America's Secret Sauce

When I first hit San Francisco back in the ’60s, America was in the throes of an almighty cultural explosion. Everything in the air all at once. Poetry and music and fashion trying to explain it as it was happening, but it couldn’t keep up. You needed LSD / psilocybin / marijuana to modulate the tempo. And the new vibe – which absolutely steamrolled the tired old tummy-rub culture of Gunsmoke / Bonanza / I Love Lucy — shot throughout the world so quickly you couldn’t help but wonder: Could this youth rebellion be the beginning of a global revolution?

Well, no. The door closed almost as quickly as it had opened. The commercial vibe reasserted itself, and marked the start of an ugly half-century slide into decadent overconsumption, toxic arrogance and the suffocation of any creative impulse that won’t turn a quick buck. No surprise we’ve landed up where we have: divided and stuck and scared shitless about what comes next. As we enter the Year of the Rabbit, it feels like America is having a mental breakdown — literally falling apart at the seams.

But don’t count America out.

Because what we saw in the ’60s, and what we got a taste of during Occupy Wall Street, #MeToo and #BLM, this is America’s secret sauce. This wild, restless, revolutionary reaching out for something radically new could happen again.

And I hope it does, because the alternative — the Chinese / Russian autocratic governance model — cannot possibly be the future of humanity in the 21st century. If we lose our nerve and cave in to some form of an Orwellian slave state, then we’re finished. Natural systems will collapse, people will simply put down tools and stop even trying to find creative solutions, and we’ll spiral into a long dark age from which we may never recover.

Moments of trial like this are fascinating and loaded. There is energy in desperation. There is agency in fear; it’s on the other side of paralysis if we can just flip that coin. My bet is on America — spurred on by doomsday climate scenarios and a run of financial meltdowns — to figure this out. No other nation on Earth can do it. Only America, with its magic secret sauce still hidden away in a cubby hole somewhere, has the potential to come up with a new vibe powerful enough to whack this failing experiment of ours on Planet Earth into a new orbit.

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