Guest Post: Pete Seeger, May 3, 1919 to January 27, 2013

Pete Seeger BanjoYesterday, when word came out that Pete Seeger had died, someone I only know through Twitter as @PrigInASuit, had some pointed things to say on the subject. I sent him a message asking if he’d like to spin those 140-character-constrained thoughts into a full blown obituary.

He did. And here it is: @PrigInASuit on the passing of a folk music legend…

* * * * *

Pete Seeger is undoubtedly a legend of multiple generations, movements, and causes. From the folk music scene, to the American Civil Rights Movement, to environmentalism, he was an inspiration to many in the past, present, and (hopefully) the future. An unwavering activist, who stayed true to his beliefs throughout his life, Seeger transcended generations.

It is one of those generations that will bastardize the spirit of Pete Seeger. You see, the “Baby Boomers” as they like to be affectionately referred to, will once again reminisce one of the catalysts of their idealistic youth. Unfortunately, a scant few will have maintained the spirit, let alone the letter, of what they will now speak about as something that they were part of. Some may even declare that they were there at the “start”, that they were not fly-by-night hippies but instead the “real thing”.

As the Boomer Generation attempts to re-establish their street cred, remember the following things that they have also spearheaded:

The gutting of social programs, education, health care in the name of their tax savings:

As soon as they were through post-secondary school, subsidizing tuition started to decline. At the same time, they began defunding the public school infrastructure (now beyond crumbling), and we are now attacking the high cost of health care while the pensions that they are collecting are part of the massive drag on the public purse. Not to mention the number who are on one of these “too rich” pensions and coming back part time as substitute teachers and nurses to further pad their pockets, keeping their children and grandchildren from making a fair living.

Their retirement before the health of their grandchildren:

We cannot place undue regulation on the polluters and poisoners of Corporate Canada. If we do, that might compromise the almighty dollar, and the Boomers have planned their early retirement on those dividends. Luckily for them, they will not be around to see their family suffer 10, 20, 30 years from now – they will be long-dead and happy to have seen the world.

The style of the ‘80s:

Enough said. Brutal. Just brutal.

Now, to be certain, there are some who have kept fighting the good fight. But they are few and far between. The rest are planning their retirement while their children and grandchildren are wondering how to fund their next month’s rent – but, not to worry, the Boomers own those rental suites, so they will get a little more and travel a little farther.

Other Boomers will try to separate the music from the politics. This is a horseshit cop-out and, as Neil Young will tell you, not a valid argument. The artist is the music, and vice-versa.

The truth is, Pete Seeger and (insert many others here) didn’t change, you did, so tell it like it is – you were little more than a poser, a hanger-on, a fair weather activist. When push came to shove, you moved to the burbs, you sold shitty houses and overpriced insurance, you put profit before people, and you didn’t even blink.

Pete Seeger will forever remind me of the Newport Folk Festival (never been, but should probably make a pilgrimage), of his protest and anti-war anthems, and of the ideals that I wish I could live by but don’t always. So to the Boomers, I can only say, please don’t pollute the names of the great by claiming some sort of link to them in a distant past. You have proven that as a generation you have no connection. Get back to his ideals and fix what you have broken, and you can die proud while paying tribute to a great man. Otherwise, shut up and book another vacation… Dad.

* * * * *

You can follow Prig at @priginasuit.

Author: Paul Dechene

Paul Dechene is 5'10'' tall and he was born in a place. He's not there now. He's sitting in front of his computer writing his bio for this blog. He has a song stuck in his head. It's "Girl From Ipanema", thanks for asking. You can follow Paul on Twitter at @pauldechene and get live updates during city council meetings and other city events at @PDcityhall.

