Episode 66: Tom Hayden – Part 2: The Youth-Elder Dialogue from the Sixties to the First Decade of the 21st Century
In this episode of our Engaged Elder series, I dialogue with Tom Hayden, known to many around the world as a leading activist for progressive change for the last five decades, spanning both his “youth” and “elder” roles in the ongoing “ethical dialogue” about society’s values – from being a Freedom Rider in the Deep South of the U.S. and a founding member of the Students for a Democratic Society in 1961 and author of its visionary call, the Port Huron Statement, to nearly two decades in the Legislature of the State of California passing over one hundred critical measures, to his role in Progressives for Obama and his commentaries on The Huffington Post. As a writer, he is the author or editor of fifteen books, including the recent Voices of the Chicago Eight: A Generation on Trial and Writings for a Democratic Society.
In Part 1 (Program 65) Tom and I review the post-World War II creation of various institutions, including the United Nations, intended to secure a peaceful and cooperative world, succeeded by the transformational energies of the Sixties world-wide, led primarily by a younger generation and its vision of a coherent social movement that could energize and sustain those ideals in the face of the Cold War, widespread racial intolerance, and the Vietnam War. This review of our role in social change as youth then leads into the era of the Eighties and Nineties, and sets the stage for a compelling analysis in Part 2 of the current evolutionary challenges of our times that comes full circle.
In Part 2 (Program 66), Tom and I speak in and about the present from the engaged elder perspective of the “wisdom of learned experience”. I begin by describing the unprecedented breach of trust between the generations that occurred in our youth in the Sixties (“don’t trust anyone over 30”), fueled in large part by the U.S. government’s waging of the Vietnam War with massive deception, later revealed in the apologetic memoirs of Robert McNamara, the then Secretary of Defense, and others. Tom and I then dialogue – reviewing a number of contemporary topics -- about the nature of leadership, and how a new form of collaborative and transparent leadership and participation (“yes we can”, rather than promises of “I will fight for you”) can restore the existence and vitality of an “ethical dialogue” between the generations, a dialogue that is critically important if we are to meet the new century’s evolutionary challenges. The youthful “participatory democracy” of the Sixties can come into an evolved mature form in our time, and enable us together to reach a “tipping point” into a transformative, energizing future, rather than a “toppling” point into a great fall backward.
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“I’m Tom Hayden, a supporter and participant in Living Dialogues about our living experience, and this is the kind of programming and forum that we desperately need.” – Tom Hayden
“Duncan Campbell, I heard about your podcast a few months ago, and have been deeply listening to all the dialogues with your fantastic friends/guests. Your words, ideas, and wisdom are truly inspirational. You have evoked a new appetite for knowledge in me that I hope to share with a starving younger generation. Thank you for doing what you do, and creating a unique space, void of boundaries and classification. A breath of fresh air! Much love and respect.” – Amit Kapadiya
In furtherance of creating and maintaining the planetary dialogues now required in the 21st century, I am featuring a special series of dialogues on this site with myself and other elders in the weeks leading up to and including the 2008 Olympics hosted by China and the U.S. election season. These dialogues address various specific political aspects of our planetary crisis, with its dangers and opportunities for a visionary and evolutionary shift. (We remember that the Chinese character for “crisis” is often described as meaning both “danger” when visioned from a fear perspective, and “opportunity” when visioned from a wisdom perspective.)
In my preceding dialogues I have talked in various ways about the need to generate dialogues across generational, ethnic, gender, and national boundaries -- building bridges of understanding and wisdom in the cooperative spirit and reaching out required by our 21st century realities, and the essential roles that we all are called to play in our evolution for it to take place.
This is the time for renewed dialogue, for visionary and inspiring discourse producing practical and innovative solutions together, to engage our own elder wisdom and youthful inspiration, and in so doing to experience and exemplify that “Dialogue is the Language of Evolutionary Transformation”.
And that is what we all do, in our mutual roles as host, deep listeners, and guests, when we gather together here from all parts of the globe in Living Dialogues.
Other programs you will find of immediate interest on these themes are the Dialogues Programs 35-36 with Paul Hawken regarding the emergence of collaborative citizen movements worldwide, Program 37 with sociologist Paul Ray on the creation of a new wisdom culture and political paradigm, Program 58 with Ted Sorensen, counselor to John F. Kennedy, Program 59 with Robert Thurman on the Dalai Lama and China, Program 61 with David Boren on the need for new energy and transpartisanship, and Programs 62-64 with George Lakoff on understanding the 21st century Political Mind. Also of directly related interest in terms of the founding and traditions of the U.S. during its tipping point 2008 election season, with its implications for global shifts, are my dialogues with historian Joseph Ellis, honored as “the Founders’ historian” by The New York Review of Books (see Programs 38 and 39).
