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Give me back "68"

Can the 68 gene arise in new form and form the basis for the development of a sustainable society?

This article is machine translated by Google from Norwegian

Many have realized that it will be difficult to change the course of the world, which – with each passing day – adversely affects biodiversity and the climate.

In 1968, the youth gave themselves voice and insisted on being heard as a community group and representative of the age group between childhood and adulthood. The community their parents and grandparents had built up after many suffering and deprivation during and immediately after World War II rejected a rebellious youth. The future parents had prepared their young for, the youth did not want to be a part of. Most of all, it reminded them of a life in a hamster wheel with only consumption and further economic growth in mind.

Youth rebellion and redemption

In two films, the youth rebellion is illustrated in different ways: the final scene in the film The Graduate (1967) shows an unhappy infatuated Ben breaking into the church during the priest's wedding ceremony of his beloved Elaine. After her inner struggle at church, she eventually breaks out of the claws of the family and they flee together in a local bus. To the great amazement of the passengers, they can be pleased at the back of the bus that a parent and youth revolt succeeded.

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From Andersons IF

In Lindsay Anderson's cult film If (1968) similarly deals with the authorities of a youth who will themselves. It takes place in a revolt against centuries of tradition – united in an alliance between boarding school, military and church – that triggers a violent confrontation with boarding school shootings against the authorities and with the school as a metaphor for the entire community.

What redemptions – by manifesting in rebellion and breaking out – in an insistence and belief in the human right to self-determination and integrity!

"The establishment" which suppresses. In both films, "the establishment" appears as the oppressive framework of the 68 impulse and, in this way, a clear profiling of the substance of the 68 impulse. The impulse changed the culture of society with its forms of interaction, and it came deep into the institutions of society and triggered new initiatives such as social correction and / or criticism. Like a steppe fire, the accumulated dissatisfaction spread. The pain of continuing became too great. Slogans such as "Sois jeune et tais toi" appeared juxtaposed with "Enragez-vouz".

There was a simultaneous worldwide presence in the events referring to 68. In Paris, trade unions and students conducted a major joint demonstration. In Eastern European countries, confrontations with the Soviet Union arose. In the United States, the civil rights movement with the Black Panthers was beginning to change ingrained norms for blacks, among other things, and not least, Vietcong set a big deal against the world's strongest military power, which eventually forced the Americans to withdraw from Vietnam.

New internationalism

When German-French student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit appeared before a judge in a crowded courtroom in Frankfurt in 68 and was asked to present himself, he responded loudly and clearly "Kuron and Modzelewski" with the intention of seeing the relationship between his own trial and the trial of two intellectuals in Poland at the same time were protagonists. At demonstrations, speeches were intended to express international solidarity, often for example "Denmark-Vietnam-same-fight". Thus, with economic globalization came a new internationalism, entitled "Think globally, act locally".

As in 1968, many young people today have no desire for the future expressed in the mainstream.

Today we know how the immediate reaction to the uprising was in 68. In France, for example, President de Gaulle printed elections and got a cannon result which – for a while – blew the youth and students back on the school bench. But not least, the American defeat in Vietnam and the decolonization had raised many new themes in a battle over which knowledge universes and organizations to rule after the world came back to life after World War II.

The system's responsiveness

The "Spirit of 68" was neither hidden nor erased from history's wingspan. It was unleashed and has since been a reminder of how influential a political system can be when crowds are gripped by resistance and a shared enthusiasm. However, the question of power does not remain here, let alone resolved.

Jean-Paul Sartre criticized the young people in Paris for being completely out of plan for the uprising. The circle of the journal Socialisme ou Barbarie (1948) with Cornelius Castoriadis had in the post-war period previously pointed out man's ability to transcend the given social structures and realize something that is not predetermined, the "imaginary". As a former Marxist, while observing developments in the Soviet Union, Castoriadis had departed from the inherent determinism of Marxism with no room for human self-determination.