33 thoughts on “Guest Post: Pete Seeger, May 3, 1919 to January 27, 2013”

  1. Yet another wildly over-the-top and one-sided ageist rant, in the guise of an obit about Pete Seeger. If the boomers can be legitimately faulted for any one thing, it’s their child rearing. Sad to say, while trying to give their children every advantage and unprecedented freedom, they seem to have raised a self-pitying, workshy, narcissistic bunch of descendents, with more inclination to blame than to be fair, and who don’t understand that an obituary should be about the dead person, not all about themselves.

    Pete Seeger was not everybody’s hero, as the predictable numbers of articles in MSM and other places will tell you. (You could look it up, if that wouldn’t be too much like work.) He was at least less artistically and personally violent than Woody Guthrie, and he did play a very large part in what has been called the folk music revival, although the underrated performers, like Oscar Brand, Josh White, and Leon Bibb, and the archivists and collectors like the Lomaxes, deserve more room on the podium. Politically, he was changeable: he was a fan of the Hitler-Stalin pact until the Nazis broke it; and he was not a conscientious objector, at least for the duration of World War II. He hated the incorporation of rock and roll elements into folk (see the Newport Festival-Bob Dylan brouhaha), and he would have hated, along with some of the old-folkie founders, the changes in the Regina Folk Festival.

    He lived a very long and busy life, and if people want to know more about him, they should check out other sources.

  2. Anti-boomer rants may or may not be a lot of things but they aren’t inherently ageist. Criticisms aren’t about the boomers’ age — they’re about baby boomers’ effect, as a cohort, on recent history.

    That said, thanks as always for the thoughtful comment, Barb. Hope you’re having a lovely day!

  3. I am, now that the bathroom is clean enough to eat off, the temperature’s up a bit, and the wind is less biting.

    My goodness, Stephen, did you go to a Jesuit high school? Your response above would win a prize for casuistry. How can you say that the rant isn’t ageist when, among other egregious things, it explicitly targets retired/retiring persons, and it especially singles out retired teachers and nurses who still work part time, for “pad[ding] their pockets” and blocking younger folk from good jobs. Retirees have to be up there in years, and guess what? They don’t tend to be 34. Also, because they spent a lot of money on their entitlement-addled kids, their pension may not be such a cushy deal. And, why are nurses still working, and alongside young colleagues recruited from the Philippines? It could possibly be in part because young people born and raised in this country don’t want to work at the hard jobs in the medical field.

  4. It wasn’t ageist to criticize baby boomers when they were dirty hippies in the ’60s or yuppie scum in the ’80s and it isn’t ageist to criticize them now that they’re retiring and retired. Prig (lovely nickname) is not attacking boomers on the basis of their age — he’s attacking them on the basis of their era.

    Surely you, dear Barb, Queen Of Sparkling Bathrooms, cannot truly believe that ANY criticism of boomers is bigotry! Pshaw! Pshaw I say!

    Besides, if one wants to argue with Prig there’s all kinds of ways to tear his argument to pieces. Personally, I think there’s lots of blame to go around for what happened politically in the last three and a half decades. And let’s not forget that fighting money and power — especially when they run the media — is really, really hard whether you’re a boomer, a gen-Xer or a millennial.

  5. “And, why are nurses still working, and alongside young colleagues recruited from the Philippines? It could possibly be in part because young people born and raised in this country don’t want to work at the hard jobs in the medical field.”

    See, THAT’S when an argument becomes ageist. “I that younger generation worked as hard as mine!” Yes Yes, we’ve all heard that lament before.

    I have nothing against Boomers. But as Douglas Owram writes they were “Born at the Right Time” and had the benefit of riding a wave of economic and cultural prosperity. If I’d been born in 1950 I would have done the same damn thing.

    And they rode it. I don’t particularly blame them for where it ended up either. Huzzah an economic system that pointed us in that direction.

    Can I blame them for not having the self awareness and fortitude to change the world that was emerging around them? I’d like to, but it wouldn’t productive. Better to spend our energies on dealing with the world that’s emerging around us today.

    And on that note, A certain politician in Ottawa is due a tersely word tweet from me.

