Monday, September 01, 2003

Generation of 1968 – did someone say there was an upside?

Okay, here we go again – another rant against baby boomers. But when it comes to new “old” ground, I just can’t help it – they keep spinning their shit out, this one’s fresh today. Plus it doesn’t hurt my motivation that (i) Lindsay Tanner is almost my local MP (although he came close to being knocked off by the Greens in 2001), and (ii) is a clueless, serial under-performer (if he was a stock you would have cut your losses and sold him long ago)

As to the above headline, I admit I being glib. The 1968 “revolution” did have some upside. Let’s go through Lindsay Tanner’s victory talismans, then, one by one:

- individual freedom (too vague to tell)

- feminism (meaning first-world, middle-class and above women). Rapid improvement between late 60s and mid 80s. Unfortunately for the vast majority of the world’s women NOT covered by this “revolution”, the situation has long-since stabilised.

- environmentalism (ditto first-world only). Really only started rolling in Australia with mid-70s urban “green bans”. Forest conservation awareness was a product of the 80s, more than any other decade.

- racial equality. Race Discrimination Act passed in 1975 (whatever happened to “We want it now”?). When a racist political party emerged in 1998, the callow actions of the government, in response to Hansonism, suggested that racism was still a potent force in many (almost all older) voters’ minds.

- sexual and gay liberation. Heterosexual liberation definitely peaked during or soon after 1968. Indeed, no anthropologist has been able to provide convincing footage of a “key party” since 1975. As for gay liberation, once again, it was the kids of the eighties (take a bow, me) who did most of the hard work – in an era when, because of AIDS, being gay had never before (or since) been the subject of such hysterical attack.

- opposition to war and nuclear weapons. Yes, back in 1968, you had your own Vietnam-draft skins to save. You broke out the “War is over!” champers in 1975, just as the carnage in Cambodia began. The major anti-nukes campaigns were in the 1980s – driven by a need to oppose the uber-hawk policies of Reagan et al (Reagan and Thatcher also being the first governments to calculatedly shaft the economic interests of the young, in order to enrich the 1968ers all the more).

Oh, and Lindsay – you left out “drugs”. Or was that what you meant by “individual freedom”? Either way – the modern, mass use of drugs, legal and illegal, is certainly the 1968ers clearest and most enduring achievement to date. And I’m not taking the piss (or the urine-test, but that’s another story) here. Recreational and/or self-medication is indeed a potent force for good – they can make a highly-educated GenX Australian living on $200 a week feel “affluent”, at least for a few hours. This is actually far from dangerous escapism, because Lindsay sees that we’re all much more affluent now. And scarily, I don’t think that he’s even on drugs when he supposedly sees and tells us this.

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