Thursday, August 13, 2009
Woodstock: August 15-18, 1969. A Celebration Of Freedom, Peace, and Love.
In August of 1969, a music festival was scheduled to take place on some open land, rented from a farmer, near the town of Woodstock in upstate New York. Outdoor music festivals were relatively common at the time, but the promoters did plan to draw a large crowd because of the terrific line-up of performers they had scheduled.
As it turns out, the number of young people who decided to go to this music festival grossly exceeded what had been planned. Hundreds of thousands of young people traveled to upstate New York for that three-day festival in brightly-colored vans, some hitchhiking, all planning to celebrate with other young people from around the country and listen to some good music. The rumor has it that the New York State primary freeway was shut down for a time because of the enormous number of vehicles headed to Woodstock. Eventually a half a million people ended up at the Woodstock Festival.
The young people who attended, cheered, celebrated Woodstock soon became known as the Woodstock Generation. They have been vilified, demeaned, ridiculed by the right-wing fascists who took control of this country under Reagan and kept control through two Bushes and one Clinton. But the Woodstock Generation was possibly the smartest generation in this country for decades. Had their ideas and views been followed, we would undoubtedly have a better country and more peaceful and humane world.
Among the performers at the Woodstock Festival were the following:
Country Joe McDonald
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Sly & the Family Stone
Country Joe and the Fish
Ten Years After
Blood Sweat & Tears
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Nice shot of the crowd:
The Woodstock Generation, although consisting of a loose connection of young and not always so young people, embraced certain beliefs and principles about life which at the time were considered revolutionary, and which terrified the ruling powers in this country. Here are just a few of the principles of the Woodstock Generation.
1. Stop Polluting The Environment. Rachel Carson brought the nation's attention to this issue in her book "The Silent Spring," and the Woodstock Generation was the first to demand that changes be made. Stop polluting the air and water. Simple concepts, but at that time the people who ran this country tried to cover up the truth. How much of the cancer in this country, and disease in the world, is the direct result of corporations dumping chemicals and poison in the earth and water?
2. Live Simply. Don't spend your life chasing more or competing with the neighbors. Consume less and contribute more. Help your neighbors. Don't hoard. Don't take more than you need.
3. Local Food Control. Eat simply. Eat locally-grown produce. Don't buy the corporate-produced food which is packaged or sprayed with poison. Take back control of food. And help people in other countries do the same.
4. Population Control. The churches oppose this, and encourage their members to breed as if there was no limit to our resources. But the fact is all people should be limited to 1/2 of a child. After that, get yourself fixed. We should cut the world's population in half immediately, and possibly cut it by another half after that. We are well on the way to destroying every living plant, all food stuff, and every single animal or fish in the world, because of gross and excessive and obscene overpopulation. And in the meantime, the Republicans on TV celebrate the stupid Americans who have 12 kids, or 18 kids, and act like this is all good fun. It's suicide. It's also likely to destroy the entire earth and all living things. If the demands of the Woodstock Generation for population control had been followed, we probably would not be facing the extinction of so many animals on this earth.
5. End All Wars. The Woodstock Generation was against the war in Vietnam. But they were also against all wars, preferring the idea of creating strong international organizations with the authority to send in peacekeeping troops to protect civilians. Possibly mandatory mediation of disputes. War consists of one macho male sending the young men from his country into another country to kill the women and children. That's always what it comes down to. Killing children and babies is wrong. We have the sophistication and wealth to end war for all time, if we wanted to. If this principle had been adopted, think of the millions of lives that might have been saved.
(Burning a draft card, refusing to go to Vietnam).
6. De-Criminalize Drugs. Who came up with the stupid idea that we should use the military to fight against addiction? The U.S. has troops all over Central and South America propping up dictators and despots, providing security for U.S. corporations that are stealing resources from those countries. And this military occupation is done under the guise of a "war on drugs." Nonsense. There is no war on drugs. Drug addiction is a medical condition and should be treated as such. If this idea had been adopted, our country could have saved billions of dollars that has been wasted on guns and wars used against poor people in other countries. And our massive prison population includes way too many young non-white people whose only crime is that they liked to get high.
7. End Racism. This went way beyond the minimal rights acquired during the 1950s civil rights movement. The Woodstock Generation promoted the idea that all people were equal, were the same, and should and must live together in peace. This included the idea that black and white or hispanic or Asian people should date, marry, form families without regard to racial or ethnic identities. This was an idea that was considered shocking to much of the country at that time.
(Huey P. Newton, Black Panther Party. The members of the Black Panther Party, standing in defense of their communities, were framed, imprisoned, assassinated, and exterminated by an illegal program of the U.S. government known as Cointelpro.)
