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Swinging London in the 1960s

Swinging London in the 1960s

During the late 1960’s like so many young Australians I was drawn to live in London’s Earls Court (known to all then as ‘Kangaroo Valley’). However, although I was fascinated by the whole ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll’ revolution of which London was at the centre I never fully embraced it. Perhaps as a Pharmacist, I had medicated too many drug addicts at Boots Piccadilly pharmacy.

Recently, to see what I’d missed out on, I read Richard Goldstein’s book ‘Another Little Piece of My Heart’. Here are some of the quotes I found most interesting:

  • It was the great temptation of the sixties, the ghost of Rousseau that haunted every Freudian of my age. What lay beneath the layers of repression?…I was sick of living in a world whereto social order was all too obvious. That’s why the hippies were so appealing to people like me. They represented liberation from reality.
  • That was the whole problem with the counterculture. There was no will to form institutions that could transmit values, only a feeling that everything worth learning could be comprehended in an instant or immediately felt.
  • No one makes great art out of contentment with the world…
  • But in 1967 the hip thing for a chat show was to have a professor as a guest. ..They had to have an outsize sense of their importance, a blind confidence in their ideas, and a conviction that they could single-handedly alter the course of history. Most important…they had to be entertaining.
  • By getting us used to what, formerly, we could not bear to see or hear, art changes morals.
  • Perhaps this is always what it’s like to live in revolutionary times, the sense that everything is coursing toward a destiny that seems irrational and immanent (inherent).
  • I often found myself thinking about how other radicals had coped with the failure of their revolutions. How did the young visionaries of 1848 deal with the suppression of their noble dreams? What did partisans in the Paris commune think when their defeated comrades were executed by the thousands? How did Communists who deeply believed in the triumph of the proletariat live with the tyranny of Stalin? Some of them recanted in bestselling books, others clung to the long view of human history while settling down to raise ungrateful children.

I think our young people of today live in equally revolutionary times, and wonder how our radicals will cope when they fail.