“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose …” said nineteenth century French journalist, Jean-Baptiste Karr; and such may be the feeling of many sixty to seventy year-old citizens of western democracies who have watched the disposition of our societies evolve over the past several decades.
As wide-eyed students in the 1960’s; scores in our cohort felt connected to the ascendance of a cosmic new era. In the early years of that decade, “the progressive movement” spoke to young people in the language of personal liberation, human equality and “social justice.” In the USA, Martin Luther King’s non-violent campaign led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. In Canada, a charming young bachelor prime minister promised a “just society” in a united, bilingual, multicultural nation.
In the young ranks of the working and lower middle-classes we felt our stars were rising. In 1969, uniformly turned out in tie-dyed T-shirts and bell-bottom dungarees, we sang along with the 5th Dimension. “Let the sun shine in” we intoned: “Harmony and understanding …sympathy and trust abounding …no more falsehoods or derisions …golden living dreams of visions …mystic crystal revelation …and the minds true liberation.” It was the dawning of the “Age of Aquarius” and the universe was unfolding as it should.
By the late 1970’s, however, a decade-long reality check raised some disturbing questions about the conventional wisdom of our time.