One, two, three, what are we fighting for ….


That’s Country Joe McDonald sitting down in the middle. He’s the one who wrote:

And it’s one, two, three,
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it’s five, six, seven
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain’t no time to wonder why,

Whoopee! we’re all gonna die –


And sang it at Woodstock. This should link to the Woodstock video.



Notice that the kids — that means people like me at the time; I wasn’t there but my best friend Betsy was there with her husband whose band Quill played; I was out in California leading a different part of the same life — notice that the kids in the video are not smiling. They look worried, and we were all worried. On the one hand, there was all this great music everywhere, playing in stores, parks, in people’s apartments; on the other hand there was this war going on all the time.

So last night we went to Freight and Salvage to hear Country Joe and his band; of course it’s different people in the band now.

He is a year older than I am, so that’s 74.  Amazingly, his voice is still great. He sang loud and clear through the whole long show. This was one of a series of 50th anniversary performances. The first part of the show, he came on stage alone and talked and sang some songs, including the “I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag,” above.  For the last verse, he put down his guitar and just sat back in his chair and let the audience sing the whole thing while he soaked it up, smiling.


The audience was made up almost entirely of people my age, me and Joe. Lots of long hair and sandals, but in fact, a very healthy looking crowd. Other than some people who looked as if they spent too much time sitting and looking at their computer screens, these are people whom you’d meet if you were hiking in Yosemite.

At the end of the show he said he never thought he’d be playing this music again. He seemed very happy to be surrounded by this music. True, he sat down in his chair during a lot of the show — but his voice was loud and strong.

He grew up in Berkeley; his mother was Florence McDonald, on the City Council. His parents were Communists; in an interview he said that he rebelled against them by joining the Navy. “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” he said, quoting a friend who reportedly took off all his clothes and jumped into a cactus bush.

The concert was a bitter sweet love fest, some dancing, a lot of memories. He did one Trump song — “Come out Donald with your hands held high” — and, for an encore, did “This land is your land, this land is my land.”

Going back to Viet Nam in about 10 days now. I’ve been working on my class since May or maybe April and I’m looking forward to trying to teach it. It’s complicated: what I’ve basically done is prepare a set of scaffolds that go from powerpoints, which are intended to provide focus to class lectures; then behind them is a class plan with discussion questions both from the text and as applied to Viet Nam; behind them are summaries 3 or 4 pages long of each chapter in the text; behind that is the actual text, Labor Relations in a Globalizing World, by Katz, Kochan and Colvin. In addition, there are some articles about IR systems in general.

Everything but the text itself will be up on a Google drive.  I got the impression that someone was going to scan the book and put it up too, somewhere where students could get at it, but I’m not sure about that. I will wait until I get there to confirm certain things that may be technically and technologically tricky.

For the students there is a three-part research project having to do with designing an appropriate IR system for Viet Nam.

Kim Scipes has been there this summer teaching Qualitative Research, but not to the same students that I will have. Kim says that his students wrote essay exams in English, but that they were not a “select” bunch like the ones to whom I taught the cross-cultural leadership class back in 2015. Joe and I are going to be doing research workshops with the LRTU (Labor Relations and Trade Unions) faculty. I will start with a focus on the importance of the research question. You want a question to which you really don’t know the answer; a question that can be answered in the real world; a question for which the answer, once you find it, will make a difference.

I do not know how to avoid being tough on these matters. I can be complementary and respectful and sincerely impressed and grateful in many situations, but once I get started criticizing someone’s writing, I don’t have any flex. It’s either right or wrong, it’s either just fine or not good enough. “Just fine” is a higher standard than “publishable,” too. There’s a lot of crap that gets published.

We’ll see how this goes.

Published by helenaworthen

Labor educator, retired from University of Illinois, taught at TDT University in Ho Chi Minh City in the Faculty of Trade Unions and Labor Relations. Co-author with Joe Berry of Power Despite Precarity: Strategies for the contingent faculty movement in higher education, forthcoming (August 2021) from Pluto Press.

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