NOW with Alex Wagner | July 10, 2012
>>> more than 40 years later, our culture is still being shaped by the protests of the 1960s . in his new book, kurt andersen tells the fictional account of a prominent lawyer who looks back on her activist past, writing quote, those years, the universe did start revolving around us, affirming our adolescence, making our fantasy of self-importance real. practically overnight, we and everything we thought or did, our new music, new ways we dressed and talk, our sensibilities, became topic a among the grown-ups. his new book is called " true believers ." i got it yesterday, i haven't finished it, but great book. i thought it's a really interesting time to be talking about the '60s. tell us a little about what you think, how the culture of the 1960s has influenced sort of where we are today.
>> well, in so many ways, we saw an upsurge in occupy protests last fall, part of me thought oh, this is just young people today doing the same thing but it was different and they had, i think, many of them, the same kind of visceral repulsion at the system. in the '60s fortunately people had stopped the war or enacted civil rights . it still affects the nature of our political discourse . obama being called a socialist. the sort of old-fashioned left/right and antipathy was born in the late '60s.
>> you also make the point, you had a really interesting op-ed i thought talking about the sort of selfishness of the 1960s and that that is something that is not just echo ed in modern society, but the "me" decade has turned almost into the "me" half century. do your own thing is not so different than every man for himself. if it feels good, do it. whether that means smoking weed and watching porn and never wearing a necktie, retiring at 50 with a six figure public pension and refusing modest gun regulation or moving your factories overseas and letting commercial banks become financial speculators. the self-absorbed "me" decade having expanded during the '80s and '90s from personal life to encompass the political economy will soon be the "me" half century.
>> the '60s for the last while have been demonized by the right as when everything went bad. and the left has tended to buy into that in a converse way saying oh, no, the '60s were all great. not only civil rights but the personal liberty and i have begun to think that what we see as the freedom of the '60s, you can wear blue jeans on television shows, you can wear sneakers, you can, as i wrote in the piece, smoke weed and watch porn, has its equivalent on the right. i believe that the freedom to it's mine, i can make as much as i want, i can pay my workers as little as i can, i can outsource jobs, all that began, has the same tap root of the do your own thing. you know, mitt romney and his peers in private equity are doing their own thing. steve jobs i think is a perfect ex ex exemplar of both sides of that.
>> what you're saying is really important and it's really interesting to remember that the '60s were not only great for some people, they were scary. there was a kind of disorder unleashed and that stayed with us and stays with us today. but the '60s were also really awesome. i don't just mean in the fun sense. that's what we take away from it. the culture is what we remember but the civil rights movement wasn't selfish. feminism wasn't selfish.
>> i want to make clear to all of my left wing letter writers in the "new york times," i'm not saying the '60s were all bad or that the civil rights movement or the women's movement were selfish. but all of the personal liberties, sex, drugs, rock and roll stuff which we are still living with today, was definitely and i think it's the flipside of the coin that has gotten our sort of market maniacal economy.
>> also, the sort of idealism of the '60s. i don't know that we have that in the same way, you know, you talk about occupy in terms of being a call to action . there was a participation in the political process we haven't yet seen from occupy. i think that is sort of the legacy of individualism that was maybe spawned then.
>> why do you think we are refighting seemingly every battle of the '60s at this very moment? it seems like democrats and liberals are on every front, whether it's the voting rights act or medicare or women's rights, et cetera , et cetera , down the line, are on defense right now? why is it happening at this moment?
>> well, i think to some degree, it's the last hurrah of the people who in the long term have lost many if not all of those battles and it's one last shot at, you know, turning back the clock to a world before 1965 . part of me sometimes thinks well, okay, i'll give you that, get rid of medicare but we'll give you 92% marginal tax rates as well. if you really liked the '50s so much.
>> it's that we won the culture war but lost the class war , in a sense. we lost the emphasis on economic issues.
>> which is to my point, what won is a kind of selfishness.
>> what goes around kind of comes around. i don't know.
>> as mark twain said, history doesn't repeat but it rhymes.
>> there you go. the book of course is " true believers ." it's on sale right now.