8. Equality For Women. Again, this was a radical concept. Through the 1950s and early 1960s, women had to belong to some man, provide unpaid slave labor for life to a man and to however many children her body turned out, in order to have a place in society. Women had few opportunities to work or earn a living, often had no birth control, had no legal rights to prevent their husbands from beating them. Divorced women were considered whores and single women past a relatively young age were considered spinsters, completely banished from the rest of society. No options for women. The Woodstock Generation promoted the idea that all people, regardless of gender or race, are equal, and should have equal opportunities.
9. Create And Nourish Community. It had already become apparent that the single family suburban neighborhood was destroying community. Imagine people living in cubicles, not even knowing their neighbors, working in cubicles and being prohibited from even speaking with their co-workers. I worked on a lawsuit once in which a worker was fired by a big retailer which claimed she was guilty of "theft." Based on that charge of criminal behavior, the worker was even denied unemployment compensation. But it turns out that the only "crime" the employee had committed was that she spoke with a co-worker during working hours, asked how her week-end went. The company's employee handbook said any conversations among co-workers unrelated to work were considered to be "theft" of company time. People have no community, live in isolation, and they therefore have no power. How can people organize to protect their own rights or their community when they don't even know who lives right down the street?
10. No Nukes. If only this idea had been pursued at the time, think how different the world might be today. Because the right-wing took control of our country, they promoted the widespread distribution of nuclear weapons to our "friends," which now means we live every day within minutes of having the entire world annihilated by some moron, either in a cave or in a government office.
11. Recycle. Stop Consuming. Stop filling the ocean and the earth with crap. Re-use. The U.S. corporations hate the idea of people using their own independent judgment to decide that they will not spend their lives buying the crap sold to them by the corporations.
12. Free Love. It is not the place of the government or the "community" to dictate to other adults when they may have sex, with whom, or in what manner. It is also not the place of the government or the community to dictate to other adults whether they may use birth control (as late as the 1960s, some states still made birth control illegal) or whether, or when to have children.
13. Workers Rights. The Woodstock Generation marched and demonstrated and boycotted along with the United Farm Workers to demand that all workers get a decent paycheck, have safe working conditions, healthcare, decent pensions, vacations and holidays.
14. Freedom And Independence For Other Nations. The Woodstock Generation promoted the view that all people are entitled to be free and independent, to run their own countries without interference from other nations. If only these views had been adopted, how different the world would be today.
(Che Guevara, hero of the Cuban revolution.)
In this 40th anniversary of Woodstock, the right-wing fascists who control the media and the Republican party will undoubtedly take this opportunity to ridicule everyone who was part of the Woodstock Generation, and to reaffirm the concept that "real" Americans love war, guns and violence, and hate their neighbors. The Republicans are trying to create a fascist nation, and the Democrats aren't doing much to stop them. The fact is that the Woodstock Generation consisted of true patriots, people who loved this country and democracy, and who were creative and innovative in trying to find new ways for all of us to live in peace in this world. Make Love Not War. No Nukes. Peace.
In addition to having important and creative ideas about how to change society and the world to be cooperative instead of combative, there was also a tremendous flourishing of music, film, and fine arts during this time. The idea was that art became fun, a part of people's lives rather than something to be shut away inside museums and judged by a small panel of upper-class white men as to whether the art did or did not have merit. Young people all over the country decided for themselves whether they liked some art and, if they did, collected the reprints and posters and tacked them up all over their rooms. People's art, as it were, shown throughout this post.
During the entire history of the U.S., under or after slavery, it had always been understood that black and white people should live completely separate lives. In the 1950s, blacks spent years demonstrating and marching for such minimal rights as the right to sit down on a public bus, the right to buy food in a restaurant, the right to vote, the right to not be murdered by white men. Black people were often legally prohibited from buying homes other than in "black" neighborhoods, their children were legally prohibited from attending schools with white children, and they were legally prohibited from marrying a white person. Even in states which did not have those laws, segregation was strictly upheld in all classes of society.
The Woodstock Generation took enormous leaps forward on the issue of race, and demanded that all racism, all segregation be ended. This was a radical position at the time. The Woodstock Generation had a view that all people were equal and should live together in one community, in peace. Not that this was necessarily successfully implemented, but just the fact that these people embraced that idea was horrifying to the white men who ran this country.
For example, Jimi Hendrix performed at Woodstock to wild acclaim. Just a short time later, by the 1980s, under the regime of Ronald Reagan and the white boys who re-took control of our country, a black performer like Michael Jackson had to physically alter his appearance to make himself look white and female, in order to be "acceptable" to be presented to a white audience. Jimi Hendrix didn't appear white or female. He was a hot black man, sexy, publicly celebrating his sexuality, and he was worshipped by many of the young white people who made up the Woodstock Generation.