Turns out the answer wasn’t blowin’ in the wind. The 1960s and ’70s were filled with protest songs against the Vietnam War, discrimination, and The Man! While heartfelt, these songs they didn’t do much except create an artsy activist political class committed to resisting anything resembling hard work to suppress the pending wave of innovation.
Songs can be inspirational, but they aren’t instruction manuals. With an air of despair, Bob Dylan’s 1963 “Blowin’ in the Wind” asked lots of breezy questions. I think “Puff the Magic Dragon” had more answers. Then Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s “Ohio” in 1970 offered a solution to the horrible Kent State shootings: “Gotta get down to it,” which “should have been done long ago.” That’s it?
Gil Scott Heron sang “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in 1971. Instead, our television was digitized and revolutionized. I hate war, but I can’t help noticing that Edwin Starr’s 1970 “War, huh, yeah / What is it good for? / Absolutely nothing” wasn’t sung in German.
Saigon collapsed. The draft ended in 1973, and my age group didn’t have to register, which explains a lot of apathy. But the cultural damage lingered. In 1984, Bruce Springsteen released the gloomy “Born in the U.S.A.,” right on the cusp of the most spectacular economic boom in history, “I’m 10 years burning down the road / Nowhere to run, ain’t got nowhere to go.” Except, it turns out, up.
Nope, my friend, the answer wasn’t blowin’ in the wind. The answer was to roll up your sleeves and dig in. Work your way up. Create the future. Effort over easy. That’s what drove progress. . . .
Today’s DEI and ESG grievance industries are blowin’ in the wind. Three steps to redemption: Forget merit and striving for the highest level. Push equity over excellence. Feel virtuous. There are uproars because we don’t have enough female crash-test dummies—or paper straws, trigger warnings, unisex bathrooms, wind farms, disarmed police, censored songs or sidewalk tents for the “unhoused.” These are vacuous 21st-century versions of protest songs. Feels good. Does nothing. Greta Thunberg’s “How Dare You?” topped the charts.
A friend told me his latest movie idea: A disaster strikes and the world ends during the Burning Man festival. The chemically addled cosplaying steampunk “Burners” are the only ones left alive. Hilarity ensues. Looking at our culture, it often feels as if that has already happened: emo music, moralizing movies, pregnant men, crypto disasters.
Sorry, it wasn’t hot-airy activists or puffing politicians in the ’60s and ’70s that drove progress, but entrepreneurs and workers at all the companies started back then: Intel. FedEx. Walmart. Apple. Genentech. Nike. Home Depot. Starbucks. Microsoft. They put action into Mr. Dylan’s words in “The Times They Are a-Changin’.”
Life is constant change, turmoil, ruckus. It’s almost always for the better when we unleash progress from the shackles of whiny, wind-blowin’ protesters. Hard work and putting in the time turn inspiration into innovation. Reach into that bag and grab those handles.
The whiny artsy activist political class isn’t much into hard work, though they don’t mind enjoying the fruits of others’.