The Times They Have a-Changed

"Come mothers and fathers Throughout the land And don’t criticize What you don’t understand Your sons and your daughters Are beyond your command Your old road is Rapidly agin’ Please get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand For the times they are a-changin’."

Bob Dylan’s paean to the Utopian 1960s, "The Times They Are A-Changin’" was issued in 1964. The young adults of that era adopted the song as their anthem. Many thought they were witnessing the dawning of the Age of Aquarius; an epoch that would usher in a golden age of love and brotherhood and bring an end to all wars. No more intolerance; no more distinctions between rich and poor, between classes or, ultimately, between the sexes. The cruel society that only allowed certain people to succeed had to be dismantled. Then society could be leveled. Once this progressive trend had been set in motion, they thought, there was no stopping it. It would gain enough momentum to totally transform society.

Of course, transforming society without the power of the state would take too long. The power of the state was needed to combat those stubborn holdouts who refused to believe that a person’s station in life is the result of social forces. And, as these obstinate people objected to the judicial system being used to coerce social outcomes, the state had to expand and enforce its regulations to bring them into line.

In the years since 1964, the proliferation of state rules to produce social outcomes has been phenomenal. The federal government has become, in the words of Paul Gottfried, the "Therapeutic State."

In the decades since the 1960s, not only has society radically changed, but our language has also undergone a makeover. Old words have been rejected or redefined, and a host of new words has been created: sexism, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, multiculturalism, diversity, and so on. Any opposition to the restructuring of the social order is not viewed as a difference of opinion but rather some sort of mental aberration. Consequently, scoffers must be subjected to a "process of healing" usually involving mandatory counseling, workshops, etc. These coerced conformity techniques began on college campuses and have developed like a pestilence and gradually spread to other organizations. The result is that many people are reluctant and indeed fearful to state their opinions publicly.

But even the most docile citizens can be pushed beyond their threshold of forbearance; especially parents who are concerned about the kind of world their children will inherit. So it is, that Utopian ideals eventually end up in a conflict with reality, and wishful thinking gives way to the law of unintended consequences. This is why social movements don’t move forward continually but go in cycles. When the pendulum has swung too far in one direction, a corrective action naturally reverses the process. The pendulum begins to move in the opposite direction; perhaps not all the way back to the starting point but at least recovering some lost ground.

Those young college students from 1964, who embraced Bob Dylan’s song, are now approaching retirement age, and most have abandoned 1960s’ thinking decades ago. Feel-good social experiments are fine as long as mom and pop are paying the bills, but when your own earnings are taxed to fund state attempts to level society, well, that’s a different story. And this group must have become disillusioned as they witnessed the erosion of freedoms that have accompanied the state’s harsh attempts to implement a perfect society. They bring to mind the unfortunate character of Simon De Beauvior’s fascinating novel "All Men are Mortal," Fosca, who was destined to live forever and witness over and over the corruption and collapse of idealistic revolutions.

I think — I should say hope — that the recent presidential election may indicate that once again "the times they are a-changin’." I say this because I don’t think the election indicated a preference for Bush and Republicans or a rejection of Kerry and Democrats. The candidates and their parties were merely symbols for society at large; Democrats symbolize liberalism and Republicans conservatism. Because mainstream media will only allow the voices of liberals to be heard, voting is one of the few ways others can make a statement.

Interestingly, in the post-election analyses, liberals are agonizing over the question: "What went wrong?" This is a typical liberal framing of a question. Because the American public didn’t buy into the liberal’s social agenda, after decades of media spin, something must be "wrong." The public must be racist, sexist, homophobic — take your pick. One writer stated that the majority of voters are guilty of "unteachable ignorance."

But the word ignorance derives from the root word "ignore" which means "to take no notice of." I maintain that it was the general public, and not the liberal elites, who took notice of what was occurring in our society. And they refused to ignore it any longer. The unintended consequences of the liberal juggernaut were no longer acceptable. Ignoring long-range consequences is one of the reasons why Utopian ideals, media spin and coercive laws are not enough to effect a rational altering of society.