  6. Well put, Dale, and yes, boomers were born at an opportune time — just as their parents were born in time for the Great Depression and the most terrible of world wars. I’d say it’s a wash.

    My point about the need to import nurses and other skilled labour, however, still stands, and it’s not ageist, it’s fact. Why are our long-haul truck drivers coming from Germany and, of all places, Morocco? Because the jobs are going begging here; no one will take them. Why not? You tell me why not, if you think that my much-qualified suggestion above is wrong.

    Back to the ageism: when you put Prig’s spew alongside others on this very blog and in other forums, you get a creeping mindset that can be described, as I’ve described it before in another context, as “justified” opposition to a particular segment of the population. Hark back to the anti-Semitic press in France and Germany from the late 19th Century right up to WW II. Its relentless propagandizing created an atmosphere in which the Nuremberg Laws and the death camps were inevitable.

  7. Age against age. What utter childish nonsense from people who, being adults, should be able to see farther than their own formulaic laments.

    I’ll make it simple. Twenty-five years ago, I expressed my general disgust with the boomer generation to my friend, Rev. Ron Fletcher, United Church Chaplain at the University of Manitoba. I ranted to Ron (himself a Boomer) about the locust like progress of Boomers through the economy, of their utter hypocrisy and betrayal of the principles they held as youths in the sixties… basically the same stuff expressed elsewhere on this page.

    Ron looked at me like I was an idiot. He asked me if he, or his wife Ruth, who ran again and again for the NDP in Richmond, or the various folks his age I worked with in various social justice and community groups. had betrayed their principles. I snottily told him that they were the minority. After Ron stopped laughing, he told me that those who were involved in politics and justice issues in the sixties always WERE the minority, and that most kids then, as now, simply participated in the pop culture of the times. There was no betrayal. Beads, long hair, etc. were fashion statements and mating plumage, not a commitment to change. As was the case when our eighties counter culture existed. As is the case with most young folks who are on the youth bandwagons of today.

    Genuine workers for change, in any generation, are rare. Most boomers had, as do we, a highly romanticized and inaccurate memory of who we were and what we actually did.

    And yes, far too many boomers say ridiculous things when they compare ‘us’ and ‘them’. Big deal. Solomon, Socrates, Shakespeare, all lamented about the youth of their day, and how unfavourably they stacked up in comparison to themselves and their generation. Just as at fifty, I am hearing an increasing number of people in my generation sneering at today’s youth, and how they just don’t measure up ‘to when I was young’.

    Of course, utter nonsense. Oh why be coy: it’s bullshite. Most kids in the sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties are simply living their lives as we did. Besides, I WAS active in the eighties and nineties… and I don’t remember many names here being involved.

    So be it the simplistic and rather nasty rant of Barb here, or the equally unresolved parental issues of others, get over it. The majority never gave much of a damn anyway. There was no golden age. And that won’t change as long as most of us are bucking for personal catharsis and recognition of personal righteousness instead of being willing to actually engage in meaningful praxis.

    So… and this can be the only possible excuse for such a thread, what are we going to do about the future? Because, as a historian that is what concerns me. And all boomer, gen-x, or millennial types out there are equally responsible for shaping that.

  8. To accuse someone of pulling a Godwin is yet another way of attempting to derail the discussion because it isn’t going the way you’d like it to go, or to cover your own poor choice of post. Funny how Godwin was never mentioned when I undertook to compare the continuous sniping at Christians, commonplace on this site, with the efforts and effects of the anti-Semitic press in Europe, but there we are. Funny, too, is the accusation that my comments are “simplistic and rather nasty”, while Paul’s guest columnist, a poor choice to say the least, gets off with “unresolved parental issues”.

    Mr. Kellington makes some very good points, although he fails to answer the question I posed in my second paragraph just above. I’m still waiting. As a historian, he should be well positioned to look at trends and effects, rather than fall back on the old “generations have always bitched at each other” theme.