Years before (1945), in its preamble at the end of the war with "We the Peoples", the UN had emphasized this trust in man and his ability and natural right to self-determination. Where the labor movement gained a central position in the southern European countries, the northern European countries were more oriented towards a humanism with gender, culture, democracy and the environment as companions. In Denmark, Grundtvig had not lived in vain, and with the educational ideals of the folk high school and the cooperative movement, the '68 uprising was translated into the Langeland Manifesto (1969).


climate crisisIn the book Late Capitalism (1972), Belgian Ernest Mandel described how late capitalism would be dominated by the machinery and financial capital flows, including a markedly increased commodification and industrialization on a global basis, even in areas such as education and care. Therein was the explanation for the fastest growing economic growth in history. Neoliberalism and globalization later contributed to further economic growth.

This allowed an ordinary working family to buy real estate, which they could apply for after work. Private cottages and charter flights also became part of life. With villa, sausage, car and TV in daily life, the interest in the community decreased and thus the interest in system thinking and the implementation of economic democracy.

"Development" and climate crisis

With the "development" came problems with air, water, soil, minerals, energy sources, natural areas, plants and animals and so on. In the book SilentSpring (1962), American Rachel Carson had scientifically mapped significant environmental problems from the sharp economic growth, including the consequences of using DDT. In 1969, the environmental organization Noah (which later became a Danish part of Friends of the Earth) was established in Denmark. 1972 was the year when the first UN Environment Conference in Stockholm took place.

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After decades of sustained economic growth, parents and grandparents generally found it difficult to understand that growth – due to growing environmental consequences – could not continue. The children and young people had difficulty understanding the historical and structural background of the systemic crisis the world was in and continue to be in, and therefore also had difficulty imagining where to really go. As in 1968, many young people today do not have the courage for the future expressed in the mainstream. And for those who are young, it must also be difficult to understand that parents and grandparents who have been behind the development that has triggered the systemic crisis do not work day and night to clean up and organize a transition to sustainability.

The 68 gene must arise in new form

Many social movements – all over the world – emerged or resurrected on individual issues after 1968. At the same time, the political parties remained focused on parliament and politicians in their efforts to secure re-election. So changeover and system thinking were not on the political agenda.

Not even when the UN Climate Panel presented their first report in 1988. So now we are in the scissors. In Denmark, on May 12, 2018, more than 300 Danish scientists have signed a climate call: The Danes are among the biggest climate sinners, and our politicians should act radically differently to avert a climate disaster.

The "Spirit of 68" was neither hidden nor eradicated from history's wingspan.

Little by little, grass roots have individually and in groups acted as moles and "Trojan mice" with conducting experiments to make it environmentally responsible to think globally and act locally. If we are to wait for our politicians and their initiatives to counter global warming, then we just will not. Therefore, it is essential that the 68 gene in a new form reappears and is further developed.

Development through community

The experience of 68 has to be translated into the new circumstances. This is not least about the internal transformation – with, for example, decoding consumer patterns, deepening and developing "global action in the local neighborhood". After years of fragmenting communities, the time has come to re-orientate towards local citizenship and resilience. The "Spirit of 68" lives on in the many local initiatives that are working to develop a locally sustainable and resilient community.

Can we develop the whole thinking about local and regional communities that do not burden the globe? With sustainability and security of supply? And then spread the concept to other regions? There is a need for a new type of contractor, eco-contractor, who can contribute to the development of resilient and sustainable communities in local communities.

When the world is not already undergoing a transformation, but is moving towards a major disaster, it is necessary to recall the "spirit of 68".

In communities, diversity must prevail. There must also be space for the artist and the intellectual. In a new universe of knowledge and learning (hand, heart and head) – imagination, sense of responsibility and a sense of truth are needed.

When the world is not already undergoing a transformation, but is moving towards a major disaster, then it is necessary to recall the "spirit of 68". Parents and grandparents should be reunited with children and grandchildren in a life-changing and building community based on resilience and sustainability.

avatar photos
Niels Johan Juhl-Nielsen
Juhl-Nielsen resides in Copenhagen.

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