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Ideological Summer Camps

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This amusing piece by Charles Davis on how he went to capitalist summer camp and became a communist reminded me of this old Yglesias approval of a pretty cheap shot at Pete Seeger’s communism seventy years ago. Yglesias’ major complaint with his summer camp was that he was forced to sing terrible folk songs, including many by Pete Seeger, and thus learned to hate him for it.*

There’s a whole historical literature on red diaper baby summer camps and how 20th century radicals attempted to inculcate their children into their value systems through these camps. I don’t know if there’s a similar literature on conservative camps. If not, someone should look into this. But I have to wonder how effective these camps are? How many commie kids turned into capitalists and how many Randian kids learned to hold human values as an adult? Not sure how you could quantify something like this, but it’s an interesting question. I’ve often wondered if the only way to give any children I might have in the future the values I cherish is to raise them to be cold-hearted capitalists.

* Although I recognize that I am ideologically wrong about this, I wholeheartedly share Matt’s disdain for sing-alongs. I was once at the Highlander Center in Tennessee, where Guy and Candi Carawan were still the resident folksingers. This was probably 1999 or 2000. Guy Carawan is the individual who taught the old spiritual “We Shall Overcome” to the SNCC students in 1960, making it the anthem of the civil rights movement. Despite recognizing that I was in the presence of greatness, I really didn’t want to sing along. Neither did most other people under the age of 30. Disdain of pure raw emotion is an unfortunate byproduct of the Ironic Age. Contemporary writers about the IWW like Nels Anderson noted the power that common song had to unite the poor. We’ve lost that. Part of that is the greater diversity of musical styles in the 21st century–even if there were anthems to sing along to, what could we agree on? But an equal or greater part is dislike of the style.

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