The Baby Boomers 40 Years Out: Can Those 60’s Ideas Be Dusted Off?

Do you remember the 1960’s?  Hmmmm, it is said in some circles if you can remember them, you didn’t have a good time.  Your loyal scribe was a kid back then spending most of my time playing sports and working on a farm.  Only on the occasional weekend did my family venture out to the city.  I remember very clearly on those ventures the hippies, the flower power and the make-love-not-war movement.

The only problem was I was too young to know what making love was.  I didn’t quite get what those longhaired hippies were doing and I thought flower power was something on a TV show called “Laugh In”.  As a child of the 1970’s I’ve always felt those who “hearken for the 1960’s” was a bit too much.  For those of us in the 1970’s we contributed too.

However, in the western world that’s like swimming up hill.  It has become ingrained in our society that the 1960’s were different and those differences have made a difference even into today.

I beg to differ but this past week I read a Globe and Mail feature by Michael Valpy extolling on the work of University of Victoria historian Dominique Clement.  The article entitled “Did the boomers bring peace to Canada” is an excellent expose on the youth of the sixties and how it has affected things today.  What I find even more interesting is that the author Dominique Clement was born in 1975.  So you can’t accuse him of looking back affectionately to the 1960’s as the good old days.

The following are some direct quotes from Michael Valpy’s piece.

Dominique Clément says today’s plethora of human-rights legislation and institutions can be traced directly back to the demands by young people in the 1960s and 1970s for a Canada that would be more caring and sensitive toward their marginalized fellow citizens: the poor, the disadvantaged, homosexuals and racial minorities.

“Biology alone did not define the baby-boom generation,” he says in a paper presented at this week’s Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan.

“The youth of the Sixties were the front-runners of a specific historical movement in which political activism and radical ideas were pronounced. Though the generation was not revolutionary, it had a revolutionary impact.”

“The boomers alone were not responsible for transforming social movements,” he writes. “But the boomers were the catalysts of a transformation in social movement mobilization and among the leading participants in this new era of social activism.”(Dominique Clement 2007)

It is what it is and I think if you never lived through it you have to think about Clement’s words.  My good buddy John Gardiner talks about this stuff all the time.  How people cared and how they wanted to change the world and how they made a difference way back in the day, way back in the 1960’s.  So along comes a University of Victoria historian in 2007 who was born five years after the decade closed and says it was all true.  Surely from his report you get the idea John has talked about forever, that maybe we should be going back to some of that “summer of love” stuff.

Interesting stuff.  It’s especially interesting because those social transformations of the 1960’s continue to reverberate throughout our country today.  All of this happened 12 years before we got our Canadian Charter of Rights.  The Charter, which would become the bedrock of Canadian society, has transcended this society further.  Surely as Clement implies, the impetus for the Charter was born within the political activism and radical ideas of the 1960’s.

It makes you wonder if there is any incubation of ideas within our current society which would transcend into something much better 10, 20 or 30 years out.  Or are we too busy text messaging each other or surfing the Internet and looking for the biggest dividend payment from Canadian bank stock?   I think so.  It would seem that the “summer of love” in 2007 would probably morph itself online with people tapping keyboards hoping for a new piece of software to makes things better.  Kind of scary isn’t it?

It is almost like the information technology revolution has almost precluded us from “coming together” for the good of society.  Simply put our new economy hums to a different tune than it did in the 1960’s.  Could you imagine people thrusting themselves toward Wal-Mart in 1968 to buy electronics and clothing from China?  I don’t think so but today, it’s almost become ubiquitous within our society.  Radical ideas and political activism don’t resonate when you can buy a DVD player for $19.

In the last few weeks we’ve watched nervously as our loonie has headed north currently around 94.5 cents US.  For the record for most of the 1960’s the dollar was fixed at 92.5 cents US.  In March 1970 the government allowed it to float.  That’s one thing Clement missed in his report.  However in the 1960’s they had that right too.  Maybe my buddy John has been right all along.  The question is where is Bob Dylan?  In 2007 we need him to strike up the band.