Saturday, April 7, 2012

Conflicts of the Ages


Hal Pepinsky,,

April 7, 2012

Have you noticed several commonalities among political divisions worldwide, from Occupy movements in the US vs. Republicans United, to general strikes from France through to Europe’s currently hottest spot—Greece, across North Africa, in violent clashes and mass incarceration of ethnic majorities by the militarily dominant minorities in Palestine, in Syria, in Iraq, and in Bahrain (be they Jew vs. Palestinian, or Shia vs. Sunni regardless of which of the two is dominant):

· Those at the forefront of resistance, and bearing the brunt of repression, and ordered to carry out that repression personally on behalf of the dominant minority, are young adults, in places where

· Young adults, even those with the most prestigious higher degrees these days are disproportionately unemployed,

· Especially young adults of the political underclass, with

· The weight of repression and poverty falls most heavily on young women and children of color (e.g., the rise in rate of incarceration of young women of color in the US; the brunt of hunger by children)

· Repression, suppression and oppression is led by men in the prevailing political class whose own livelihood and that of large families and supporters, especially when,

· Power over others has passed to leaders who belong to the same generation as the youths’ parents (as for instance in the US when Bill Clinton became the first president of the post WWII generation)?

In my lifetime, from the youth of WWI to children-of-the-Great Depression/WWII generation represented in the US by the presidential shift from Eisenhower to Kennedy, and from the WWII to the “baby boomer” generation represented in the presidential change from Bush I to Clinton, then from baby boomer parents (aka children of the Depression) to their children represented by the transition from Clinton through Bush II to Obama, there have been waves of youthful resistance, accompanied by waves of repression where their seniors kill and oppress their juniors by pitting groups of youths against each other and against rival leaders in war and by various forms of confinement and torture. The first global wave of youthful unrest I noticed was that of the late sixties in the US throughout Europe and in China’s Cultural Revolution (see particularly chap. 3 of the 1991 Geometry of Violence and Democracy book, pp. 34-61, on “societal rhythms in the chaos of violence,” where one of my prophecies—that with the end of the Cold War the primary military divide would shift from between East and West would shift to between the predominantly white North and Southern people of color—has come to pass).

I would love to explore implications of this phenomenon of global waves of in loco parentis repression and youthful resistance with anyone who is interested. One implication I think is that neither putting the person many resisters are overjoyed to see become head of state in office (as many of were who had tears in our eyes as Obama led the Democrats to legislative and executive power), nor lopping off the head of a tyrannical state (as in Iraq, Egypt and Libya) works. Suppression of youth represents a structure that from metaphorical (e.g. a father in Washington) to literal levels, rests on the cultural premise that middle-aged adult authorities know more and better than even their own children, and that youthful disobedience is the greatest threat to the social “security” of young and old alike. Most of us older folks have ample opportunity to challenge this premise in our relations with our juniors, as in my case as a teacher, volunteer mediator between “victims” and ”offenders,” parent or now grandparent, and in my relations with those who are or have been in prison (though I have not). This is the most direct way I can see to building a culture counter to ageism in generations to come. As Marx put it in his essay “on the Jewish question,” political emancipation falls far short of human emancipation, where in this case the global political culture tips away from ageism. In my own lifetime, I see no such tipping point. I just hope that over generations, humanity will eventually get there.

I became a “professor” (visiting asst.) in 1970—the year that percentage of high school students going to college in the US peaked, academic job supply with it. I recall how I and young colleagues talked about “dead wood” among our seniors who would vote on our job retention and who should make way for us and our peers. And I think it tragic that longtime loyal employees are thrown out of the workforce to make way for younger, cheaper replacements. When livelihoods are scarce, parental generations have real cause to fear that youth—especially poor and foreign youth—will replace them and make them permanent outcasts or worse. I understand that youthful resistance threatens adults, but I don’t accept that overpowering youth in the name of war or “security” leaves us older folks or our youth better off. Instead, a culture that is ageist—besides being racist, classist, sexist and xenophobic—promotes social disorder and instability. What say? Love and peace--hal

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