Talking about the Why Generation
Ed Hamer and Jon Hughes
1st February, 2008
February 1968. From South Vietnam the explosive Têt Offensive has dealt a final blow to shattered US troops and sparked a worldwide appetite for insurrection. Left destitute by standards of living and provoked by a three-year war on their ideological comrades, student leaders across Europe rise up with a single voice ‘We shall fight. We will win. Paris, London, Rome, Berlin.’ Within six weeks, 20,000 protesters will besiege the American embassy in London’s Grosvenor Square. It is the Spring of Discontent, and revolution is the air.
1968 remains framed in history as the year that defined an entire generation. It was a year in which a collective wave of hope, anger and direct action swept across four continents,laying foundations of change and toppling governments in its wake. Although the events of that momentous year are too often discounted by the clicheì of sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, it is worth remembering that, in the 40 years that have passed, no movement has come close to reclaiming the immortality of that time.
The kids aren’t alright
Looking back, the political unrest that grew to dominate the period could largely have been predicted. As a result of postwar welfare reforms and investment in education, student numbers across the western world doubled between 1952 and 1960. For the first time, a generation of students found themselves educated to think independently and cushioned from the shackles of unemployment. It was an explosive combination and only a matter of time before it found its mark. In the UK, the failing Labour government of Harold Wilson provided a likely target. Increasing state involvement in private lives, support for the US...
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