I was a freshman at Reed College the year the Renn Fayre t-shirts were maroon, and had a drawing of a naked woman with beer bottle tits. We considered ourselves progressive. The big fight on campus that year was about the rights of students to write the names of their rapists on the bathroom walls. The zygote of The Yes Men had been organizing 'Reverse Peristalsis' protests of the US Administration where we all ate potatoes and food coloring and syrup of ipecac and threw up in Red White and Blue right in front of the Parade.
I was young and privileged and somewhat sheltered in a time/place where certain young people could still get away with a certain brand of fun, even at the expense of authority. When we were admonished, we might be given real consequences but it was often with a wink from the principal.
We were not locked away in prison for having concerts that desecrated the church, or for checking out too many library articles.
The freshman handbook my first year had a picture of the President of the College's head in black and white, with the title REED stamped over the enormous bald of his head. A whole section was dedicated to cataloging common college drugs, their cost, what to expect, how to take care of yourself. The cartoon was "Manfred McStoned", and it was WAY too long (sorry bro). We looked for and tried to hide the Doyle Owl. I was a 'scrounger' at Reed the last year it was allowed. My dorm had earned the nickname 'Opium Den' at some point in the early 80's, and because I lived on the 3rd floor of it (and I swang on the swings with my friend Steve Bean for a ½ hour every evening at 12:30 am) I petitioned for an automatic PE credit and won.
I was young and privileged and somewhat sheltered in a time when it still seemed like a universally acknowledged good idea to protect a citizen's freedom of speech, and assembly.
We carried around our Miranda rights like a 'get out of jail free' card, or an All American Rodeo Belt Buckle. We organized Queer Nation, and kissed one another in flash mobs before they were called flash mobs. We staged walkouts from our schools and joined Greenpeace and Amnesty International and participated in Guerrilla Theater. We read Jill Johnson and listened to Laurie Anderson and thought that "Repo Man" was a cult classic. We made third-world incomes going door to door with the PIRG's or teaching English in Mexico.
When I was young and privileged and somewhat sheltered, life forms were not patent-able or Trademarked. We were still allowed to share our music (and our seeds) with one another. We joined CSA's and lived on farms and snowboarded in the winter. We did not all carry around portable tracking devices. Our houses were not tapped with the microphones and cameras on our computers and phones.
We seldom wondered who was spying on us or why. We seldom wondered what they are spraying on us.
We generally didn't worry about our government having access to reading our emails, or phone company's storing all of our conversations. We were not worried about going to prison for speaking honestly in 'private' forums. We went after the criminals who put foreign objects in our Halloween candy and food, or poison in our medicine.
How differently life was experienced even 20 years ago for a certain segment of the population in the West on our planet. I recognize that the global poor, the disappeared and the disenfranchised were disabused of their illusions a long time before I showed up. I don't think I will ever understand how to recon with that depth of suffering or stop feeling the need to pay somehow for the fact that I have been given so much.
There are many of us who have shared a common ignorance/innocence and who have been riding a great wave of 'wakie wakie' that is moving faster than we feel we can manage sometimes. I just wanted to weave up a little nostalgic record somewhere in the blogosphere lest we forget how far we've gone.