We Should Recapture the Optimism of the 1960s

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  • #243233

    JonLP
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    @jonlp

    In order to make progress in our time, we have to remember the radical promise of the 1960s — both what was won, and what’s been forgotten.

    Review of Promise of a Dream: Remembering the Sixties, by Sheila Rowbotham (Verso, 2019 edition).

    The 1960s hold a special place in collective memory and imagination, as much because of what has happened since as because of what happened then. As Sheila Rowbotham notes at the beginning of her recently reissued memoir, “the radical dream of the sixties was to be stillborn, for we were not to move towards the cooperative egalitarian society we had imagined. Instead, the sixties ushered in an order which was more competitive and less equal than the one we had protested against.”

    As the dream died, the sixties entered its depoliticized, two-dimensional afterlife, “glossily repackaged as the snap, crackle and pop fun time, to be opened up periodically for selective nostalgic peeps on cue: the pill, the miniskirt, the Beatles, Swinging London, Revolution in the Streets.” Or in the immortal words of Danny, the drug dealer of Withnail and I: “They’re selling hippie wigs in Woolworths, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over. And as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black.” As the subsequent decades have buried the dream ever deeper, the attempt to unearth it has seemed ever more urgent and more impossible. As Rowbotham puts it: “Retrieval has become an act of rebellion.”

    Rowbotham’s account of the sixties is, as befits a feminist historian, both personal and political. We follow her through the decade, year by year, as she moves from her Methodist boarding school in North Yorkshire to Paris, Oxford, and London, exhibiting the same understated yet principled promiscuity in her explorations of sex, love, and politics.

    Rowbotham recounts her early experiences of political activism in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the hope and disillusionment of the Harold Wilson government, the flowering and rapid fracturing of the New Left. She documents the flourishing, in the wake of political disappointment, of the radical history movement — and her own close friendship with two of its central figures, Dorothy and Edward Thompson.

    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/12/promise-of-a-dream-rowbotham-review

  • #243235

    NV Wino
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    @nvwino

    Sex, drugs and rock and roll?

    “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.” Barbara Lee
    “Politicians and pro athletes: The only people who still get paid when they lose.” William Rivers Pitt

    • #243254

      The Red Menace
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      @twilightsporkle

      “Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll” was tried. It didn’t work.

      Might I suggest instead, “Dick, DMT, and Disco”?

      Same note, different key. Plus alliteration makes everything better.

    • #243306

      Satan
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      @satan

      Very good indeed….

      I didn't refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton because any goddamned Russian told me to. I refused to vote for her because she is a warmongering, election stealing, Goldman Sachs fellating, Republican WHORE. No offense to sex workers.

  • #243239

    David the Gnome
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    @davidthegnome

    “Sex, drugs and rock and roll?”

    And can I get an amen?

  • #243260

    DamnYankeeInHouston
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    @annebarwell

    And lots of people assassinated.

  • #243276

    surrealAmerican
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    @surrealamerican

    Let’s be clear: that “optimism” was built on the near certainty that the human race would cease to be within 10 or 20 years due to nuclear war.

  • #243281

    rampart
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    • Total Posts: 452
    @rampart

    the optimism of youth.

    “I do not fight fascists because I will win. I fight fascists because they are fascists.” ― Chris Hedges,

     

    • #243296

      elias39
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      @elias39

      Chris Hedges is a gem!

  • #243289

    snot
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    @snot

    I wouldn’t call it optimism; I’d call it having your priorities straight, and determination.

    Destruction is easy; creation is hard, but more interesting.

    • #243443

      sonofspy777
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      @sonofspy777

      Sounds like yours and mine remain unwavering.

      The human race has few (if any) problems that couldn’t be solved by massive wealth.  And we’re literally surrounded by it, like a fly in amber.  Now if we only had brains… —Ben Bova

  • #243304

    jwirr
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    @jwirr

    IMO the optimism of the 60s was not so much in the drugs, sex and rock and roll. It was in the belief that we could actually change government and the way we lived – change the world into a better place. That is what is missing now. We still have drugs, sex and various forms of music but we are looking at things like fascism, climate denial, corporate rule with no concern for labor and even labor loved the DLC. Greed, hate, bigotry, selfishness and all of it supported by some parts of the church. Our problems were around back then but we did not see them as clearly as we do now.

    jwirr

  • #243310

    bazukhov
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    @bazukhov

    “It was the best of times and the worst of times.”    Charles Dickens from “A Tale of Two Cities”

    We were optimistic.  We did believe that we could change “the system” as a whole.

    The system was changed, not always for the good.  The stifling morality/art/music/and conformity of the 50s were over replaced by a sort of renaissance of free thinking in all fields.

    Alas, the capitalists bought the best parts and turned them into “more acceptable” for consumers.   We didn’t stop war, or racism, or misogyny, but we did make them less acceptable and excusable.

    Young wolves show us your teeth.  John Steinbeck

    Tell me, great captain, how do the angels sleep when the devil leaves his porch light on? Tom Waites

  • #243441

    sonofspy777
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    @sonofspy777

    Though your brother’s bound and gagged
    And they’ve chained him to a chair
    Won’t you please come to Chicago
    Just to sing
    In a land that’s known as freedom
    How can such a thing be fair
    Won’t you please come to Chicago
    For the help that we can bring
    We can change the world –
    Re-arrange the world
    It’s dying – to get better
    Politicians sit yourself down,
    There’s nothing for you here
    Won’t you please come to Chicago
    For a ride
    Don’t ask Jack to help you
    Cause he’ll turn the other ear
    Won’t you please come to Chicago
    Or else join the other side
    We can change the world –
    Re-arrange the world
    It’s dying – if you believe in justice
    It’s dying – and if you believe in freedom
    It’s dying – let a man live it’s own life
    It’s dying – rules and regulations, who needs them
    Open up the door
    Somehow people must be free
    I hope the day comes soon
    Won’t you please come to Chicago
    Show your face
    From the bottom to the ocean
    To the mountains of the moon
    Won’t you please come to Chicago
    No one else can take your place
    We can change the world –
    Re-arrange the world
    It’s dying – if you believe in justice
    It’s dying – and if you believe in freedom
    It’s dying – let a man live it’s own life
    It’s dying – rules and regulations, who needs them
    Open up the door
    We can change the world

    ~Graham Nash (Hollies/CSN&Y)

    The human race has few (if any) problems that couldn’t be solved by massive wealth.  And we’re literally surrounded by it, like a fly in amber.  Now if we only had brains… —Ben Bova

  • #243460

    sadoldgirl
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    • Total Posts: 577
    @sadoldgirl

    You cannot recreate an anti war movement like this,

    when permanent wars without a draft are taken as

    normalcy. On information Clearing House someone

    posted Yoko Ono and John Lennon singing The war

    is over. I almost cried when I watched it.

  • #243496

    Maedhros
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    • Total Posts: 396
    @maedhros

    Stifling optimism is a key tool of the Democratic establishment.  I hear it from rank-and-file Democrats nearly every day:

    “We’ve always been an Empire – it’s too late to oppose it now!  The best we can do is hope to soften it just a bit.  Anything else is pie-in-the-sky thinking that will lead to certain ruin.  So go to your marches, hold your candlelight vigils, put on your pussy hats and fly your rainbow flags – but don’t expect the Democrats to change.  We have to do what the Party wants, not the other way around.  If we don’t, then someone very slightly worse might win.”

    His body recovered from his torment and became hale,
    but the shadow of his pain was in his heart;
    and he lived to wield his sword with left hand
    more deadly than his right had been.

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