Friday, July 24, 2009

Ivory Gull: Recollections of Radical 1960s, 60s & 70s in Switzerland?, Viva Harbin

Friends of a (French) Swiss friend of mine visited the San Francisco Bay Area recently. Here's a letter in reply to a documentary about the 1960s which my friend just saw (below) in Switzerland.


Sev and Steph { - there's a picture of Steph and myself here - Publié à 06:06, le 23/7/2009, San Francisco -} jokingly made a few more video clips, with some quotes from MacBeth {Marc and I enacted MacBeth's Act 5, Scene 5, in 1999, which you can see at the bottom of this web page:}, which you'll probably see. When you visit the states again, perhaps we can do it, and another act from Shakespeare, again. :)

About the 60s

From my age 8-12 years old vantage point on the late 60s, and early 70s, from the east coast (New Haven, CT, and Washington DC - I remember newscasts on TV of the landing on the moon, of Robert Kennedy's assassination, much about the Vietnam War, and the President Nixon Watergate wiretapping, impeachment trials [that president was impeached, of course], the Pentagon Papers, - much reported by Walter Cronkite, who just died, as a key news presence), and as a teenager in the 70s, from Pittsburgh and Cuttyhunk Island, I see that time differently than your documentary. I'm curious about a possible parallel European experience to my own.

(I also lived in Geneva, Switzerland with my younger brother and parents from Oct. 1, 1972 - March 31, 1973, I think - 15 Avenue de Mirmont, and my brother and I went to the Ecole Internationale. I don't recall seeing anything of counterculture on the street in Geneva then. Switzerland can be very orderly, but I think it saw some of the 1960s and 70s, as well - where? Perhaps I can talk with your father about this, Marc.

Before and after living in Geneva, Switzerland, my family and I were living in Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington D.C. area, on West Park Hill Drive near Rock Creek Park, the Naval Hospital at NIH, and a girls' school. My brother and I attended Green Acres School, an open classroom school in Rockville, MD, which began in the 1930s emerging from John Dewey's writings on education, as well as progressive thinking. My teachers, Betsy ...., and Mitch Berliner, both probably in the late 20s at the time, were both pretty affected by the freedom of those times, and were hippie-ish. Although there were massive protest marches in Washington DC during these years, I was young and didn't go to many. We moved to Pittsburgh in 1974, and I remember going to Peace Marches in Washington D.C. in 1975 and 1976, departing from in front of the Pittsburgh Quaker Meeting House, which I occasionally attended.

Prior to attending Green Acres School in the DC area, I attended Ridge Hill Elementary School (which might have been 'Middle School' then) around 1970-72 for 5th and 6th grade, I think, in Hamden, Connecticut. It was also an open classroom school, and its main building was built around this concept - architecture reflecting the ideas in the air in the early 1970s. Is it still an open classroom experimental school? I was in the Apollo section, I think ...).

The 60s emerged out of the civil rights movement and in response to the Vietnam war, in a time of U.S. prosperity, mostly given original form by white, middle class youth who had time on their hands to think and protest these societal wrongs, and from strands in American society (Beatniks, folk movement, radicals, long hairs, hobos etc.) which predate the 60s by at least many decades. The youth movement, hippies, the 60s, and the societal re-envisionings were very widespread, starting all kinds of new institutions and organizations (which I examine in this blog).

Creative individualism and radical revolution (political, social, sexual, spiritual, environmental, natural foods, musical, psychedelic, back to the land, communitarianism, peace movement ... ) were also very much in people's minds. And while students and hippies were the most visible aspects, almost all aspects of society including the Pentagon, for example, were changed (mortality from war for Americans has dropped dramatically since Vietnam). Change was 'in the air,' counterculturally, and anti-establishment radicalism (against authority, government, and everything), in the name of pretty far-reaching utopian visions, and ideas for a better society, in part, (and with a lot of music, partying and drugs - 'sex, drugs and rock and roll') were widespread. There were major protests in every western capital (not just U.S.) against governmental and societal wrongdoings. It was a VERY wild time (not very Swiss, perhaps, although I'm curious to study this time in Switzerland).

It just kind of dissipated - probably, loosely, because many people grew up and had to make a living. But, also, new movements developed including environmentalism, the women's movement, Gay liberation, and the peace movement. But it's also still around in many, many ways. It's a fascinating time and reference experience (a socio cultural milieu) which was profoundly transformative of American society and people at the time. And its ripples come through time, - which interest me a lot.

Very nice to meet Sev and Steph, and travel a little together.

Happy sailing and L'Alliaz! Off to Harbin very soon :)



From Marc:

Scott the Brave!

It was so great seeing the MacBeth video again! Definitely, let's revisit it again (or another shakespearean play) on our hopefully not too distant next encounter!

I saw an interesting show on the hippie movement tonight, what a great, much awaited revolution it was, a good kick in the comfort of bourgeoisie, with lots of fun and love! As it settled into the "new norm", it was hit by the hard drugs and AIDS and was discredited, and (almost) everyone returned to the rat can one brake the pattern again, and have fun and experience loving bliss! I do understand, support, and endorse your search...

Viva harbin! i'm off sailing for a week and then in l'alliaz, talk to you soon!
And yes, sev is jolie...thanks again!

Big hug, my brave!


Pagophila eburnea (Phipps, 1774)

Ivory Gull

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