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The best way to reach me is through my website: www.livingdialogues.com. Many thanks again for your attentive deep listening in helping co-create this program.
All the best, Duncan.
P.S. As a way of further acknowledging and appreciating your part in these dialogues, and since I cannot personally answer all of them, I have begun to publish from time to time in these pages some of the numerous (unsolicited) appreciations received from you.
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Tom Hayden: This is Tom Hayden and I’m a supporter and a participant in Living Dialogues about our living experience. And this is the kind of programming and forum that we desperately need.
Duncan Campbell: From time and memorial, beginning with indigenous counsels and ancient wisdom traditions, through the work of western visionaries, such as Plato, Gallileo, and quantum physicist David Boehm, mutually participatory dialogue has been seen as the key to evolving and transforming consciousness, evoking a flow of meaning, a [xx] flow of logos meaning, beyond what any one individual can bring through alone.
So join us now as together with you, the active deep listener, we evoke and engage in living dialogues.
Welcome to part two of this dialogue between myself, your host, Duncan Campbell, and Tom Hayden, author most recently of “Voices of the Chicago Eight,” “A Generation on Trial,” and “The Tom Hayden Reader,” a collection of his writings and political activism over the last 40 years. In this part two of our dialogue, we talk about how we might restore a 21st century version of what has been called the ethical dialogue between youth and elders necessary to the survival of any civilization. This essential youth/elder dialogue was disrupted in the 1960s by a number of political and cultural events around the world, most notably in the United States, the Civil Rights Movement and the protests against the Vietnam War.
And so we begin this part two of our dialogue by recapping the last five minutes of part one, speaking directly about the impact of the Vietnam War on disrupting this generational dialogue. That generational warfare that took place in the ‘60s where one of the slogans was “don’t trust anyone over 30” because the very elders in our society, such as General Abrams, General Wes Morlan, Defense Secretary McNamara, President Lyndon Johnson were found, later on in their own memoirs, to have lied to the public and the young generation in ways that were much, much deeper than any of us young people even imagined. We knew something was wrong that we weren’t being told the truth, but we really didn’t even know how deep the deception was until many years later.
But it did have the effect of breaking the trust between the two generations so we got into another duality of good versus evil where we had the evil minions of Johnson running the war and the good anti-war demonstrators. And there was a depolarization, which in your book you say was described as civil war. And right now we are faced with the possibility of how is it possible to make change and go beyond that old good/evil paradigm that the Bush administration has actually made into policy to create change which doesn’t fall into duality. So, perhaps you could talk about the circumstances today, Tom, that are different and potentially less polarizing than the way the younger generation was, in a sense, betrayed and isolated by the media and the government in the ‘60s.
Tom Hayden: The country was divided and the division reflected the earlier civil war division and we still have that division coming out of the ‘60s. I can tell you, and you could tell your audience or they could tell themselves, the states which the republicans will win. And it’s kind of a combination of the old Confederacy and the wild west.
And then there are the states the democrats will win. And then there are a few that are border line as we had back in the 19th century. But your point is a very interesting one. I do think that the old forms of leadership were problematic then and have not been repeated with any success. But I don’t know if the Internet and network concepts can replace leaders. There is an in-between area that some people simply say is leadership as opposed to leaders.
Duncan Campbell: I would agree.
Tom Hayden: Leadership requires more experience than most of us have. I guess in addition to having good values, a sense of history, guts, cooperative skills, and so on, it’s also the ability to judge a situation originally and not get caught up in, necessarily, what other people think of what you have to say. For example, I’ve been very involved in the past decade in the situation in Northern Ireland and, to a much lesser extent, South Africa. And, you know, when the Irish nationalists, the Jerry Adams’ and the South Africans, the Nelson Mandela’s made those decisions to shift from, essentially, revolutionary war and a battle mode to a conflict resolution mode, they were exercising leadership.
