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"The Greening of America"

By Charles A. Reich


                            This is the Revolution:


                               This land is your land,
                               this land is my land,
                               from California
                               to the New York Island
                                             - WOODY GUTHRIE

                        Come on people now
                        Smile on your brother
                        Everybody get together
                        Try to love one another right now
                                           - CHET POWERS,
                                           FOR THE YOUNGBLOODS

                  There is not any haunt of prophecy,
                  Nor any old chimera of the grave,
                  Neither the golden underground, nor isle
                  Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
                  Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
                  Remote on heaven's hill, that has endured
                  As April's green endures; or will endure
                                           - WALLACE STEVENS



  America is dealing death, not only to people in other lands, but to its
own people. So say the most thoughtful and passionate of our youth, from
California to Connecticut. This realization is not limited to the new
generation. Talk to a retired school teacher in Mendocino, a judge in
Washington, D.C., a housewife in Belmont, Massachusetts, a dude rancher in
the Washington Cascades. We think of ourselves as an incredibly rich
country, but we are beginning to realize that we are also a desperately poor
country -- poor in most of the things that throughout the history of mankind
have been cherished as riches.

  There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past.
It will originate with the individual and with culture, and it will change
the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence
to succeed, and it cannot be successfully resisted by violence. It is now
spreading with amazing rapidity, and already our laws, institutions and
social structure are changing in consequence. It promises a higher reason, a
more human community, and a new and liberated individual. Its ultimate
creation will be a new and enduring wholeness and beauty -- a renewed
relationship of man to himself, to other men, to society, to nature, and to
the land.

  This is the revolution of the new generation. Their protest and rebellion,
their culture, clothes, music, drugs, ways of thought, and liberated life-
style are not a passing fad or a form of dissent and refusal, nor are they
in any sense irrational. The whole emerging pattern, from ideals to campus
demonstrations to beads and bell bottoms to the Woodstock Festival, makes
sense and is part of a consistent philosophy. It is both necessary and
inevitable, and in time it will include not only youth, but all people in
America.

  The logic and necessity of the new generation -- and what they are so
furiously opposed to -- must be seen against a background of what has gone
wrong in America. It must be understood in light of the betrayal and loss of
the American dream, the rise of the Corporate State of the 1960's, and the
way in which that State dominates, exploits, and ultimately destroys both
nature and man. Its rationality must be measured against the insanity of
existing "reason" -- reason that makes impoverishment, dehumanization, and
even war appear to be logical and necessary. Its logic must be read from the
fact that Americans have lost control of the machinery of their society, and
only new values and a new culture can restore control. Its emotions and
spirit can be comprehended only by seeing contemporary America through the
eyes of the new generation.

  The meaning and the future of the revolution emerge from a perspective on
America. The revolution is a movement to bring man's thinking, his society,
and his life to terms with the revolution of technology and science that has
already taken place. Technology demands of man a new mind -- a higher,
transcendent reason -- if it is to be controlled and guided rather than to
become an unthinking monster. It demands a new individual responsibility for
values, or it will dictate all values. And it promises a life that is more
liberated and more beautiful than any man has known, if man has the courage
and the imagination to seize that life.

  The transformation that is coming invites us to reexamine our own lives.
It confronts us with a personal and individual choice: are we satisfied with
how we have lived; how would we live differently? It offers us a recovery of
self. It faces us with the fact that this choice cannot be evaded, for as
the freedom is already there, so must the responsibility be there.

  At the heart of everything is what we shall call a change of
consciousness. This means a "new head" -- a new way of living -- a new man.
This is what the new generation has been searching for, and what it has
started achieving. Industrialism produced a new man, too -- one adapted to
the demands of the machine. In contrast, today's emerging consciousness
seeks a new knowledge of what it means to be human, in order that the
machine, having been built, may now be turned to human ends; in order that
man once more can become a creative force, renewing and creating his own
life and thus giving life back to his society.

  We have all known the loneliness, the emptiness, the isolation of
contemporary America. Our forebears came thousands of miles for the promise
of a better life. Now there is a new promise. Shall we not seize it? Shall
we not be pioneers once more? The breakdown of the Corporate State and the
growth of radicalism would still lead nowhere, would still justify only
despair, if there were not a new vision. It is the power of the vision that
can turn hope into reality.

  The extraordinary thing about this new consciousness is that it has
emerged out of the wasteland of the Corporate State, like flowers pushing up
through the concrete pavement. Whatever it touches it beautifies and renews:
a freeway entrance is festooned with happy hitchhikers, the sidewalk is
decorated with street people, the humorless steps of an official building
are given warmth by a group of musicians. And every barrier falls before it.
We have been dulled and blinded to the injustice and ugliness of slums, but
it sees them as just that -- injustice and ugliness -- as if persuaded that
giant organizations are necessary, but it sees that they are absurd, as if
the absurdity had always been obvious and apparent. We have all been induced
to give up our dreams of adventure and romance in favor of the escalator of
success, but it says that the escalator is a sham and the dream is real. And
these things, buried, hidden, and disowned in so many of us, are shouted out
loud, believed in, affirmed by a growing multitude of young people who seem
too healthy, intelligent, and alive to be wholly insane, who appear, in
their collective strength, capable of making it happen. For one almost
convinced that it was necessary to accept ugliness and evil, that it was
necessary to be a miser of dreams, it is an invitation to cry or laugh. For
one who thought the world was irretrievably encased in metal and plastic and
sterile stone, it seems a veritable greening of America.


- Excerpted from "The Greening of America" by Charles A. Reich (New York:
Random House, 1970).

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