which was showered with some of the biggest raves in music criticism, popular and serious. It was as if Beatles united Heaven and Earth. But was the album really that great? Did the Beatles really have anything to say beyond platitudes? Was it all just a collective delusion?

Critical equilibrium isn’t easy to maintain with Sixties Music culture. Just when one’s about to consign it to another category in cultural history, one is struck by the sheer treasure trove of powerful and original songs. On the other hand, the sum total seems less than the extravagant claims made over the years by canonites for whom Rock Culture is Culture, and truth be told, what other living culture is there in the West but popular music, especially with cinema having turned into another category of video-games?

In a way, it is amazing that two decades made such a difference. Rock Music’s been around for seventy or seventy five years, but it’s the first two decades that really mattered, with nothing fundamental added to the template(with the possible exception of rap, but then part of its resilience is the sheer indifference to the very idea of development and growth). Cinema has been called the Art of the 20th century, but one could argue the two decades from 1955 to 1975(or from 1960 to 1980 if to clarify between Rock n Roll and Rock Music) had the biggest impact on the modern culture, for good or ill. In the end, it was probably for ill as Rock Music was like opening the pandora’s box. But same could be said of cinema. Even as there is so much to admire, the overall impact of movies on world culture has been negative, i.e. for every worthy work, there have been not only many more bad ones but downright corrosive ones as, cinema, like electrified popular music, has narco-tendencies toward mass-mindlessness.

History is about all of time, but the minutes fill the hours, which is to say relatively few bright moments serve as beacons for the rest of time. Greek history is long, but just about the only era that matters is a couple of centuries in ancient times. The period was so seminal that scholars still find new meanings and artists continue to draw inspiration. It wouldn’t be surprising if 99% of literature on Greek culture and history is devoted to the Classical period. While it may seem outlandish to compare Rock Culture to Classical Greece — after all, the only lasting contribution of the boomers is to popular music whereas Greeks achieved so much in so many fields — , the music produced in the first two or three decades of the Rock Era will probably be the subject of countless studies and the inspiration for many future artists(though perhaps, it needs to be forgotten and rediscovered for future generations to recapture the sense of adventure and revolution, like Antiquity was given a new life with its reemergence in the Renaissance). Some may argue the boomers achieved much more than music, especially in computers and high-tech. But, boomer contribution to science and technology seems part of the continuum than precedes and succeeds the boomers, whereas Rock Music was a decisive break that defined boomers as a force in their own right.

The biggest passion among Americans, at least since the Sixties, has been popular music. Perhaps, it owes to the intoxicating and seductive nature of music itself, but people don’t just like or enjoy their favorite music but love it, gorge on it, and even lose their minds over it. Boomers had their favorite TV shows in the Sixties, but they swooned over the Beatles and revered Bob Dylan, almost as a prophet. Boomers were called the Film Generation, but cinephilia was a minority phenomenon in college campuses and handful of big cities with reliable flow of foreign cinema.

It was the synthesis of composer and performer that made Rock Culture so potent in the eyes of youth. With TV and cinema, the writers write, directors direct, and actors act. So, who would be the real author? No wonder the ‘auteur theory’ grew out of controversy in film criticism. Even with the director enthroned as the ideal ‘author’ of cinema, no single figure has been as dominant in cinema as the great icons of Rock Culture.

Of course, it wasn’t always so. The general rule prior to the rise of boomers was the composers would compose and singers would sing, a rational arrangement given that most composers weren’t good singers(and lacked charisma) while the performers couldn’t string two notes together. (Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley just performed.) Today, one might even argue that the music scene has reverted or reset to the industrial ideal of composers composing and performers performing: A most workable division of labor.

