Thursday, May 01, 2008

In the month of May

David Seaton's News Links
This May is the 40th anniversary of the Paris riots of 1968. Much is being written about the meaning and the "legacy" of those days, whether the left still exists or "where are they now" pieces, you name it. A time when Paris still could dictate style to the world and a Paris Hilton could be nothing but a decent hotel.

After giving it some thought, I've come to a tentative conclusion that the period we call "the 60s", which I would place between the election of John F. Kennedy as President of the United States and the oil embargo of 1973, were such an exceptional, dreamlike time that it is practically impossible to relate them to anything that has ever happened before or since.

Today and tomorrow look more and more like history as we have always known it for centuries. Times filled with wars, epidemics, famines and tales told by an idiot, little like those days of serene prosperity and mass free love.

It was an era when, for the first time in history, it occurred simultaneously to millions of otherwise conventional young men and more importantly, to otherwise conventional young women, that they could have sex without having to stare across a breakfast table at that person for the rest of their lives... but miraculously, for a few short years, the girls still got up and made you breakfast... A period obviously suspended outside of natural time.

It was a era of immense personal liberation, where more important than being free, you were freeing yourself. Being free is often tasteless and odorless, but taking freedom is pure nectar.

The combination of a booming economy and full-employment allowed those who were young then to concentrate our fullest attention on the opportunities afforded us by effective birth control and the absence of all the ghastly, life destroying, sexually transmitted, diseases that plague young lovers today.

Opportunities which made the 1960s a paradise similar to the one Al Qaeda sells to its recruits.

I count myself blessed to have been young at the best time in the history of humanity to be young, when, in the words of Pedro Almodovar, "all love could give you was a broken heart".

If nothing else the May 68 of Paris gives us a festive symbol of all of it. DS


RC said...

As is normal in older persons, the selective memory device begins to operate. Yes, the halcyon days of the sixties/early seventies are worthy of the praise you give them, but Dickens would give the better description in that they were the best and the worst of times. I was drafted to go to Vietnam and you probably were too.
That was the great shadow as well as the full blown Cold War milestones starting off with The Cuban Missile Crisis, Playa Giron, the massive Latin American upheavals sponsored by the CIA, the grinding Soviet presence throughout Asia and Europe, the Mao nightmares, the never ending {to this day} nuclear standoff, the election of Richard Nixon and reign of Kissinger and on and on.
Let us not gloss over the frequent assassinations on most continents, gulags, famines, every type and degree of racial tension, revolution and war and so on.
I remember the period as very tense relieved to a great degree by the personal liberation you describe, but certainly not a picnic. I am 55 years old now.
Also, there had already been a major shift in the culture in the fifties, at least in London, Paris, New York and San Francisco, and after Kennedy, perhaps that ripple was just spreading.
I do agree however that I was extremely lucky to be young during that period. I also am continually amazed that the young persons now, all over the world, in constant and mostly unfiltered communication as in no previous era, do not stage an effective revolt against the international banking, finance and political structures.
I guess it's easy to see that I am a product of the sixties considering my disappointment with the political disinterest of the younger citizens.
The latest US Presidential race shows a bit more involvement, but as it mostly reflects a support of the "hope" candidate, perhaps you, Dave, do not find that a plus.
Honestly, I think the Obama advisors simply studied the demographics and decided the aging hippies and their Echo generation would vote for hope, and that became the product. If only they could have also offered STD eradication to go along with that.
I think the Free Sex era actually died in the summer of 1982 or maybe later in about 1984.
1982 was when "Gay Cancer" was noticed. It's called AIDS/HIV now.
I lived in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico from 1980 until 1982. Many of my friends, family and acquaintances died during the following ten years, most under the age of forty.
It was very different than the sixties when the friends of that age died mostly in Vietnam or in auto accidents or drug overdose.
But there was death amongst the young in both eras.
I say, bring back Sandoz Pharmaceutical grade LSD 25 and wipe out STDs. Is there no candidate that will run on that platform?

Anonymous said...

Few would claim that the soixant-huitards were odorless.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Few would claim they were free.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

If you look at history, you'll see that young men being sent off to die in stupid wars like Vietnam is very normal, as is/was/will-be social injustice, but ours was the first generation and probably the last that could contemplate consequence free sex.

And of course, the kids today, not being repressed, don't have the added pleasure of rebellion and of making a statement by simply copulating.

RC said...

OK, Dave, touche.

Anonymous said...

So is this an elegy for a lost golden age...

...or an admission of culpability for the appreciably worse world that has been bequeethed to today's young?

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Neither: it is merely a fond memory of when good booty was a political statement.