Friday, May 2, 2008

Progressive fashion

Elizabeth Wurtzel's Wall Street Journal column about Weather Underground terrorist Bernardine Dohrn (Bill Ayers' old lady) struck me:
When I was 15, I read an article in Rolling Stone about the Weather Underground and became fascinated with Bernardine Dohrn. . . .
[L]ike many teenagers tragically lost in the Reagan '80s, I had Woodstock dreams, imagining some perfect purple haze of love. By the time I got to college, the cult of latter-day hippies had become a marketing phenomenon: Urban Outfitters was selling tie-dye T-shirts and groups of us made daytrips to Walden Pond to drop acid on Thoreau's acreage. Undergraduates lived in shanties, built in front of the university president's office at Harvard Yard, to protest investment in apartheid South Africa; all around the campus, reprints of posters advocating the 1969 student strike were thumb-tacked on kiosks and telephone poles. I was there, one of many, in love with a dream I'd had as a kid.
What's up with that? I mean, whence the "Woodstock dreams" and tie-dye T-shirts, the ID of campus protest as a rite of passage? Why was Wurtzel "tragically lost" in the 1980s and why, of all things, did she turn to hippie fashions and recycled radicalism from the '60s?

The '60s is the only decade that has such enduring power. You never see teenagers mimic the styles of the 1920s, with flapper dresses, bathtub gin and jazz. But even now, more than 40 years past the Summer of Love, you still see these college kids at protests who seem to be stuck in some kind of time warp, chanting variations of the same chants that radicals were chanting 40 years ago.

It's irrational, and the irrational always fascinates me. As she notes, Wurtzel wasn't the only "tragically lost" kid in the '80s who glommed onto the fashion and politics of the '60s, but she leaves the "why" unexplained, perhaps because of the difficulty of finding a rational explanation. This is an irrational attraction to an irrational era.

Reminds me of an old joke:
Q. What did the Deadhead say when the drugs wore off?
A. "Man, this band sucks!"

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