'68 Guns

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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.

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  1. there was also something in the global water in the 1960s. What it was, exactly, is still hotly debated today

    Blame it on The Rolling Stones!

  2. I have a theory (sound the alarms!!). I believe adolescence is a time of rebellion because evolving humans needed a stage of life that would shake things up when they needed to be yet could still be ignored when they didn’t need to be.

    I think the 60’s were a time in which adolescent rebellion was unleashed. Why exactly, even I (ha-ha) don’t claim to know. Affluence, the baby boom, whatever. But when this adolescent fury was unleashed on things that weren’t really so bad, like capitalism, it was an obnoxious (and mostly futile) pain in the ass. When it was unleashed on things that really were bad, like racism, the War in Viet Nam, and in Vaclav Havel’s case, Communism, it did some good. Other than it getting out of hand at times, it was just as nature intended it.

  3. I only read this post cuz of the eighties pop reference.

  4. Matt, it says “almost everyone”. Sounds like a sufficient disclaimer to me.

  5. have a theory (sound the alarms!!). I believe adolescence is a time of rebellion because evolving humans needed a stage of life that would shake things up . . .

    Works the same as the weaning process, just in reverse.

  6. almost everyone in the so-called “generation of ’68” was intellectually violent — to tradition, to old-fashioned notions of decency, to truth, etc.

    Do conservatives *really* think life was better before 1968? I mean really. If they could turn back the clock, would they? To Jim Crow? To women being teachers, nurses, or pregnant? I imagine Pope Ben 16 might, but anyone under 70? It baffles me…

  7. Matt, it says “almost everyone”. Sounds like a sufficient disclaimer to me.

    Not when he singled out the Polish and Czech rebellions as part of what he’s describing.

    Me, I’m still wondering what “the prosperous offspring of the World War II generation” have to do with Senegal.

  8. “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.”

    You know, like in Senegal, Mexico, and Indonesia.

    Don’t these people have editors?

    What was in the “global waters” in 1968 was incredible repressiveness and violence on the part of the hallowed “World War II” generation. Americans had killed, what, 2 million Vietnamese by then? France had tortured how many tens of thousands of Algerians? And let’s not even get started on the Soviet Empire. If you promise all sorts of wonderful things, don’t follow through, and go on a killing spree – well, it tends to upset the kids.

    I wonder why he left out the rampaging students of China? The soixante-hauteurs were pretty keyed up over there, weren’t they?

  9. Meet the new pope, same as the old pope!

    I find it amusing that he denounces relativism in the centenary of Einstein’s annus mirabilis 😀

  10. joe,

    I think the reason Mr. Goldberg left those examples out of his article was because he and his readers would soon realize there was absolutely no reason for him to write the article in the first place.

  11. It’s a shitty time when “conservatives” are using terms like “intellectually violent”. That doesn’t even mean anything.

    – Josh

  12. Ratzo a mugged liberal? Wasn’t he once a Hitler Youth? Sounds like pretty right wing roots to me even if he’s since denounced it.

  13. damnit, not the “Hitler Youth” thing again. Yes, he was a member of the Hitler Youth, when it was compulsory. He avoided every meeting he could, and when he was drafted into the German army, he deserted. I don’t think he was a Nazi.

  14. But wasn’t he in the Hitler Youth?

  15. HE also slept nekkid with PJP, BUT THEY DID NOT HAVE SEX.

  16. FWIW, Goldberg admits the wording was sloppy here
    You can stop beating that horse now.. 🙂

  17. anomdebus,
    Per that link, JG doesn’t correct the idiocy of his article one bit except to split hairs between his use of the phrase “generation of ’68” and the New Left. If that was a joke, I didn’t get it.

  18. “Generation of ’68” refers — in my book — to a specific sliver of young activists associated with SDS, the New Left, etc.

    I guess Havel doesn’t read Goldberg’s book.

  19. And why did he even bring up Poland and Czechoslovakia if he was only referring to SDSers?

  20. I would guess that fall under the umbrella of sloppy wording.
    This article is primarily about American politics. I think the references to European ‘revolutions’ was meant as a backdrop of the social environment of the era.

    Eh, whatever, I have no dog in this race. I just happened to read the ‘caveat’ hours before I read the article, so I had that stuck in my head.

  21. One can hardly blame poor Jonah. He wasn’t born yet, after all.

  22. I only read this post cuz of the eighties pop reference.

    Another example of the anti-hip-hop bias present at H&R. A great pope related subject head: I love it when you call me Il Papa

    Throw your hands in the air, if youse a true player.

  23. “I guess Havel doesn’t read Goldberg’s book.”

    Maybe you don’t know that the “Prague Spring” was ended by the arrival of Soviet tanks. Maybe the ’68
    “revolution” was a communist ploy that went a little to far for for the commies.

  24. “I love it when you call me Il Papa”

    post of the motherfucking century.

    and don’t we need intellectual violence? a little free marketeering for the brain, some competition. good stuff, right?

