My ebook: Journeys with the caterpillar

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Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores
and Sumba, Indonesia
" is available at
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Saturday, December 29, 2007

40 years after 1968

Everyone was fascinated by 1968. After all the list of events were impressive: Tet Offensive, French and German student riots, Cultural Revolution, Prague Spring, Biafran War, Democratic Convention riots, second wave Feminism, black power protests in the Olympics, assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, and countless student protests in almost all country. But surprisingly, it took less than 40 years for the world to completely forget the essence of the varied movements that sprang up worldwide.

1968 was the year when everything Indian was “cool” in the west. Hindu mystics tapped the vast opportunities available in English speaking markets long before the local software and BPO industry realized similar opportunities. Yoga was becoming an American invention and LSD influenced white middle-class youth found a lot of meaning behind Allen Ginsberg’s loud “Ommmm’s” without context. The Mandala explained all the secrets of the universe and every rock guitarist was forced to learn Sitar.

While Indian godmen migrated west to make it a better and frivolous place, things got a lot more serious in India. Inspired by Srikakulam and Naxalbari uprisings, thousands of middle class students in West Bengal were abandoning college campuses to hit the villages to follow Mao’s and Lin Biao’s principles into action. During these intensely ideological days of 1968, the students abandoned promising careers to mobilize peasants to create a new world, only to be killed by goons of landlords and the police when they restored status quo in the 70s.

Given that the movements of 1968 were largely led by students, often from a privileged or a Jewish background, the vast majority loathed them. As a result, police repression was often sufficient to wipe out these movements within a short period. But 1968 led to more subtle changes. Western militaries learned how to manipulate media and also how to recruit soldiers without problems. For the last time, Marx, Mao and Marcuse became pop idols with Che’s picture becoming more common than traffic lights. And English abuses, of the four letter kind now so synonymous with Hollywood, first got widespread familiarity outside the US and the UK. And 1968 led to the grooming of several politicians of today such as Joshcka Fischer, Cohn Bendit, Tom Hayden, etc.

The best moments of 1968? Probably the time when Mario Savio, while protesting at Berkeley, took off his shoes before standing on top of a police van to avoid scratching it, or when Cohn Bendit gave a big smile to the police accosting him (see picture) or when Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin nominated a pig for President during the Democratic Convention protests. It is widely reported that the pig called “Pigasus the immortal” was later arrested by the Chicago police!!!


Aditi Subbiah said...

you were my first ever comment who wasnt a friend. thanks for visiting, ive spent sometime on your blog and love it - im quite new to this stuff.
u run on the ecp? so do i - if u see a girl with a silly ponytail - thats probably me!

Jugular Bean said...

This is quite a well crafted piece. And what happened to all those lovely idealists 40 years later?

Shivaji said...

@ Jugular
As i mentioned, many like Joshcka Fischer, Cohn Bendit, Tom Hayden became politicians... Bill Clinton is probably the most famous... Some like Abbie Hoffman, Lennon and Ginsberg have died... Many have become tour guides in California in places like Isalen... Some like Kanu Sanyal in India are still fighting for worker rights in tea gardens...Rest have joined businesses and forgot the past