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9 October 2012
……WE THOUGHT THEY’D NEVER END”
Lyrics from Mary Hopkin’s 1968 single
The following is a trio of extracts from “Loose Change: Three Women of the Sixties” by Sara Davidson (b. 1943), which was published to acclaim in 1977. It charts the real-life experiences of three friends who met up at the Berkeley campus of the University of California – Sara (the author), Tasha and Susie –as they witnessed and took part in the social and political upheavals of the period from 1963 to 1973. It was a decade during which the Youth of America protested against the Vietnam War, then in full swing, and wore flowers in their hair (as Scott McKenzie noted). Those who summed up the zeitgeist included Simon and Garfunkel (“Bridge over Troubled Water”), Albert Hammond (“The Free Electric Band”) and Don McLean (“American Pie”). This was the decade of communes, marijuana, the sexual revolution and the seminal Woodstock Festival of Peace and Music, which took place in 1969 before an audience of half a million.
I The first extract from “Loose Change” encapsulates the exuberant hopes of youth. “We Shall Overcome,” sang Joan Baez in 1963. The next year, in “The Times They Are a-Changin’ ”, Bob Dylan warned the nation’s old’uns: “Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command.”
“In that time, that decade which belonged to the young, we had thought life was free and would never run out. There were good people and bad people and we could tell them apart by a look or by words spoken in code. We were certain we belonged to a generation that was special. We did not need or care about history because we had sprung from nowhere. We said what we thought and demanded what was right and there was no opposition. Tear gas and bullets, but no authentic moral opposition because what could that be? ‘When you’re older you’ll see things differently’ ? We had glimpsed a new world where nothing would be the same and we had packed our bags.”
II. In second extract, from the last chapter of the book, these hopes have been dashed. “The Carnival is over,” sang the Seekers.
“We had predicted that the center could not hold but it had, and now we were in pieces. ‘Loose change,’ I told a friend….I felt I had blown it, my generation had blown it, the sixties had blown it, and we would never again see the heights.”
III. The third extract (written in July 1976 at Venice, California) follows immediately on from the second and testifies to a resurgence of hope, albeit this time on a largely personal plane, the political element being considerably weakened.
“And then, one day this summer, I heard myself reciting that line and became aware that I don’t feel that way any more. Not at all….I suppose I could give reasons why I no longer feel despairing or disillusioned. I could talk about the concrete, lasting effects of the decade: the end of the draft; the profound revolution in sexual relationships; the granting of the right to vote to eighteen-year-olds and the right to abortion to women. And so on. But reasons are not what it’s about….What I know is that the world seems interesting this summer….Last week, I learned how to juggle, bought a backpacking tent, read a new novel, wrote twenty pages in my journal and had intense encounters with old and new friends. I could feel a stirring in the air, a quickening impulse, and I thought about moving out again, and on.”
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.