Janet Maslin reviews Kurt Andersen's "True Believers."
What would a young left-wing radical from the 1960s think of the 21st century? Kurt Andersen poses that question in “True Believers,” his fact-packed new book about the differences between the eras. In his opinion, a time-traveling radical might think the revolution had succeeded: no more draft, ecology taken seriously, Communist China on the rise, women in the work force, old guys with marijuana listening to rock music in sneakers and jeans. And instead of scarcity, too much information at any hour of night or day.By coincidence I saw Oliver Stone's Savages (see above) and one of the young protaganists, Ben, seemed like a 60s throwback, or rather an example of how the 1960s ethos lives on to this day. From A.O. Scott's review of the movie:
Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), best buds who grow the best buds on the planet, never think twice about sampling their own wares. Nor does O, the movie’s narrator and the hypotenuse of a happily triangular domestic ménage. Played with radiant vagueness by Blake Lively, O explains a lot to us, about her own household and the world beyond it. Her real name is Ophelia, and the nickname suggests, among other things, a certain emptiness. But Mr. Stone and Mr. Winslow (who collaborated on the script, along with Shane Salerno) don’t quite make her into a caricature of vacuous rich-girl blonditude. Instead they allow O to pursue and to represent a version of the American dream that is open to reverence as well as ridicule. She has everything she wants, and why shouldn’t she?
Ben and Chon are the equal and opposite loves of her life, while she is, in her own words, “the only thing they have in common.” Chon is a combat veteran, whose tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have left him cynical and suspicious, as well as tactically adept when it comes to dealing with trouble. Ben, a Berkeley graduate, is sensitive and soulful, the poetic yang to Chon’s warrior yin. Together they satisfy O and run a lucrative business, which Ben enhances by “going all Bono” and putting some of the profits to global do-gooder use.The two reminded me of the Stone's two contrasting sergeants in Platoon played by Willem Defoe and Tom Berenger. The movie is sort of an answer to Maslin's question. The time-traveling 60s radical would find a thriving weed industry (demand is high). But sixties radicals believed small is beautiful and the 21st century witnessed the rise of Walmart and the big box store rather than the flourishing of small anarchist co-ops. The plot of the movie involves a Mexican drug cartel (Walmart) moving north of the border and attempting to acquire Ben and Chon's boutique operation. As their paid-off D.E.A. agent tells them "You don't mess with Walmart."
Why is the cartel moving north? The pie is smaller because of the recession (i.e. Fed policy) and the screenplay correctly predicts PRI has taken back over from PAN in Mexico and the PRI favors a different cartel, pushing the PAN cartel north in reaction.