Magazine Home
Now and Then

March 17, 2024

by Dr. David Fialkoff, Editor / Publisher

I haven't travelled widely, but I take comfort in knowing that a lot of people who have travelled widely wind up living in San Miguel... or regularly vacationing here, as is the case with a famous film director I met in synagogue one recent Saturday morning.

A full tenured professor at the University of Southern California where he teaches the graduate courses in directing, among other academic and cinemagraphic endeavors, Jeremy Kagan, with awards and multiple big box office success to his credit, is a vibrant, full-throated, artistic almost-eighty-year-old.

The next day I watched his Cable Ace award-winning docu-drama, "Conspiracy: The Trial of the Chicago 8," a 1987 HBO original, starring, among others, Eliott Gould. The action in the film centered on what was a very active courtroom, but also liberally included the real subjects, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Bobby Seale, et al, interacting with the actors who were playing their parts in the film. Also, included to great effect, was original and until then unavailable footage of the action on the streets of Chicago during that protest/riot.

The trial was part of the government's over-reaction to the protests that accompanied the Democratic Presidential Convention in 1968. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were both recently assassinated; the war in Vietnam was going very badly; hippies and yippies were trying to overturn the Establishment... You remember.

That highly-irreverent, but largely peaceful protest turned into a "police riot" when Mayor Daley's cops, en force, charged in swinging, causing injury and pandemonium in a densely-packed crowd who had been seated in a park on a Sunday listening to inciteful, but largely theatrical, speeches: "You say you want a revolution..."

A precocious, impressionable pre-teen (the main action in Chicago happened on August 25, my 11th birthday) I learned of the momentous affair by watching CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. The trial itself, over the course of its 100-day duration, was also national news. The following summer, spent on the Connecticut shore, while still 11-years-old, I read Jerry Rubin's highly-provocative account of his experience, the book "We are Everywhere."

I have decidedly mixed feelings about the Sixties. I wrote, in these pages, a series of articles (1, 2, 3) about Neal Cassady, a hero of the Counterculture of that time. Neal's daughter wrote to me to congratulate me on getting it right. In a sentence, while I admire the impulse, the actual reality was messy. Hosting the Merry Pranksters wasn't so merry.

One line that stays with me from Jeremy's docu-drama, spoken at the end of the show, right before the credits rolled, by the real Jerry Rubin, now clean-shaven, short-haired and dressed in a suit, has him describing himself now as "an entrepreneur, a businessman, someone who is as confused politically as I was certain in the Sixties."

I sent the first draft of this article to Jeremy for his critique. He wrote back about my selecting that quote:

"Though you may have liked Jerry's comment, you could also emphasize the points brought up by Bobby Seale at the end: 'It put justice on trial' and by Abbie: 'It's lonely out there when you say the emperor has no clothes' and most importantly by defense lawyer Leonard Weinglass: 'Dedication to principle is the basis on which a life should be built.' Wish you had and do quote them as well."

Another line that stays with me is from one of the songs of the 60s included in the movie's soundtrack, "Please come to Chicago" by Crosby, Still and Nash: "Rules and regulations, who needs them? Throw them out the door."

My cynical assessment (I have other points of view) of the youth movement of the Sixties is summed up pretty well by the motto painted large on the side of a barn in Simsbury, Connecticut. George Hall staffed his organic farm each spring, summer and fall with young interns, WWOOFers (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). I shared a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) membership there. Broadside, facing the fields, scrolling through a painted panorama of the farm's bounty, in the mural on the barn, was a banner containing these words, "Hire a teenager now, while they still know everything."

I imagine old George Hall, regularly confronted by the foolish youthful certainty of one or another of his interns, just pointing to that message on the side of his barn. "Rules and regulations, who needs them?" Farmers, for one. Those vegetables aren't just going to grow by themselves.

"Theater" is a word that is spoken multiple times by defendants in Kagan's courtroom drama in reference to the actual courtroom drama. (We have Jeremy Kagan to thank for so sensitively capturing that theater.) Theater, "guerrilla theater," also accounted for a lot of the protest back in the day.

Today, there is a lot of theater, a lot of bad, self-righteousness, joyless theater in today's protest movements. Wokeness is doomed because it has no music and no sense of humor. It will die of boredom, from being boring.

It seems, not just to me, that politics, at its best, is a series of over-reactions aimed at arriving at some more or less reasonable compromise. Yes, the US made a lot of deadly mistakes in Vietnam, but the communist regime that took over afterwards was no picnic either.

Jeremy and I had a different take on Judge Julius Hoffman, who presided over the trial. I felt quite sympathetic to him: a symbol of order, albeit too calcified, being confronted by "the forces of chaos and anarchy," to quote another song of the era ("We Can Be Together" by the Jefferson Airplane). In his critique of this, my article Director Kagan noted:

"As to the judge, played so well by David Opatashu, my presentation of him was an overbearing, unsympathetic, mean-spirited reactionary character, who wanted to crush opposition."

Well, there is no accounting for taste, or political persuasion.

"Revolution for the Hell of It," the title of defendant Abbie Hoffman's book, isn't really a plan. Nor is, as today's coddled revolutionaries seem to expect, "Burn it all down so my personal ideology can rise from the ashes."

In our exchange of emails, after our Saturday meeting, by way of introducing myself, I asked Jeremy to read Lokkal's countercultural mission statement. He wrote back admiringly.

Lokkal is a revolutionary, political platform, socialist and sustainable, that could work. According to the communist, workers were supposed to take over the factories: "Seize the means of production." Times change. In this information economy, Lokkal's slogan (one of them anyway) is "Seize the means of communication."

In my vision the real, non-violent, revolution is when the public comes together and takes control of its own corner of the internet; creating community-based, non-profit digital town squares, city by city, town by town, neighborhood by neighborhood; local internet platforms; local social media, search engine, press...; the Yellow Pages robustly reborn for the new millennium.

Imagine wrestling back some of the profits that global internet behemoths (Facebook, Instagram, Google...) make selling ads next to our content, and returning that money to the community, redistributing the wealth; a voluntary socialist paradise.

Thank you, Google, but we don't need your algorithm; we'll present our own city to the planet.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
- Buckminster Fuller


Dr. David Fialkoff presents Lokkal, our local social network, the community online and off. Please do contribute content, or your hard-earned cash, to support Lokkal, SMA's Voice; Atención robustly reborn for the digital age, if you can. Use the orange, Paypal donate button below. Thank you.


Please contribute to Lokkal,
SMA's online collective:


Discover Lokkal:
Watch the two-minute video below.
Then, just below that, scroll down SMA's Community Wall.


Visit SMA's Social Network

Contact / Contactar

Subscribe / Suscribete  
If you receive San Miguel Events newsletter,
then you are already on our mailing list.    
Click ads

Contact / Contactar

copyright 2024