National Commentary

Greed & the ‘Aquarian Conspiracy’

bentonmugAfter 23 years, Oliver Stone is back with a sequel to his prophetic, December 1987 release of “Wall Street,” the movie that has indicted the entire three-decade era from before 1980 to the great global economic meltdown of 2008. Gordon Gekko, the character played by Michael Douglas, delivered the chilling speech in that film that continued to echo through the subsequent decades, and has been repeated and replayed especially often in the last two years.

bentonmugAfter 23 years, Oliver Stone is back with a sequel to his prophetic, December 1987 release of “Wall Street,” the movie that has indicted the entire three-decade era from before 1980 to the great global economic meltdown of 2008. Gordon Gekko, the character played by Michael Douglas, delivered the chilling speech in that film that continued to echo through the subsequent decades, and has been repeated and replayed especially often in the last two years.

“Greed, for lack of a better word,” he intoned to a room full of shareholders, “is good.”

Wall Street types still wet their pants when they hear those words, as they furiously resist any obstacles that the Obama administrations throws in the path of realizing that twisted vision. The GOP has bought into it totally, now a curious alliance of the uber-wealthy, their admirers and America’s lunatic fringe.

It will be interesting to see, given the events of the last two years, what Mr. Stone presents in his sequel film, due out in late September, entitled, “Wall Street, Money Never Sleeps.” Douglas is back as Gekko, and Charlie Sheen is back as Bud Fox.

How did the country shift so dramatically between two great oratories in the late 20th century, from Martin Luther King’s immortal “I Have a Dream” speech of 1963 to Gordon Gekko’s equally unforgettable “Greed is Good” only a couple decades later?

There was a great social paradigm shift that occurred starting in the late 1960s that, in the context of the assassinations of King and Robert Kennedy, tilted the nation dramatically away from popular support for the kind of government-led efforts that began under FDR and culminated in Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” and “The Great Society” initiatives of the mid-1960s.

That shift is still manifest  in a lot of what drives public and social policy today, but it remains very poorly understood.

The nation was subjected to a massive, coordinated push to translate years of anarchistic, hedonistic, nihilistic and Ayn Rand-style libertarian theory into an action plan, unleashed out of think tanks and university classrooms into the streets all across the nation, infecting the fertile minds of legions of young people eager to break with convention to bring about racial equality, an end to a terrible war in Vietnam, and to liberate their personal lives from conventional social mores.

Curiously enough, this counterinsurgency offensive was very neatly chronicled in a book published in 1980, the year its work succeeded in the election of Ronald Reagan and the shift of that movement into the corridors of national power.

It is entitled, “The  Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s,” by Marilyn Ferguson.

Ironically, this is not a book aiming to expose a dark conspiracy. It is, in fact, a book praising and extolling it, written by one of its own activists, and replete with an appendix to tell readers how they, too, could get involved.

It is a remarkably forthcoming testament to how the “movement” grew and moved in on the socially-radicalized youth of the anti-war, civil rights, women’s and gay liberation movements. From the earlier-on role of Aldous Huxley on Southern California campuses, to the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, to the “post-modernists” in the philosophy departments of colleges and universities all across America, the “human potential movement” shaped young minds, with generous portions of mind-altering drugs, against big government, against labor unions, against technology, against responsibility in personal relationships and in favor of a political “radical middle” that undercut traditional liberal-left policies and institutions.

It obfuscated the structural differences between the rich and poor, relegating fights against poverty to cult-like private sector institutions, and by insinuating itself by way of religious cults into transforming its mirror-image opposites in fundamentalist churches to become politically active.

Among many others, for example, Karl Rove was an impressionable student radical in the era when this stuff hit the consciousness of the nation’s young, and many of their rich and privileged daddies and mamas were happy to see them get involved, despite their personal distaste for long hair and free love.

It hasn’t been that long since those days. For the record, this seasoned activist has fought vigorously in his own way against those forces since the early 1970s.

 


Nicholas Benton may be emailed at [email protected]