There are few creatures currently walking the earth more loathsome than the self-inflated Baby Boomer. You know the type: Completely blind to the fact that they’ve become their parents and the only difference is their version of “things were so much better back in the day” involves color television and doing drugs. As a general rule, I cannot stand these people, but however you want to judge it, a boatload of shit went down in 1968.
Some of it was good (the Civil Rights Act, The White Album) and probably more of it was bad (Tet, about six million protests, MLK getting shot), but there’s no denying the fact that it was a buyer’s market for news. Things were happening.
Look at us now. It’s March and already the whole fucking planet has literally shifted. I can’t launch Firefox without catching a headline about some devastation, or some war, or some protest in the Middle East. People in Wisconsin are fighting just for the right to bargain for their salaries, and people in Yemen are throwing their shoes at projector screens of President Ali Abdullah Saleh because he’s not leaving fast enough. Not that he’s not leaving, or that he’s started a civil war to stay in power (looking at you, Colonel Gadhafi), but that he’s not leaving fast enough.
We live in an age of media saturation anyway, but to keep up with everything happening is literally impossible, so I ask, is this year going to be the defining moment of the current generation on a global scale? I don’t know one way or the other, but I think you could make a decent argument that what’s playing out around the world today is going to shape the way billions of lives play out for years to come.
Take Germany. In Prime Minister Angela Merkel’s home state, the well-to-do Baden-Wuerttemberg, the Social Democrats and Green parties have won an election taking power away from Merkel’s party, the Christian Democrats, for the first time in six decades. And what caused it? At least according to the BBC, a big part of it was the issue of nuclear power in the wake of the “not-meltdown” at Japan’s Fukushima power plant following the earthquake and tsunami disasters there earlier in the month. The world is affecting itself in ways it simply never has before.
Twitter and Facebook are bringing down governments. People are calling for social justice louder and clearer than ever. Our own President, who once railed his republican predecessor for overstepping the bounds of his office’s military position, has just gotten the U.S. involved in a N.A.T.O. war in Libya and no one’s really sure yet what the goal is (other than, of course, to save the oil). Meanwhile, our economy is forcing people living in this country to rethink what it means to be an American, in terms of both national identity and the long-vaulted opportunities that idea presents. If nothing else, it is a fascinating time to be alive.
I don’t know if we’re on the precipice of forming some global culture, and I firmly believe that however things look when the dust settles, there are certain power structures that simply don’t dissipate, no matter how many shoes you throw or how badly you want them to, but there will be nations made and remade by the work happening now, and since the largely popular view of America is that of a nation in decline, how can we not be interested to see how the next few decades take shape? All that is starting now. Today. Yesterday. It’s already begun.
I’ll say this in favor of 1968, though: It wins for music. 1968 gave the world Led Zeppelin, Rush, Judas Priest, the aforementioned White Album, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland and William Shatner’s spoken word version of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and here I’m lucky if I can get a feature going about the new Panic! At The Disco record. Nothing against them, if that’s your thing, but Shatner they ain’t. I know, I know. Impossible standards.
Shatner, incidentally, is also due to have an album out this year, so that’s another notch in 2011’s favor.
No matter how you look at it, the important thing is to look. Keep your eyes open. None of it means anything if no one is paying attention, and there’s so much to see. I know that in the grand universal scale we’re all insignificant specks of dust shortly to be blown away by a wind we can never hope to conceive let alone control, and I know we’re never as important as we think we are, but damn if life isn’t interesting in the meantime.