You cannot step a foot into the literature about the 1960s without being told how 'creative', 'idealistic', and 'loving' it was, especially in comparison to the 1950s. I fact, the counterculture of the Sixties represented the triumph of what the art critic Harold Rosenberg famously called the 'herd of the independent minds'. Its so-called creativity consisted in continually recirculating a small number of radical cliches; its idealism was little more than irresponsible utopianism; and its crusading for 'love' was largely a blind for hedonistic self-indulgence.
Construction of the first gas pipeline system was started during the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, and for all those years, from the 1960s until this day, Russia has been fulfilling its contract obligations in a very consistent and reliable way, regardless of the political situation.
In Uganda, I wrote a questionaire that I had my research assistants give; on it, I asked about the embalasassa, a speckled lizard said to be poisonous and to have been sent by Prime minsister Milton Obote to kill Baganda in the late 1960s. It is not poisonous and was no more common in the 1960s than it had been in previous decades, as Makerere University science professors announced on the radio and stated in print… I wrote the question, What is the difference between basimamoto and embalasassa? Anyone who knows anything about the Bantu language—myself included—would know the answer was contained in the question: humans and reptiles are different living things and belong to different noun classes… A few of my informants corrected my ignorance… but many, many more ignored the translation in my question and moved beyond it to address the history of the constructs of firemen and poisonous lizards without the slightest hesitation. They disregarded language to engage in a discussion of events… My point is not about the truth of the embalasassa story… but rather that the labeling of one thing as ‘true’ and the other as ‘fictive’ or ‘metaphorical’—all the usual polite academic terms for false—may eclipse all the intricate ways in which people use social truths to talk about the past. Moreover, chronological contradictions may foreground the fuzziness of certain ideas and policies, and that fuzziness may be more accurate than any exact historical reconstruction… Whether the story of the poisionous embalasassa was real was hardly the issue; there was a real, harmless lizard and there was a real time when people in and around Kampala feared the embalasassa. They feared it in part because of beliefs about lizards, but mainly what frightened people was their fear of their government and the lengths to which it would go to harm them. The confusions and the misunderstandings show what is important; knowledge about the actual lizard would not.
A war still rages over the legacy of the 1960s.
In researching this book, I quickly discovered a surprising thing about the 1960s: the decade was not nearly as radical as we've been led to believe. In fact, the upheaval was really confined to a very narrow stratum of society. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, the 1960s was a conservative decade.
There were elements of Mad Men at Newsweek, except that unlike the natty advertising types, journalists were notorious slobs and our two- and three-martini lunches were out of the office, not in...Kevin Buckley, who was hired in 1963, described the Newsweek of the early 1960s as similar to an old movie, with the wisecracking private eye and his Girl Friday. "The 'hubba-hubba' climate was tolerated," he recalled. "I was told the editors would ask the girls to do handstands on their desk. Was there rancor? Yes. But in this climate, a laugh would follow.
I was lucky to live in New York when it was dangerous and edgy and cheap enough to play host to young, penniless artists. That was the era of "coffee shops" as they were defined in New York—cheap restaurants open round the clock where you could eat for less than it would cost to cook at home. That was the era of ripped jeans and dirty T-shirts, when the kind of people who are impressed by material signs of success were not the people you wanted to know.
Cops and Robbers in 1965 England was still a kind of Ealing comedy: crimes rarely involved firearms. The denizens of F-wing were losers in a game they had been playing against the cops. In queues for exercise, the constant questions were 'What you in for, mate?', followed by 'What you reckon you'll get?' When Freddie and I responded with 'Suspicion of drug possession' and 'We're innocent, we'll get off' they would burst into laughter, offering: 'Listen, mate, they wouldn't have you in here if they had any intention of letting you off. You're living in dreamland, you are.
We -- the industrialized, technologized world -- have never been richer. And yet to an extraordinary extent we in the West continue to inhabit a moral and cultural universe shaped by the hedonistic imperatives and radical ideals of the Sixties. Culturally, morally the world we inhabit is increasingly a trash world: addicted to sensation, besieged everywhere by the cacophonous, mind-numbing din of rock music, saturated with pornography, in thrall to the lowest common denominator wherever questions of taste, manners or intellectual delicacy are concerned. Marwick was right: 'The cultural revolution, in short, had continuous, uninterrupted, and lasting consequences'.
I'm a member of the 1960s generation. We didn't have any wisdom.