    I hold no brief for the 1960s: I was too busy going to school and working . I also have no generational issues with family, so we can lay that assumption to rest, too. What I do have is less and less patience with the facile “bullshite” represented by Prig and others like him. I have at least as much right to respond to his nonsense as he does to post it in the first place.

  9. I’m with Barb here. In fact, now that I think about it everything is kind of pulling together. Importing nurses, importing truck drivers, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. What about all those manufacturing jobs that have been off-shored over the past 20 years? And now the service sector jobs are rapidly following. Call centres? Good luck finding them in Canada.

    Looking at it all together, I can come to only one conclusion. The generation that followed the boomers is clearly lazy. Back when companies had those hard working boomers on the job, North America ran like a top. But as they’ve moved out of the job market, companies have no choice but to move their work out of Canada because Gen X, Gen Y, Gen YZX, the Millennials, etc etc, just are not prepared to do the work. It’s that simple.

  10. Barb asks, “My point about the need to import nurses and other skilled labour, however, still stands, and it’s not ageist, it’s fact. Why are our long-haul truck drivers coming from Germany and, of all places, Morocco? Because the jobs are going begging here; no one will take them. Why not? You tell me why not, if you think that my much-qualified suggestion above is wrong.”

    She also says, “And, why are nurses still working, and alongside young colleagues recruited from the Philippines? It could possibly be in part because young people born and raised in this country don’t want to work at the hard jobs in the medical field.”

    Your point about kids not wanting to do the hard work is ageist and not factual in the least, Barb. Here is some scientific research:

    Here’s the summary: “Canada is both a source and a destination country for international nurse migration with an estimated net loss of nurses. The United States is the major beneficiary of Canadian nurse emigration resulting from the reduction of full-time jobs for nurses in Canada due to health system reforms. Canada faces a significant projected shortage of nurses that is too large to be ameliorated by ethical international nurse recruitment and immigration.

    Conclusions: The current and projected shortage of nurses in Canada is a product of health care cost containment policies that failed to take into account long-term consequences for nurse workforce adequacy. An aging nurse workforce, exacerbated by layoffs of younger nurses with less seniority, and increasing demand for nurses contribute to a projection of nurse shortage that is too great to be solved ethically through international nurse recruitment. National policies to increase domestic nurse production and retention are recommended in addition to international collaboration among developed countries to move toward greater national nurse workforce self sufficiency.”

    Also, long-haul trucking is considered semi-skilled labour, Barb. Mentioning it close to nursing implies you think it’s skilled. Those kids all in university and college probably don’t want to drive truck. How foolish! Stupid kids wanting to do something other than support a resource-based economy with unsustainable and dangerous work that takes you far away from your families for weeks at a time. What a buncha whiners.

  11. Dale: Thanks for the well-constructed homage to Jonathan Swift; it was a pleasure to read.

    Collette: At last! Someone who enters into the true spirit of debate by countering with references (although the article was published in 2007, and is riddled with qualifiers related to assumptions, estimates, and lack of solid numbers). You raise several very good points, but consider this: if Canada is importing nurses from offshore, they must be going into jobs — jobs that have not been downsized out of existence, or emptied by layoffs, but which no one else is taking. As to long-haul trucking, I simply pulled that example out of memory, after having seen more than one media article about the shortage of skilled drivers. Note “skilled”; not semi-skilled. By whom, may I ask, is such work considered semi-skilled? A truck driver has to train, pass tests for a particular type of licence, pass medicals on a regular basis, know the rules of the road wherever (s)he drives, keep up-to-date records, keep to timetables, know how to handle a great variety of cargoes, know how to deal with mechanical breakdown, and be able to handle various types of emergencies. How can that not be skilled work? (By the way: the Moroccans didn’t pass muster.)

