Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Love and peace

People still think fondly of the sixties as a time of personal liberation, progressive politics, supportive communities, the crumbling of the "old guard", and new directions in art, music, books, movies and theatre. Suddenly all the stuffy old social rules were being torn up and everyone was doing their thing.

To a degree, this was true. Homosexuality was decriminalised, abortion was legalised, there was a resurgence of feminism, the American civil rights movement was fighting racism, CND was pressing for nuclear disarmament, and so on. It was a period of enormous optimism, hope and creativity.

But this was only one side of the picture, because in other ways the sixties were very negative. I know people who found these years frustrating, damaging, hurtful.

The idea of "free love" that just meant women were treated even more blatantly as sex objects. The reckless drug-taking that led to overdoses and death. The squats that turned into disorganised, hedonistic squalor. The fashionable political causes that couldn't be challenged - the IRA, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh, Marxism, the Soviet Union. Men still undervaluing and belittling women. Trendy cults and therapies run by money-grubbing, womanising charlatans.

Because people loved the image of freedom, of progress, of cultural flowering, they overlooked the unsavoury aspects and pretended they weren't happening. Or they saw them as the actions of a few bad apples who were latching on to the "counter-culture" for their own selfish ends, spoiling it for everyone else.

Personally I found the sixties (and early seventies) far more positive than negative, maybe because I was too sceptical and too self-protecting to get involved in the seedier and crazier fringes. But I didn't always escape the chaotic squats, mind-bending drugs, dotty cults and political dogma. It was hard to avoid the wilder excesses entirely.

It was certainly a more optimistic time than the present, with its relentless austerity and elitism. Love and peace, man. Just do your thing, man.

24 comments:

Secret Agent Woman said...

People have a tendency to idealize eras past, including the 60's. Each generation has its pros and cons.

Nick said...

Agent: I think the sixties in particular are idealised as some idyllic period of cultural advance. The less palatable aspects are conveniently glossed over.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Here the age most reminisced about seems to be the 1950's. Which were fine, I suppose, if you were a straight , white male. Kind of sucked for women, minorities and gays.

Nick said...

Agent: The fifties - eek! I well remember growing up in the fifties. Really strait-laced, deferential, conformist. And as you say, pretty crap for marginalised groups. I was glad to see the back of them.

Dave Martin said...

Good or bad, I missed out on all that so I can't pass judgement - wasn't born until 1971.
At least some good music came out of the sixties!

Nick said...

Dave: You can say that again. The musical innovation was amazing. It swept away all the corny fifties stuff, all the excruciating crooning and warbling my parents were so fond of.

kylie said...

I was another 71 baby!

the sixties have never held much appeal for me, you know, as a decade. There were some attractive cars

Nick said...

Kylie: Some attractive cars, lol! I didn't own a car until the end of the sixties. It was an old jalopy that didn't last very long.

Wisewebwoman said...

I loved the counter movements. Protested. Met so many draft dodgers. Compared to Taliban Ireland I'd moved to paradise. Birth control. Love affairs. US Embassy yelling. Folk singing. Guitar playing. Gawd I loved the music. And late night weed fuelled discussions on the establishment and distrusting everyone over 30.
My experience. And having a management job. I was unemployable in Ireland. A married woman was down the drain career wise.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www: Ah, you enjoyed the sixties as well. I can imagine the counter-culture was a real shot in the arm compared with the suffocating religious restrictions of Ireland. The music was astonishing- so original, so varied, so inspired.

Rummuser said...

We did not have it in India but I can assure you that personally for me the sixties of the last century was the most exhilarating and joyful of all the decades that I have seen so far.

Nick said...

Ramana: Exhilarating and joyful - wasn't it just? So many boundaries were being crossed and pointless rules tossed aside.

CheerfulMonk said...

I never took drugs, etc., but the decade was great for me. I graduated from college, decided to drop out of grad school (physics) after the first semester and work to save up money to do more traveling. Married Andy in 1964 as soon as he got his Ph.D., and we lived in France for 13 months. He worked there and we traveled around Europe on weekends and holidays, then we came back the long way. We had each saved up $4,000 and spent it all. The dollar went a lot farther then! Imagine how little $8K would get us now. Anyway, then we went to Cornell, where Kaitlin was born in 1969. Yes, very good years. :)

helen devries said...

I missed the drugs...didn`t care for the exploitatve hippies involved in it all...but the demonstrating was wonderful!

Mark you, the police were not as they are today: all the gas, tazers and the kettling...we had C Division, always ready for a bit of the strong arm work but basically decent chaps. If you lost your shoes in the scuffles there was always some policeman calling out for the Cinderellas to identify themselves and claim their footwear.

I remember one would be charismatic student leader known to all as Comrade Manchandra...facing the might of C Division he declared that we would beat them back with a wall of fire: so saying he seized the wire inner of a rubbish bin, set fire to the contents and hurled it forwards into their ranks where it went out before it had fallen to the ground.
Both lines fell about laughing.

