|by David Eide||.|
I was thinking about 1969. I heard a song from that year and it brought me back to the era fast. It was an extraordinary year. Woodstock, the moon landing, and activity on campus all come to mind. A lot of intellectual and cultural ferment penetrated the air. The opening of the senses I would call it. Perhaps now you see a massive revenge on the part of people who felt disjointed by the happenings at the time. Maybe that makes up our present.
I find it interesting that I go back to this period of time just as my father went back to WWII.
And isn't it true that youth is a more intense time than any other period of life and so always exists as a longing when it is lost?
The great protest against the society came in several forms. It was mental and spiritual:
Protest against the existence of nuclear weapons since it boggled the young that these things existed without any kind of disturbance to authority; as if these weapons were the natural course of things, as if they did not throw a monkey wrench into every category of existence. That was one source of that protest since once you could grasp that problem everything else seemed trivial.
Next was the existence of bureaucracies; heavily-laden organizations that seemed to destroy personality and the unbounded freedom youth demands. It may result in a lot of failed experiments but youth felt autonomous while enacting them. It appeared that these beaurcracies were headed by rapacious, scowling, repressive types who appeared to be at war with everything not of the bureaucracy. There didn't seem to be any semblance of society at all. It appeared that at the top it was one against all and everyone else got marshaled and herded into occupations to chase fabricated lives. Not to mentions the fact that much of life in America seemed like a lie; it lied about its history, about its goals, about its ideals and would literally beat the crap out of anyone who raised a question about this.
Much has taken place since that time. For one, the generation that celebrated its nascence in 1969 is older and more experienced now. It knows that things are not all black and white, that there are reasons for the daily routine that needs to keep out a lot of distractions such as intracktable problems.
Plus, the great fears experienced at that time have become diffused throughout society. Many non-profits and organizations rose in response to a lot of the problems experienced in youth.
The old Soviet Union seems more accessible and somewhat less threatening than it used to, lessening the nuclear dilemma.
Terrorism has bolstered the defensive posture of the U.S. and has intensified that instinct for survival that was not there after the Vietnam debacle.
Vietnam fueled a great deal of the revolt and Vietnam has been over for many years.
Computers certainly draws into it much of the restless energies that felt frustrated by bureaucracy and the group-think so poisonous to democracy. Poisonous because if it dominates, then creative thinking must waste all its time and precious energy in dealing with the effects of the group-thought rather than the real problems at hand.
The oil shortage alerted many of those restless energies that resource was a pivotal factor. Geo-politics in the Middle-East, global warming, and political dominance by a few oil corporations required attention. Many people who questioned these things outgrew the god awful obedience that fear had driven into the populace about decline and dependence on the "system."
And with this new attitude came the belief that individual people were not the enemy. They may be rivals or competitors but not enemies. Watergate proved that authority is accountable to law. The machinery of government had to stop for a while to deal with the disease in its midst but eventually the disease was extirpated. Or at least the exhausted citizens hoped that was the case. And yet the knawing feeling remained that Watergate was not fated to be revealed as it was; that the mentality that created Watergate flourished quite readily and would incubate and hatch again in another super-heated atmosphere.
So decades after the nascence the society still seems untenable, unmanageable, and unthinkable. It appears dominated by military hardware. It is dominated by a feeling of revenge; by the feeling that someone in the world or society is responsible for everything falling apart and that the revenge is seeking that aspect every moment of the day. What has changed has been the suppleness of mind and spirit that fighting "against" and fighting "for" instilled in the younger generation.
Everyone was blamed for the sense of malaise that prevailed in the post-60's period. It was the blacks, the feminists, the older generation, the hippies, the welfare cheats, the drug pusher, the terrorists, the liberals, the conservatives, the rich old buggers and on down the line. The "other" was responsible for the break-up of a sense of continuity. That was the key. The break with continuity occurs when the young assert themselves and the elders, still in power, pull back in shock and anxiety since it appears the young will not carry the values and traditions of the elderly onward. Isn't this an eternal problem? Not one single generation has escaped it, not even during so-called static periods of history. But the focus has changed, the way it is exploited is changed. The scope has changed. Everything is amplified beyond its actual reality in this period of time.
It's true that for that generation trundling around in 1969, on the verge of itself, of its first reality one might say, the epochal events of the parents generation began to fade. The Korean War, McCarthy, WWII, Roosevelt, the Depression. These are for the history books now, along with the lore learned from the parents, aunts, uncles and so on. They have meaning but can not be a weight on the maturing generation that is beginning to take its place in society.
For the most part the older generation is honorable, it is experienced, even wise in some ways. Their bitterness is known, even understood. They can have no more illusions; they must relent in the scheme of things. At that moment of realization a decent person should honor the elderly and bring out the very best that is in the elderly and allow that profound wisdom that experience develops, to in fact develop.
I look at the decades I'm familiar with: 1950's-present. I may not feel compelled to write about them but they are part of the resource hoard. I then look at the Civil War through WWII period that is connected together and helped create the present time without a doubt.
Then I go back into American history to the explorations, then European history, then antiquity and whatever else can still inform me. But it is all brought up to the point of the present time.
One perhaps looks for a magic elixir that doesn't exist but the mind is a tricky little devil.
What, then, is central about the U.S. during these times? What is the internal struggle? In my time there were political struggles over how to integrate African Americans into the mainstream, arguments about gender roles, and our obligation to the environment. Beyond these was a conflict over quality vs. quantity. Is this a democracy or an oligarchy? What is the Blue vs. Red syndrome? What is "our" global role? What are the impacts of technology on liberal democracy? What is pushing the envelope and what is pulling on it?
What is excelling in a technological world and what is not?
The fascinating quality today is the interactivity between people and technology. That is the separator between ourselves and the past, at least on the surface.
Is the world disintegrating or synthesizing? I don't see people giving up their nationalities because they are on the internet. There is some huge learning curve going on. It is hard to separate out the false from the true.
No doubt my daughter and her generation and the ones that follow will be able to objectify their experiences in youth and start to impose their habits and interests on the larger society, then twenty years from now, fully envelope it. I doubt if the division between the two generations will be revealed as divided as the "greatest generation" and the "baby boomers."
© 2016 David Eide. All rights reserved.