'68 Guns


Over at The Catholic National Review, Jonah Goldberg has a column commending Pope Ratzo for being, like many American conservatives, a liberal mugged by 1968. He then goes on to make a point that doesn't quite survive even his own pre-emptive disclaimers:

Americans tend to think of 1968 as a uniquely American upheaval during a uniquely American decade of unrest. Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and all that. But the reality is a bit different. The 1960s saw student uprisings not only in America but in France, Britain, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, Senegal, Argentina, Indonesia, and Mexico. Obviously, each had its own unique flavor, but there was also something in the global water in the 1960s. What it was, exactly, is still hotly debated today. But the violence of '68ers surely had something to do with the comfort and guilt that comes from being the prosperous offspring of the World War II generation.

Not everyone in the so-called New Left was physically violent, and by no means was every young person alive then a member of the New Left, but almost everyone in the so-called "generation of '68" was intellectually violent—to tradition, to old-fashioned notions of decency, to truth, etc. And a great many of them refused to draw principled distinctions between rhetorical violence and the real thing.

Italics mine, to emphasize what ain't so, especially in the aforementioned Czechoslovakia and Poland. Vaclav Havel and Adam Michnik, to name two of the many heroic Central European '68ers, used their substantial intellects precisely against violence, and specifically for "notions of decency" and "truth." What's more, they got their kicks doing so (before being arrested, at least); gobbling up the kind of filthy Western counter-culture that probably made Ratzinger's (and William Buckley's) skin crawl. Both men wax nostalgic to this day about "the spirit of '68," and maintain special bonds with '60s icons from Western countries, including (gasp!) some people who identified with the New Left. History is messy like that.