Friday, July 23, 2010

Justifying the sixties (updated)

My rare political comment for this Friday.

This is a companion to my predictions for Season 4 of Mad Men published earlier today. If there is one good thing that can be said about the 1960s it is the giant steps forward taken in civil rights meaning Brown V. Board of Education, The Civil Rights Act of 1964, The Voting Rights Act of 1965 and The Civil Rights Act of 1968. (Update: When I mention Brown V. Board of Education, it is important to remember there was the the court ruling in the 1950s but also the efforts that had to be made to put it into place, e.g. sending troops to protect kids going into schools.)

And that is true but, there is a crucial reminder that needs to go with this. And that is that all of the above were principally the work of men and women of the world war two generation and the silent generation that immediately followed it. Baby boomers like me contributed absolutely zero to the great civil rights victories. Most of us weren't even old enough to vote at the time. These events happened in the 1960s but they had little or nothing to do with the cultural changes driven by the rising market power of the baby boom.

And that is important because one of the things you have to justify of you want to justify the sixties is definitely the baby boomers. My generation is a generation born into peace and prosperity rarely seen in this world and we are, collectively (some of us are quite nice as individuals) one of the most obsessively narcissistic generations to ever live. Unless you consider sex, drugs and rock and roll to be major achievements we have not done much with the many blessings that were showered on us.

Not unrelated: If you ever want to see a lily white world, take a glance at pictures of the crowds at the Monterrey and Woodstock musical festivals.


  1. Absolutely, I'm a boomer too and couldn't vote until the early 70s. And Brown was decided in 1954 when we were babies or toddlers, and some boomers not even yet born. But this goes back to what you said in an earlier post about Weiner trying to show the ambiguity of the '60s. I think the groundwork for what happened in the '60s was laid (lain?) in the '50s in so many ways, Brown being part of it as far as civil rights goes. I also don't think we can rule out the intellectual ferment going on in Europe post WWII that was finding its way across the sea, or the foreign filmmakers--Rosellini, Fellini, Truffaut, and the others--who dealt with weighty issues and whose films many considered scandalous. I never meant to give credit--or blame--to the baby boomer generation for what happened in the '60s. For most of us, at least me and my friends, we went to school, had part-time jobs, didn't do drugs, weren't having sex, just trying to survive the changes going on around us. I was on Cape Cod with a friend of mine and his aunt and uncle in their small bungalow in Yarmouth when Woodstock happened and read about it in the Sunday paper. I think the media turned Woodstock into a) something it wasn't and b) the iconic image of the '60s, which is unfortunate and dishonest. I think only the most troubled of the baby boomers were actually in attendance there.

  2. I love Cape Cod. I'm sure you had the better deal being in Yarmouth.

  3. Yes, after I read about what the conditions were like and what was going on I was very glad I was on the Cape and not at Woodstock. I couldn't understand why the media saw it as a great thing that had happened, and still don't.