And it wasn’t individual leadership, it was the consensus of their community, their movement, that a shift was necessary. And you’ll notice they brought along, in a rather unified way, two movements; the South African Liberation Movement and the Irish Republican Movement without too much in the way of rupture and they achieved, at least on the political and legal and institutional levels, a form of equality, representation, and democracy that their people had never experienced before. That said, there are deep economic issues and unresolved conflicts. But that’s what I mean by leadership.
Duncan Campbell: So Tom, this seems like the perfect segway then for you to talk about today’s progressive politics and how you see them in relationship to your experiences and progressive politics of 40 years ago.
Tom Hayden: As it applies to our situation, I just think we have a lot of progressives who are single issue. There’s no time for time out. And most of the [xx] ideologies have become dogmatic and don’t make much sense to people. And I don’t know how far we can go without some kind of consensus emerging from the process and from the people themselves about where we’re going.
You know, is free market capitalism the model we believe in? Do we have to have massive police budgets at the local level to protect us from gangs? And massive military budgets at the national level to protect us from terrorism? Or do those budgets themselves stimulate more hatred and polarization? What are we going to do about a political economy model that, since Adam Smith, has left out the environment? When are we going to graduate economists who include and give value to the environment at opposed to treating it like an expendable resource from the storehouse of the earth that’s just been set aside for our use and pleasure?
These are tough questions to tackle while you’re in the midst of a struggle, I know, but I don’t think that there’s any better place than being in the midst of a struggle to think hard, to think hard and be willing to be original and to share. That’s what I mean by leadership. It’s different than individual leaders. But it is a process in which the learned wisdom of experience becomes the basic criteria for people to evaluate what their real choices are, not just in the long run, but today, tomorrow, and next year. It’s tough, very tough.
Duncan Campbell And I think these are the words now, coming from you, Tom, as an elder, 40 years ago when you were speaking as a representative of youth.
Tom Hayden: I was 28 in Chicago and I’m 68 now.
Duncan Campbell: Eric Ericson, the psychological historian that wrote “Gandhi’s Truth” and another great book entitled “Youth Identity In Crisis” –
Tom Hayden: I read that book. Yes.
Duncan Campbell: Yeah. I was very influenced by that book myself when I was an undergrad and when I was at Harvard Law School, when he was still teaching there. And basically what he said in that book is that there needs to be what he called an ethical dialogue about values between that aspect of young people, that cohort which he called universalist, humanist youth, such as yourself, myself, and others in our generation who were called to the values of the society and the professed values of them and how we could actually change the actions of the government to conform with our stated principles. On the one hand, that’s the youth component.
And then the elder component, he said, are people who are open minded and would be in dialogue with youth in a respectful and mutually respectful way where they would share, as you put it, the learned wisdom of experience so that they could, in a sense, balance what sometimes were the overly passionate idealistic energies of youth and, at the same time, youth would help balance what Paul Goodman, the sociologist you’re familiar with from that era who described older people in America in the ‘50s and early ‘60s as suffering from the “nothing-can-be-done disease.”
And so we had to have elders like you are now, like I am now, like other people in our generation, who are saying “let’s work together in dialogue across the generation, across the genders, across the nationalities and ethnicities and bring together the rejuvenating aspect of our ideals and our youthful energies with the elder wisdom of, as you put it, the learned system of experience and let’s not fall into the post World War II adolescent stage trap of kind of dualism, a kind of Machiavellian good versus evil, which in our adolescent government in the last 30 years we’ve been completely stuck in. It’s like being in an adolescent crisis that we just can’t seem to get out of. And all hands need to be on deck now to come forward and start working together in this larger way.
And so from that perspective, Tom, what I’d like you to address in the upcoming Democratic Convention is what do you think about movements that are now being talked about in the press called “Recreate ‘68” where people are wanting to have a series of street demonstrations to proclaim, as you point out, maybe single issue principles? What do you see that may or may not come about during 2008? What would be fruitful and productive and what might actually be destructive or regressive?
Tom Hayden: Oh, who knows? It’s a good question. Before I answer it, I wanted to offer some interpretation to the point you made about intergenerational dialogue. My experience from direct action is that action creates evidence for dialogue. And the case in point is, you know, there’s been a lot of debate back and forth, and you could make a case either way, whether America is ready to elect a Black president.
The Obama campaign is actually providing evidence that we will learn from. We don’t really know the answer to that question, but we can contribute to electing Obama which is a way of providing evidence on one side of the debate.
Duncan Campbell: Yes.
Tom Hayden: So I’m not for any dialogue, per say, that is disconnected from some sort of practice or experience.