Musings on my generation. Conflict and society.
Where have all the protests songs gone. In fact where have all the protests gone. I grew up with protest and protest songs, throughout the 1950's and 1960's and they go back way longer than that.
You can call the music Folk or Blues music, the stories are of real peoples lives. The work song or chant, the emotions of love and hate, the dream of a better tomorrow.
The protests; for better living environments, equality, working conditions and wages, and so much more. Has all this been rectified now?
Social change is driven by the youth not by the comfortably middle aged like myself. Or establishment figures younger than me, who would love to think they are the engines of change.
1967 The Summer of Love.
Very hippie protest in San Francisco, California ostensibly. Though hippies gathered in other American cities and some European cities. What was their protest?
They did not want the lives of their parents. They leaned very much to the left politically. They rejected materialism and looked toward community and sharing. Also the USA had been in a long bloody war in Vietnam, that was dividing families and communities along with international relations.
“Peace and Love Man”
Not all was “Peace and Love Man” that summer.
The Nigerian civil war, Cambodian civil war, the Israeli 6 day war, a Kurdish revolt in Iran.
In the US there were many riots not least the Detroit riots. Some say they spawned the Reading and Newark riots in the UK. The “Leftist Riots” of Honk Kong ran from May until December.
The backdrop to all this love and conflict the “Cold War”.
1968 The Year of Unrest.
As I said before “The Summer of Love”, had also seen much in the way of resentment for the establishment and international conflict. The following year 1968 saw this escalate exponentially. Western European and American students had the link of “Opposition to the Vietnam War”.
Something greater seemed to be happening, students of colleges and universities were shouting along the same line. They wanted to be heard and felt the establishment was deaf to their cries. The counter culture of youth was going to be heard and seen.
In Eastern Europe Warsaw students went on strike as they did in Belgrade and East Germany. The Prague Spring though this was not student led, ended with soviet military intervention.
In Western Europe Paris saw students wanting university reform joined by workers wanting reform almost toppling the government of the day. While in Spain workers and students joined in protest for reform. General Franco's regime was not in danger. The same police tactics that had led to the protests snubbed them out effectively. Even the normally cool headed Swedish students occupied the Students Union building in Stockholm.
Though many of the protests banner signs, were anti-war particularly the Vietnam War. They also called for reform on many levels.
The killing of Martin Luther King sparked mass riots in over a hundred American cities.
The Black Panthers got worldwide coverage at the Olympic Games in Mexico that year. After Tommie Smith and John Carlos first and third in the men's 200m race gave the Panthers black gloved salute after receiving their medals. Typically the IOC banned them for life. Though the IOC had provisionally invited the South Africans to enter a segregated team. Only backing down when a number of Black African countries, and Eastern Bloc countries had said they would not take part if South Africa was allowed to enter a team.
There was no internet or social media in those days, though we did have telephones but then as now feared the cost of international charges. So it is unlikely this movement was organised. It seems to me in some respects a shared humanitarian ideal that grabbed the attention of a generation. Now that generation are; the doctors, nurses, scientists, inventors, and even some of the rock musicians adored today. They are also; the senior industrialists, politicians and yes bankers!
Did they change the world? If so, for the better or the worse this hard for me to say. I am part of that generation.