And yet, the cult of music as especially meaningful and significant to youth culture owes to the Sixties when, for a time, the ideal was the songwriter-singer(to distinguish it from the ‘singer-songwriter’ phenomenon of the Seventies). Bob Dylan, as composer and performer, was regarded as a visionary personal artist. John Lennon and Paul McCartney also wrote their own songs. As such, they weren’t mere cute faces or charmers on stage, but artists in their own right, with something to ‘say’. And the Rolling Stones gained stardom only when they dug hard and unearthed a sound hitherto unknown to blues and rock-n-roll(though owing heavily to both). For the boomer generation, these shamanic rock stars represented a unity, a conviction that an individual could be everything. The personal and popular could be one. By technical standards, neither John Lennon, Mick Jagger, and especially Bob Dylan was a great singer, but it didn’t matter as it was about being personal and distinct. Even Brian Wilson, who could sing, agonized over making music more uniquely his own.

Especially under the influence of Bob Dylan, the Sixties Rockers were no longer content to write mere hits; they had to personalize their material, and this made them ‘poets’ in the eyes of the young(and even older) generation. To be a poet and also to perform, this was prophetic stuff for impressionable youth, and this template never went away(despite the resurgence and even dominance of the Pop Idol who relies on composers, many of whom are more like chemists than artists). The only thing comparable would be the standup comic who writes his own jokes. In the case of Woody Allen, he not only wrote and acted but directed, an incredible feat that explains his assured place in cinema — he may not be the best writer, best actor, or best director, but to be able to do three and churn out one personal work after another, that’s almost unheard of. Still, comedy focuses on the moment, whereas music resonates long after it’s over.

George Lucas is one of the giants of popular culture, a man who changed movie history(for good or ill). But, he remained behind the lens and is nowhere to be seen in STAR WARS. In other words, for all his talent and vision, he’s a geek. In contrast, Harrison Ford lit up the screen with his looks and charm, but what is an actor but a parrot who reads lines handed to him? As such, neither the writer/director or actor makes an ideal subject of cult worship. The creator creates but remains off-stage, and the performer commands the stage but cannot create.

In contrast, when boomers fixed their eyes and ears on their favorite Rock Stars, it was as if everything in the universe had come into singularity. Personality cult is probably wired into the human mind in search of heroes and gurus, and it all came to a heady mix in the Rock Era. The Boomer Ideal of the Rock Star fused the private and the public. Today, that ideal may be embodied by the Rapper, but rap music(at least most of it) seems like cheating. It’s like microwaveable ready-made food. If a Rock Star like Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young, or Robert Plant/Jimmie Page were like chefs who took raw ingredients and labored over cooking up something unique and special, rappers essentially take pre-packaged material and give it a bit of twist, mainly with more lewdness and foul language(but how many more F-bombs can you load into a rap song?)

In a way, it’s almost incredible. It took Rock Music only a couple of decades to create a whole new universe of meaning and longing. So short a span but so much to understand. Entire millennia can pass without fundamentally altering a culture or even civilization, but short bursts of energy can turn the world upside down.

Rock Culture was like a big bang moment in history, and even after so much of the Sixties has been forgotten(or neglected), the music lives on. And despite the eulogies that Rock is dead, no template has replaced the Sixties Ideal of the Rock Star as a totality, the one who has it all and can do it all. No wonder then that Martin Scorsese, for all his successes as a film artist, defers to Rock Stars of his generation as the true titans with talent that he can’t even begin to fathom. Also, without technology, the film-maker is nothing, but even if all the power plants were to shut down, the musician goes on making music. On the other hand, Rock Music is inconceivable without electricity. For awhile when electric guitar was the king of all instruments in pop culture, it was as if Rock Stars had the power of Zeus. They weren’t merely poets, performers, and prophets but gods as well.

The Rock Star was all the more a figure of awe because of the odds stacked against him. How many in a million have composing skills? How many in a million can sing(even adequately)? How many have stage presence, or charisma? Of course, being part of a band eased the odds. Roger Daltrey couldn’t compose but could sing the songs by Pete Townsend. Paul Simon was a decent singer, but his songs reached new heights with the vocals of Art Garfunkel.

I’m not sure where this blog will take us, but one way is to approach it as a way of understanding how popular culture and popular music(in particular) so profoundly changed the world when something both miraculous and monstrous crawled out of the lab of the boomer experiment of the Sixties.

 
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Becker update V1.3.2
The Surprising Elements of Talmudic Judaism
The Shaping Event of Our Modern World
The JFK Assassination and the 9/11 Attacks?
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