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How “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” leads to “Occupy Wallstreet”…

October 24, 2011

     One of my favorite movie scenes (amongst my list of favorite movies) is when Johnny Depp, who is portraying Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, is in his hotel room in Las Vegas (where he had been sent to cover a motorcycle race). But that’s not really why Thompson is in Las Vegas in 1970. Vegas is the centre of the American zeitgeist – the fastest growing city in America – and Thompson goes there to find out why the place is so popular. And it is from his hotel room in Las Vegas that Thompson reflects on the lost idealism of the 1960’s…

     “1965. The giant San Francisco acid wave…strange memories now on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Has it been five years? Six? It seems like a lifetime. The kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle-sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. But no explanation, no mix of words, or music, or memories can touch that sense of knowing you were there and alive in that corner of time in the world. Whatever it meant.

     There was madness in any direction; at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right. That we were winning. And that, I think, was the handle. That sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean military sense. We didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum. We were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.

     So now, less than five years later you can go out on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high water mark. That place where the wave finally broke, and rolled back.”

     But as I write these words I realize too that you need to “see” the images that accompany this monologue. Images from the civil rights movement, anti-Vietnam marches, hill-side folk concerts. Peace. Love. Harmony.

     Images juxtaposed against the movie’s Las Vegas images of gluttony, brute force, intolerance, and ignorance. The television in the room always replaying the carpet bombing of Vietnam, and Cambodia.

     Less than 10 years after that high-water mark, an American president would be forced to resign because he was using his henchmen to spy on Americans, and the Democratic Party. And rather than be the first American president in history to be impeached, Nixon resigned. And then he was given a full pardon by then President Gerald Ford. Done in front of the entire gobsmacked world – who knew (because of television) – about the atrocities of Vietnam and Cambodia; knowing too that Nixon had okayed the assassination of the democratically elected President Allende of Chile. He was pardoned for all of his crimes.

     American voter turnout, not surprisingly, began to tank after Watergate, and still drops by the year.

     Political corruption however, spurred on by the notions learned in Watergate (that the President is untouchable), ultimately has led us to the Bill Clintons and George Bush’s of American politics.    

     We’ve had Ronald Reagan’s Iran Contra Scandal. (The excuse then not to impeach Ronald Reagan was that the American people were still too fragile from Watergate.)

     We’ve had George Bush Sr.’s giving clemency to those involved in the Iran Contra Scandal.

     Bill Clinton cuts single moms off welfare, creates huge tax loopholes for the rich, all the while getting blowjobs in the Whitehouse, and can’t be impeached, because, well…so many men love blowjobs.

     And the political bar continues to drop. All the way down to such historic lows as George Bush Jr. and Barack Obama. The Cowboy, and the Spineless Man.

     Not surprisingly, the American economy has followed suit over those very same years, and is now in the shitter.

     Now we’ve come almost full circle to 1965. Soon there will again be riots in the streets. America is about a year away from full-on 1960’s-style city riots again. Only this time it won’t only be middle-class hippies and disenfranchised blacks.

     This time it will be everyone who is not winning in the current economic-political-environmental situation. It will be the 13% who are Black: the 18% who are Hispanic: the 66% who are poor: the 40% who have no healthcare: the 25% who are unemployed: the 10% who are homeless: the 80% of women who can no longer get a legal abortion: the 90% of the students who can not afford his/her education…

     …do you catch my drift…?

Voter turnout, as I said, continues to drop.

And yet, “political participation” is about to grow.


Clip from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

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