Michelle W. says this week is all about color. Specifically green, like my harvest of joy.
But green isn’t just a color anymore.
Published over forty years ago, The Greening of America received a cosmically massive reception.
The New Yorker ran an excerpt in their September issue and it got more letters than any other article. Ever. The book was No.1 on bestsellers lists and sold skadoodles of copies, knocking reality for a loop. Leagues of media types discussed, praised, and criticized it.
Have you read The Greening of America? Confucianist wisdom, it is not. Charles Reich says his book is very straightforward about what’s the matter with us. He says we’re using up material resources at an unacceptable rate. And so, he advocates a less materialistic way of life.
Authority, schedules, time, accepted customs, are all forms which must be questioned. Accepted patterns of thought must be broken; what is considered ‘rational thought’ must be opposed by ‘nonrational thought’—drug-thought, mysticism, impulses.
The questions he poses ~ What’s happening to the individual in America? Is the individual going the way of the environment, being destroyed? ~ struck a chord with readers. The interesting angle? Reich was no overgrown hippie, but a former Supreme Court clerk, a forty-two-year-old Ivy League professor, a seemingly serious person.
Reich was a fan of the hippies and radical students on campus, the dropouts and rock ‘n’ rollers. He felt they were pointing the way, not only with a refusal to join the power structure, but with their flower power, patchouli, and love beads.
Bell bottoms have to be worn to be understood. They express the body, as jeans do, but they say much more. They give the ankles a special freedom as if to invite dancing right on the street. . . . A touch football game, if the players are wearing bell bottoms, is like a folk dance or a ballet. . . . The new clothes demonstrate a significant new relationship between man and technology.
Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines greening as “becoming more mature and less naive, esp. in one’s understanding of social and political forces.” (Entry note: Word origin of ‘greening’
after The Greening of America (1970), book by C. Reich.)
Might Reich’s countercultural (some might say flaky) concepts, like listening to the Grateful Dead and using marijuana, fix what’s the matter with us?
“Green” was a broader term to Reich than it is to us today. It was not just about environmentalism, but the whole package ~ feminism, gay rights, racial equality, military conflict, rampant consumerism, corporate power ~ issues that are still front-page.
It’s not likely that our society will undergo a total about-face of cultural and political institutions. But we can look at the clouds from both sides, can’t we?