A great period in which to be young.

I did meet the draft dodgers and didn`t think much of them. Fine for those with connections to get out...they did not seem too concerned about those who could not.

Nick said...

Jean: Sounds like you had a whale of a time in the sixties! Everyone should travel widely when they're young, while they have the opportunity and before they get tied down by mortgages, children, illness etc.

Nick said...

Helen: Indeed, protests were much more courteous and restrained in those days. Nowadays anything goes on both sides, brutal violence and lethal missiles. I can't see today's police worrying about anyone's footwear!

I tried dope and LSD a couple of times but that was it. I was never much interested in drugs.

Bijoux said...

I always associate that era with people doing drugs and not showering. It seems to have made a comeback, LOL!

Nick said...

Bijoux: I don't know about not showering, but the consumption of drugs (both on and off prescription) seems to be increasing dramatically. It's surely the sign of a very sick society that so many people are resorting to drugs to deal with a reality they can't tolerate.

joared said...

The peaceful fifties arriving when I reached legal age were welcome to me after all the turmoil of our world which was mild compared to Europe with the fears and anxieties of WWII. Then suddenly the big bomb was hanging over us. Lots of inequities, also in the sixties, but every generation stands on the shoulders of earlier ones. Many fifties folks know what they did to combat some of the issues of the day, laying the quiet groundwork for the more open assaults sixties folks initiated.

Nick said...

Joared: That's probably true that the big advances of the sixties stemmed from the patient groundwork of earlier years. Like all the labour-saving devices that appeared in the fifties, which meant many women were no longer slaves of housework but were able to get jobs.

Ursula said...

I steered clear of your comment box on this subject as I felt I had nothing to add or take away. The Sixties mean little to me, they passed me by - probably because I was too young. Though - of course - I caught a bit of the tail end in the early Seventies. Shrug shoulder.

However, I will comment, oh my dear Nick, you so make me laugh (and weep) at times, with regards to your reply to Joared. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant. So before there were "labour saving devices" women were "slaves to housework". And then? And then, Nick, and then? Insert exasperated sigh. Then they were "FREE" and, I am using your expression, "able to get a job" at the push of a labour saving device's start button? You know what? That's when true slavery started. Suddenly, keeping house, your husband happy and kids snot free wasn't enough any more. Oh no. Turn on the washing machine. Leave for "work". Paid work. Naturally. Because, naturally, only PAID work is acknowledged.

We live in times of double slavery. And let no wo/man tell you otherwise.

U

Nick said...

Ursula: I never said women became FREE. If only! I said they were able to get a job, which for many women was more fulfilling than hoovering the lounge. But I agree, if it simply means women are expected to do a job AND still do the housework (and look after the kids), it's a step backwards. And yes, domestic work is work the same as an outside job, as the famous campaign Wages For Housework keeps pointing out (I see it still exists but with a lower profile).

Ursula said...

Thanks for your quick reply, Nick. I know you didn't say that doing "paid" work sets a woman "free". And I am sorry the subject tends to get me heft up.

What I find so awful, on a personal level, that I really enjoyed the traditional set up. I like looking after people. I like keeping house and all that it entails. It gives me joy. It gives me satisfaction. Never felt like slavery. I remember once looking aghast at a friend of mine who, at some dinner party, being asked what she "did". She blushed and said "Oh, nothing, nothing, I am a housewife and mother". NOTHING? For heaven's sake.

My husband (FOS - father of son) once said to me that he "wouldn't be able to do [my] job if it weren't for [you]". True. Behind a successful man there is a good ... bla bla bla. Not, of course, that that stood me in good stead once we divorced. Still. Never mind. I don't regret putting family, my son and everyone else before my earning power. That I now find myself in a position to look forward to a destitute old age so be it.

Anyway, the current vogue, and this is dear to my heart, Nick, of women pursuing a "career" (wage slave more like it - as many men in the same position will confirm) whilst trying to "have it all" is such bull. And you know the worst of it: It's these families' kids who are paying the price. You go out to build a "career" and hand someone's future (your child's) over to a babysitter/childminder who doesn't give a shit about your child? Got to be joking.

I know that all of the above doesn't apply to you and Jenny. The moment children enter the equation is the moment you have to decide where your priorities lie.

Impassioned (on this subject)yours,
U

Nick said...

Ursula: Oh, I don't see anything wrong with being a full-time housewife and mother if that's what you're happy with. As you say, you're looking after others, helping your partner to do their job, giving your children your full attention etc. I don't see why women should be expected to do an outside job if their heart simply isn't in it. But being a housewife and mother is still seen by many as an inferior choice, a sign of failure, a betrayal of feminism etc. I think that's a very prejudiced viewpoint. Women should be free to do what they genuinely want to do, not forced into some ideologically-preconceived lifestyle.