The Daily Escape:
Red Hill, on the Haleakala volcano. Maui, HI – March 2021 photo by vikings201
Yesterday was Easter Sunday. On that day 53 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. The day before, he gave his final speech to striking sanitation workers in Memphis:
“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
At 39 years old when he died, Dr. King was an early member of the Silent Generation. Wrongo and Biden are also members of the Silent Generation.
The Greatest Generation preceded the Silents. They survived the Great Depression and won World War II. We’ve all heard quite a bit about their accomplishments. But they weren’t called the Greatest until Tom Brokaw invented the phrase in 1988 for marketing purposes. Prior to that they were known as the GI generation.
The Silents are sandwiched between them and the Boomers, and on the presidential level, we haven’t heard anything from my generation until Biden was elected. He is the first (and most likely, the last) Silent to be elected president. Clinton, GW Bush, Obama, and Trump were all boomers. Prior to Clinton, and after Eisenhower, they were all Greatests. As the first Silent to be elected, so far, Biden is hanging in there despite being an old guy.
Barkley Rosser at Angry Bear is the inspiration for today’s column. He quotes Robert Putnam, who says that there is an “I-we-I” pattern to our generational history that informs and motivates our political, social, cultural and economic activities: (brackets by Wrongo)
“….the “I-we-I” pattern, whereby there was an increase in solidarity and “we orientation,” cooperation, social capital, equality, and so on from the 1890s to roughly the 1960s, some variables peaking in the 1950s and economic equality peaking in the 1970s…[but] Since then we have basically gone downhill to an “I” orientation of greater inequality and polarization and unhappiness and low social capital…”
Barkley says that Putnam:
“…pinpointed cultural shifts as crucial and noted especially shifts in the mid-60s, even noting the contrast in themes of the early folkish Bob Dylan with his civil rights songs to the later electronic Dylan with his more personal emphasis, and supposedly a similar shift with the Beatles, especially when they broke up. This peak of “we” and the move towards “I” coincided with the rise of the Boomers.”
The quick conclusion is that the Greatests had lots of “we” orientation that drove much of their achievements. But they had a dark side: They were prejudiced, and many were racists. By the time the Boomers emerge, we have the emphasis on the “I” that brings with it substantially lower levels of prejudice. One of the Greatests’ who worked for change was LBJ, who fought in WWII, winning a Silver Star, and then went on in the 1960s to sign into law the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.
By Wrongo’s date of birth, he is a late stage “Silent”. But nothing about our growing up was silent. We helped lead the anti-war and pro-civil rights movements. We also were early but ineffective activists in the first stages of environmentalism. Along the way, we had to fight with many of the Greatests and a few of the other Silents who refused to hear the message.
The premise is that the Silents are a kind of golden mean, still following the “we” focus of the Greatests, while being the first generation to live through a substantial reduction in racism and prejudice. Being of the Silent generation may be part of the motivation that Biden is using to move the country back toward a less polarized “we” orientation.
But the “I” focus remains with us. Wrongo believes, however, that Covid has helped create more “we” forms of cooperation than we had at the start of the Trump era. But many people remain selfish. They refuse to wear masks, or to social distance, regardless of the outcome.
Republicans disparage Biden’s call for unity because they’re actively against his agenda, while having no agenda of their own. Time to wake up America, we need waay more “we” and a lot less “I”!
To help you wake up, listen to Santana perform George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” with help from India. Arie: