We Should Recapture the Optimism of the 1960s

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    • #243233
      • Total Posts: 2,013

      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.


    • #243235
      NV Wino
      • Total Posts: 4,958

      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

    • #243239
      David the Gnome
      • Total Posts: 2,402

      “Sex, drugs and rock and roll?”

      And can I get an amen?

    • #243260
      • Total Posts: 146
    • #243276
      • Total Posts: 652

      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
      • Total Posts: 534

      the optimism of youth.

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


    • #243289
      • Total Posts: 881

      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.

    • #243304
      • Total Posts: 1,439

      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.


    • #243310
      • Total Posts: 2,631

      “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
      • Total Posts: 5,127

      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)

      Bernie figured he could do more good ALIVE,
      than dead in a small plane "accident".
      I think he's right.

      Don't you?

    • #243460
      • Total Posts: 784

      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
      • Total Posts: 646

      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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