Back in the Sixties, there was a popular bumper sticker slogan that read “question authority.” In that dubious era of phony psychedelic bohemians and inane pseudo-revolutionaries, it was one of the few pieces of advice I took seriously. Even today it remains good advice, and perhaps even more so.
Questioning authority lies at the foundation of how and why this country was formed. The War of Independence was the ultimate challenge to an authority that hadn’t only become questionable, but beyond toleration as well. The framework of the Constitution was designed in part to allow both its citizens and its administrators to question the authority of any legislation they thought was outside the bounds of the very Constitution they ratified. The Founders understood well that authority and tyranny often walked hand in hand.
These days, I’m dismayed to see so many Baby Boomers willing to give the powers-that-be so much slack and latitude. Not only does it seem out of character, it seems un-American. Nevertheless, you’ll find that many former anti-establishment types have changed their tune. Challenging the status quo, at one time so fashionable among the Left, is now considered racist, mean-spirited, even treasonous. Just try and criticize the current administration and its policies and see how quickly you’re attacked. Apparently now that many on the Left have found their comfortable niches in government, entertainment, media, and academia, their new slogan must surely be “submit to authority.” How convenient.
The New Left in particular suffers a great burden of irony and hypocrisy. While still pretending to be counter-culture radicals, these poseurs have become part of the national establishment they so militantly opposed back in those days of sit-ins, street marches, and ROTC building takeovers. The rebels of yesterday are the social and political status quo of today.
One need only look at any Leftist who has found some position of authority to realize that their timeworn catchwords like ‘peace,’ ‘ justice,’ ‘equal rights’ and ‘power to the people’ weren’t much more than disingenuous slogans—fashion statements to accessorize their political pretensions. Such words have a hollow ring of banality now. A ruling class is still a ruling class no matter how you try to dress it up. Beneath the posturing, the New Left was nothing more than a rabble of closet statists who never admitted that what they really wanted was to run the world their way, and force the rest of us to conform to their worldview. They remain in denial to this day as to their real purpose and intentions.
Many on the New Left still romanticize the exploits of their generation. Yet the so called “system” they were fighting against is just as arbitrary today as they perceived it to be back then. The only difference is that they’ve become the very people they warned us about.
While we’re still waxing nostalgic, let’s end with a lyrical trip down radical lane. Jagger and Richards once lamented, “There’s no place for a street fightin’ man.” Lennon and McCartney challenged, “You say you want a revolution.” And Jim Morrison demanded, “We want the world and we want it now.” Well, as Sixties icon Pete Townshend put it so aptly, “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”