Uncommon sense from Britian
...as a perfect reflection of the European-establishment mentality-or, more specifically, of the neurotically conflicted attitude toward America that's standard issue for the so-called "'68-ers". It's the '68-er-Europe's version of the sixties generation-whose formative experiences shaped the politically correct politics of today's European establishment, and who still make up the heart of that establishment.quoted from While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam is Destroying the West from Within by Bruce Bawer (pages 97-98 of the paperback version), a book i highly recommend if you are at all curious as to why Americans and Europeans seem to be so diametrically opposed on many many issues.
Like their American counterparts, Europe's '68-ers were mostly middle-class university kids, children of postwar prosperity who came of as protesting the Vietnam War and decorated their bedrooms with posters of Bobb Dylan and Jim Morrison (and, in some cases, Mao and Ho Chi Minh). The transatlantic similarities are many. But there are important distinctions. For one thing, the Europeans had another key formative event in addition to Vietnam: the May 1968 general strike by French students and workers, which paralyzed France and nearly brought down the government of Charles de Gaulle. This experience not only gave students an exaggerated lifelong sense of their own power and importance; it also established a postwar French custom of resorting to crippling, pointless strikes at the drop of a chapeau in response to just about anything.
The major differences between the American and European '68-ers emerged in the post-Vietnam years. Young Americans who'd raged against the evils of the American establishment grew up to become members of that establishment. In all but a relative handful of extreme cases, the pure, abstract oppositional ideology of their youth could not survive confrontation with the complex reality of America that was all around them and with the simple fact that America was their nation, their home, and - now- their responsibility. Indeed, for Americans in positions of power, the world world was their responsibility.
that was not the case with Europe's elite 68-ers. As they grew older, their awareness of their own provincality intensified, and with it their resentment and envy of the immense country on the far side of the ocean. America was the cultural hub; America was where it was happening. Americans of the Sixties generation had international responsibilities and an international audience. By contrast, as the European '68-ers progressed in their careers- as politicians, writers, journalists, teachers, professors, government bureaucrats- they became more acutely aware of the relative unimportance of what they themselves said and did and wrote, and could only look on from the sidelines, sniping and sneering at a country whose people they were, essentially, invisible. This marginality and irrelevance had its impact on their views and their rhetoric: aware that their critiques had no effect, they continued into their adulthood to assume a posture toward America that was every bit as extreme and cartoonish as that of their youth.
why did i go through the trouble to type the previous paragraphs? because today i read an editorial by a Brit that claims 1968 was probably one of the worst years in British history, and his assessment mirrors Bawer's. Read the editorial here