    Your last two sentences make me shake my head. If not for long-haul trucking, a lot of isolated First Nations and Inuit communities would not have the wherewithal to live where they do. Is there not a proper all-weather highway running to Inuvik in the works? Do we begrudge them that link to the rest of the country, especially if it might help bring down the cost of food? Think about that, and about other benefits of long-haul trucking (how will gamers get their new games and consoles?! or vegans their vegetables?)

    If a person has “moral qualms” about certain work, then don’t do it — but then don’t whinge about the choice you made.

  12. Sorry; forgot to add that according to today’s Leader Post, Sk employers are recruiting in Ireland again to fill jobs in “agriculture, engineering, architecture, health service, manufacturing and the trades”.

  13. I counter with a research paper, and Barb counters with anecdotes again. Barb, you are going to have to do some research on this. Can you please prove to me without a shadow of a doubt that the reason those jobs are open is because kids don’t want to do the tough work?

    Long haul trucking is semi-skilled because most government websites that I briefly skimmed listed that as a semi-skilled occupation.

    I didn’t say anything about moral qualms. You say kids are lazy and don’t want to do the “hard work.” I say they aren’t lazy because they’ve chosen other occupations that don’t put them in mortal danger or break up families by the inherent nature of the business. And then you talk about morality? All I’m saying is, don’t criticize people because they don’t want to die at work.

    Bringing up Inuvik is genius, though. Can you please also relate what I said to the holocaust? I don’t think we’ve overblown the topic enough yet, thanks.

  14. You’re going to have to look up the meaning of “anecdote”, I’m afraid. I posed a question, which you have as yet not answered. I’m still waiting.

    And we’re believing the government now? What a change!

    Putting one’s family before a job IS a moral choice.

    Try to be gracious when someone makes a good point.

  15. “Bringing up Inuvik is genius, though. Can you please also relate what I said to the holocaust? I don’t think we’ve overblown the topic enough yet, thanks.”

    Collette – You win the Internet today. It’s too bad Barb is never able to concede or listen to any voice except for the shouty one in her own head.

  16. In similar news, a hedge fund owner has equated public vitriol toward the wealthy to Kristallnacht. The privileged have adopted the rhetoric of victimization. It would be obscene, were it not so deeply pathetic.

  17. Barb: are you now or have you ever been a hedge fund owner? Please answer the question.

  18. I would argue that Boomers enjoy a demographic privilege that their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will never hope to see. They did not earn it, they are squandering it, and yet most insist on receiving deference from subsequent generations, a demand made amply clear in this thread.

    It all stems, I suspect, from having parents too damn tired from the war years, to place healthy limits on their children’s self-esteem. Broadly speaking, of course.

  19. It’s interesting to note, however, that some of the most vocal critics of the Boom Generation, are Boomers themselves, the ones who achieved a semblance of self-awareness and shame, at least.

  20. History never repeats itself. There certainly are fractal similarities, but never in the same way. I did not answer your second paragraph Barb because I honestly didn’t see it as more than high blown rhetoric to make an emotive point.

    My friend Paul’s dad, a professor, once told Paul and I that he was somewhat sorry for us (sorry Paul if my remembrance of the words is inexact). He… a boomer, said that when he went to school, marks really weren’t that important,. Less competitive. He knew there would be a place for him at university. And again, even if one’s marks weren’t the greatest, there was a job waiting. And a house. And car. And so on. He noticed, as a prof, how quickly things were changing. This was some 31 years ago. And it has gotten a lot worse since.

    The Baby Boomers benefited from their historical position. No fault. No blame for that. They lived as I think we all should be able. But their immediate followers found the jobs largely gone, unless one wanted to be a corporate bedouin and simply migrate from employment oasis to employment oasis. Again, it just is. The historical cards were less favourable for us. And indeed, as you sort of pointed out, it IS ultimately about how you play your hand. But that is an individual thing. The broadness of your brush just paints over any point. Your judgement is rather misplaced and needlessly pejorative.

