Posts Tagged ‘multiculturalism vision’

Shortly after I wrote Alexei that fan letter on Star Well in October 1968, Richard Nixon was elected president — and from that point on, the world grew steadily darker and more paranoid.

Alexei had begun working on the third Villiers book by then, and where the first two had poured out of him quickly and easily, this one came slow and hard. It was darker as well — a story set entirely at night — and there was an air of doubt and apprehension underlying the wackiness. By the time he finished, just before our wedding that June, it was clear that to push on with the fourth book would only lead further in the direction of negativity, violence, and disintegration.

All we knew at the time was that real-world events were making it difficult to hold onto the light-hearted spirit these books required. But in retrospect, there was something deeper going on. The chaos vision, which had provided the central organizing principle for the Villiers books, was breaking down under pressure, falling into self-doubt and turning bleak and violent and increasingly paranoid.

Alexei was faced with a choice between two paths. One was to follow the chaos vision into decadence and despair, as so many did over those next few years. The other was to set chaos aside, along with the Villiers books, and focus instead on holism, multiculturalism, and the successor to chaos, all of which retained their idealistic sheen. And in the course of 1969-70, that was exactly what he did.

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There’s a new article at Washington Monthly, titled “Who Broke America’s Jobs Machine?” that I found quite interesting in itself — and even more interesting for the light it sheds on the visions. It indicates a major change of direction during Roosevelt’s New Deal, previously unknown to me, that appears to be directly related to the emergence of the holism vision in the late 1930’s.

Authors Barry C. Lynn and Phillip Longman argue that starting after World War II, the American economy served as a reliable job-creating machine, with innovative small businesses constantly providing new opportunities for employment and investment. This process was disrupted, however, when the Reagan administration allowed consolidation to take place in nearly all major industries, resulting by the 1990’s in the formation of monopolies and near-monopolies with no interest in innovation.

These corporate Goliaths, Lynn and Longman explain, feel no need to innovate because they find it easier to increase profits by jacking up prices or squeezing their suppliers. At the same time, their dominance inhibits the start-up of potential competitors, or else they buy them out before they can get established. The result is that the job market shrinks and investors have no place to put their money except into financial bubbles.

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I’ve generally been referring to the development of the 1960’s counterculture as if it was all one continuous process. However, it actually consisted of two very different phases, the first extending from 1961 to 1967 and the second from 1968 to about 1976.

The initial phase was dominated by the interaction of two factors. One was the loss of faith in the science-and-democracy partnership that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis and the assassination of John Kennedy. The other was the ongoing realignment of chaos away from scientific materialism and towards holism.

Although they began independently, by 1964 these two factors had begun to interact with one another and create a positive feedback loop. As science-and-democracy collapsed, the science vision was increasingly discredited and its successor, the holism vision, was energized. This shift of cultural energy accelerated the turning of the chaos vision away from science and towards holism, and that in turn provided chaos with the energy and self-confidence to further challenge science-and-democracy.

Every part of this loop was important, but the most pivotal aspect was the rejection of the notion of a mechanistic universe in which nature, society, and even human beings could all be treated as physical objects and manipulated as if in a scientific experiment.

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In the last few years before the 1960’s counterculture found its voice, a dawning sense of the universe as an all-embracing whole was already bubbling up into consciousness. It was still nothing that could be put into words but it was present on an intuitive level, and in 1963-64 it was being expressed more clearly in the music than anywhere else.

Surf music may have been the first to tap into the new holistic awareness, but a similar message was present in Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” — a technique epitomized by the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” (1963) — and in the harmonies of early Beatles songs. (Not surprisingly, in 1966 the Beach Boys would fuse the wall of sound with surf rock in their groundbreaking Pet Sounds.)

By 1965, a recognition of the latent power in the music had inspired even Bob Dylan to go electric. But the new awareness was not yet accessible to everyone. The outraged folkies who thought Dylan had betrayed them didn’t get it — and neither did the clueless Time magazine intern whose interview of Dylan just before his first electric performance is believed to have inspired the classic line, “Something’s happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you Mr. Jones?”

Right now, at the start of 2010, we’re coming close to the equivalent of that “Mr. Jones” moment, but we’re not quite there. Amazing things are about to happen, there is a sense of almost intolerable imminence — but they haven’t happened yet. And this time, of course, the primary vision will be not chaos but holism, which is in the process of moving away from an alignment with the failed democracy vision — and its model of progress through political reform — and into an alignment with the next social vision.

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