Would Berkeley’s Mario Savio Be a Right-Wing Activist Today?
It was December 2, 1964, at the University of California at Berkeley, and what has become known as the Free Speech Movement was getting underway with students led by Mario Savio making a stand against what was considered an oppressive government. The left and the right often fight the same battles, as if the socialistic Bolsheviks and Nazis were truly “identity comrades” in important ways.
Savio today would be fighting on the right because it’s the left that now occupies power in the government, universities, and media. Ironically, it’s the 1960s that brought this re-orientation about.
In complaining about the managerial elite in the system, Savio was really taking on the “machine” of central planning that FDR’s New Deal launched. Entitlements and welfare dependency have gotten more “odious” in recent years, a way of life for 47%-ers today that has long since grown morbid and normalized compared to the “help” programs for Great Depression down-and-outers that spawned the New Deal.
University statisticians and grant-seeking professors keep the government machine well-oiled and aloof from from the faceless “numbers” now receiving food stamps and other handouts. Like the right today, Savio issued a clarion call for human freedom and dignity. In fact, the “freedom classes” he was proposing would focus on the 1st and 14th Amendments of the Constititution. Where would they be taught? On the second floor of Sproul Hall on the Berkeley campus, the seat of government power which was soon to be occupied by the demonstrators.
Why would classes on the Constitution be taught? Because government had gotten too big, and the University of California had lost track of its educational mission. “We’re going to do something that hasn’t occurred int his university in a long time.” Back to the Founding Fathers, back to local control, back to freedom, back to the Constitution, and back to Thoreau’s message about civil disobedience.
Today it can be said that universities have forgotten the same things. Even Western Civilization and other historical foundations have been shunted aside. As if doped by the media, people (then and now) were allowing their very consciousness to be shaped by a propagandistic media. Television was taking control of minds then, but Savio saw the San Francisco Examiner as an even greater immediate threat.
Before taking over Sproul Hall, Savio made it clear that the “whole mode of arbitrary power” can be challenged only through confrontation and activism, including the power of lawyers in government and the courts. Cultural insurgency was his example, but he was more right than people think today.