Scott Johnson at Powerline has a quite gripping column today based on coming across a copy of Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man. He asks whether anyone reads it any more but as a coincidence perhaps, I was looking at my own copy just yesterday and thought I might give it a read for old time’s sake. A very powerful book in its time but today would hardly cause a ripple since its ideas are now absorbed into the thought processes of Presidents and Prime Ministers all across the Western world. But Scott also goes through a list of books each one of which was an important part of my own education, except for The Strawberry Statement for which I have no memory. How could I have let that one go by, but I can recall others he left out? Here is Scott’s full list:
Paul Goodman, Growing Up Absurd (published in 1960, restored to print in the NYRB Classics series, in which we learned how corporation deadened our souls).
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (gone but not forgotten, Fanon makes a cameo appearance in Dreams From My Father, but of course).
R.D. Laing, The Politics of Experience (mental illness is good).
Carlos Castenada, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (the first in Castenada’s endless series of fictional sociological studies of an Indian shaman working wonders with psychedelic drugs…heavy!).
Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytical Meaning of History (hey, it inspired Jim Morrison…the book has an interesting chapter on Jonathan Swift).
James Simon Kunen, The Strawberry Statement: Notes of a College Revolutionary (turned into a lousy movie, now a collector’s item…damn, what did I do with my copy?).
Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice (sick, sick, sick, and still in print…I recall that Eric Hoffer nailed it as ‘soul on horse manure’).
There are two sorts of people on the right today, those who were once on the left and those who weren’t. It is those of us who once were who are the ones more terrified about the left because we were there and know just how much there is to fear about the kinds of people we were but thankfully no longer are. I only wish there were a lot more like us and a lot less of the others who stayed as they were then. I used to think that the world would be a better place once we were finally gone from positions of power and influence but the startling reality is that our miseducation of the generation that followed has created a monster even more awful than we were ourselves. Gillard is infinitely worse than Hawke while Obama makes me wish we had Bill Clinton back again.
And when you finish Scott Johnson’s column, you really should go onto the column by Dan Henninger that inspired it. It’s short but here is the para that matters:
The original argument for the Obama presidency was that this was a new, open-minded and liberal man intent on elevating the common good. No one believes that now. This will be a second term of imposition. As he said in the inaugural: ‘Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.’ That is Marcusian.
Don’t know what Marcusian means? Then I worry you may not know just what you are up against.