What the hell am I talking about? I was listening to NPR (National Professor Radio) last week and found out that former Black Panther Party members are now selling hot sauce. Yup. Hot Sauce.
White radicals in the sixties grew up. And this presented a problem for them. When you commit to a revolution at 20, what do you do when you’re 30? Especially if the revolution seems ever more unlikely? At some point you will realize that you are tilting at windmills. At 30 you might still be extra cool for not selling out. But face it, at 40 if you’re still tilting at that same old windmill when all of your friends now have careers and families and suburban homes, you’re going to seem out of touch. By 50 you will just be pathetic.
‘Bobos’ is the term David Brooks came up with to capture what happened to those guys. At least the ones with the houses and careers. Since you really do have to get a career and children and a house and all that other grown up stuff, you start to focus on the little things. Like Vasque boots, Birkenstock sandals. Or extra-natural stuff in your house –granite counter tops, slate showers. As it turns out, being green is quite expensive. Which is good, because if you spent your early 20s being anti-materialistic, and you end up making some money, it’s going to be quite embarrassing to end up being a flaming materialist.
Somewhere in there, your politics change too. One can’t be expected to be a radical after one has bought so deeply into the system. Private property is not so bad if you’re sitting in a half million dollar mcmansion. Soul searching forces the question “Was I wrong when I was young?” The answer ends up being “No – I was committed to my beliefs (always a good thing).” The focus turns to authenticity. As in “I was authentically a revolutionary.” So as not to completely contradict their youthful idealism, they turn their revolutionary zeal into life’s mundanities.
LikeBen and Jerry’s ice cream. Good certainly – but horribly expensive. In trying to live up to their earlier idealisms, the cows have to be owned by local farmers, and milked to NPR every morning, by old women.
Just as boomers were authentically revolutionary when they were young, they now try to bring their ideals into their daily lives. In a sense, their commitment to their lifestyles, their authenticity as it were, is a measure of their moral worth. For if instead of buying
Back to the Hot Sauce. There was much for Black Americans to fight for in the 1960s. There still may be. I won’t say – that’s their battle after all. But time moved on and those windmills aged just as fast as the revolutionaries did. However to hear Bobby Seales proclaim that revolution really means evolution, and that somehow this evolution is tied to hot sauce, well that makes this Xer giggle. Of course there is plenty of good in hot sauce. It might be recipes passed down within the culture. It illustrates the importance and goodness of using your skills and selling your product as craftsmen. It provides great role modeling for a group that needs it. And it is wonderfully sensual. It is the opposite of Marx’s alienation.
But, I don’t know. It’s kind of funny. At least the attempt to tie it into the earlier radicalism of the Panthers. Over the course of your life, a man leads many different lives. It might sound less funny to just say: “We’re selling hot sauce now.”