  25. Why does anybody bother to bring up the National Review any longer? It’s totally debased from any serious consideration of anything, other than the arational, flight-from-modernity agenda of contemporary “conservatism”. Religious k00kism uber alles. And spare me how good ol’ Jonah is some exception. This son of a malignant bitch is basically the decent-seeming “cover” for the larger agenda. Whether he believes this crap, or is just a useful idiot scarely matters any more. The road to hell….

    Gore Vidal was wrong to call the basically decent Bill Buckley a “crypto-fascist” back in ’68. He should have saved that powerful epithet for Buckley’s far more deserving heirs.

  26. Adam Michnik repudiates violence? Not according to his interview with Dissent magazine. He thinks the Iraq war was very much necessary..

    http://www.dissentmagazine.org/menutest/articles/sp04/cushman.htm

    -Dain
    Strike-the-Root.com

  27. “The 1968 revolution and the terror created ? in the name of Marxist ideas ? a radical attack on human freedom and dignity, a deep threat to all that is human.” — the Ratzmeister

    I wonder if he felt that the Hippie establishment was a greater threat to society than, say, international Stalinism.

  28. “the comfort and guilt that comes from being the prosperous offspring”

    Lacking first hand experience with compassion and outrage to injustice, conservatives tend to cast about for explainations of leftists’ motivations. Searching their own consciences, the closest analogue they can find for either is guilt.

  29. actually, there’s quite a bit of shared ground between the religious phenomenon of “catholic guilt” and its secular version of “marxist guilt.”

  30. You know, once Florence King retired “The Misanthrope’s Corner” and they gave that spot to Jonah Goldberg, I stopped reading NR entirely.

    Seriously, why does anyone give Jonah Goldberg attention?

  31. Lacking first hand experience with compassion and outrage to injustice, conservatives tend to cast about for explainations of leftists’ motivations. Searching their own consciences, the closest analogue they can find for either is guilt.

    You have much more fair-minded, informed, and charitable explanations of conservative motivations, I’m sure.

  32. What was in the “global waters” in 1968 was incredible repressiveness and violence on the part of the hallowed “World War II” generation. Americans had killed, what, 2 million Vietnamese by then? France had tortured how many tens of thousands of Algerians? And let’s not even get started on the Soviet Empire.

    Nice bit of relativism there, joe. Sorry, but fighting communism in SE Asia is not the same as promoting the Evil Empire.

    Incidently, to some degree the Eastern Europeans miscaluated the extent the Soviets would go to retain control of their conquests.

    On the other hand, in Vietnam the US was fighting vile communist expansionism.

  33. “On the other hand, in Vietnam the US was fighting vile communist expansionism.”

    yet another job the french fucked up. if only they had kept control of their little colony, none of this would have happened.

  34. “Sorry, but fighting communism in SE Asia is not the same as promoting the Evil Empire.”

    I imagine they’re very similar if you’re a corpse.

    “On the other hand, in Vietnam the US was fighting vile communist expansionism.” On behalf of vile post-colonial kleptocrat thugs, and doing so in a way that put millions of civilians in the ground, and created the conditions for many more millions to follow them. But the people responsible had noble intentions (hey, just the communists!), so there’s really no reason to be angry with them.

  35. I imagine they’re very similar if you’re a corpse.

    You are probably right–I doubt anything matters to the dead.

    On behalf of vile post-colonial kleptocrat thugs,

    On behalf of our efforts against communism.

    and doing so in a way that put millions of civilians in the ground, and created the conditions for many more millions to follow them. But the people responsible had noble intentions (hey, just the communists!), so there’s really no reason to be angry with them.

    During the “American phase” of the war (’65-’73), about 1.7 Million total died, including our dead (nearly 60k), ARVN deaths, etc. South Vietnamese civilian deaths were about 200k to 400k, North Vietnamese civilians killed by our bombing, about 65k.

    The commies murdered something like 166k people, the US about 6k, and the South Vietnamese government about 51k, per Rummel.

    While US hands are hardly clean, the communists were consistently significantly worse.

  36. It is clear that ‘nam became a clusterfuck. That said, I happen to think it is one we could have won.

    I also think that fighting the commies there was a reasonable decision, although perhaps not the right one. But at some point when you are facing the evil we were facing at the time, you have to go to war. If you adopt a “won’t fight, won’t support nasty people, won’t kill attitude” you are confining yourself to defeat. Pragmatic reasons for not going into ‘nam are one thing,statements like this are something else:

    What was in the “global waters” in 1968 was incredible repressiveness and violence on the part of the hallowed “World War II” generation. Americans had killed, what, 2 million Vietnamese by then?

    Eight years of war, and we murdered 6k with an additional 65k civilians killed while bombing NVN (and more SVN civilians killed by all parties, although not clearly murder in the case of US action). This paints a war of increadble restraint.

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