    Besides, let us suppose your characterization is true. Two things leap out at me: how DARE you judge when your generation had it so easy in so many ways, due to the work of YOUR parents who survived the depression and who your generation largely warehoused in care homes, and second, if we gen-xers really are as shiftless, over-entitled, lazy snotty bastards as you say, my dear… look at who raised us! Enough said!

  21. Stephen: Hedge fund? That requires speculation, I think, and that’s not my bag. (A little 60s touch for you.) Neither have I been a landlord.

    pc: I don’t know how you were raised, but my folks were damn strict and demanding; I’m lucky to have self esteem at all. Maybe there are others of my generation who want deference, but all I want is fairness.If you think otherwise, you aren’t reading with care.

    Padraic: so, my brush is broad, but Prig’s isn’t? And, if you recall, I said the same thing about faulty child rearing, but many comments earlier. Oh, by the way, your history of the Vancouver East Cross sign, though brief, was simply riveting.

    Amy and Collette: there’s no disgrace, really, in not having been on your high school debate team, and therefore less conversant with how debate is done.

  22. Barb: I believe in educating oneself before the debate, an attitude I gained through high school debating. A good start is an excellent book called” “Boom, Bust, and Rebound. I highly recommend it. Good luck!

  23. “Amy and Collette: there’s no disgrace, really, in not having been on your high school debate team, and therefore less conversant with how debate is done.”

    Oh, Barb, your pretentiousness knows no bounds. At least you’ve given Emmet a good laugh. :)

  24. Barb, it’s time for some real talk. I know nothing about you other than you used to be on the school board, your knowledge of history is vast, and you are passionate about civic politics. By all standards, we should be friends.

    It’s really hard to be friends with you.

    You add to the debate here, but you also frustrate it. Do you see that? (I’m being genuine here. You really push people away, I’m sorry to say.)

    You complained about the ageist post, then you make a bunch of ageist comments yourself. I offer up a bit of research and you tell me that it’s still not enough.

    Look, I’m not getting graded on my comments here. I’m not defending a master’s paper. You said kids don’t want to do the hard work. I found a paper that says that’s not true. It says it’s at least partially because of the boomers–remember, that’s what we were talking about. Also here’s a newer article talking about how young nurses just can’t get into the profession because older nurses are not retiring.

    How many more do you want? Google it, please and sincerely. All research papers have caveats. I wouldn’t trust a paper that claimed 100% accuracy.

    I got snippy with my last comment, and I genuinely apologize to you and the rest of the internet. I agree with Amy about winning the internet on that one though–thanks, yo! I am funny sometimes and it made me laugh too.

    But Barb, if you could please put away your red herrings and straw man arguments, do a bit of research yourself (I haven’t seen you cite anything yet), and stop being mean, I’d probably stop spitting when I say your name in real life.

    What question did I fail to answer? The one about depriving Inuvik of food? C’mon. Of course truckers are important.

    Lady, I know truckers. I don’t disparage them. They do dangerous work that takes them away from their families for weeks at a time. If kids these days choose different things, it’s not because they’re lazy. We have the internet now. We have the ability to do different types of work that didn’t exist a generation ago. We understand now that getting a formal post-secondary education isn’t the Holy Grail of employment, but it does protect you a little if the economy around you is resource-based requiring little formal education. How many times have we seen communities be completely deflated by the closure of an employer that provides jobs requiring skilled and semi-skilled labour?

    People these days are making different choices. You said, “If a person has “moral qualms” about certain work, then don’t do it — but then don’t whinge about the choice you made.” Then don’t do it? But when they don’t do it, you complain about the Moroccans!

    And I for one welcome the Moroccans. I’ve never met anyone from Morocco before. And the Irish have fun accents and provide to me my Guinness, which as Stephen and Paul know, is a grand thing indeed.

    Padraic Kellington: thank you for the wonderfully insightful comments. I learned stuff!

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