We seem to have entered another age of protest. For those of us in university during the late ’60s and early ’70s how could we forget protesting everything under the sun. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to spend because I worked my way through university but with protests being a daily event participation was easy. Yes, we had great success bringing attention to very serious issues like Vietnam, civil rights, and gender equality, but in the mix there was a barrage of foolish political rhetoric that ultimately overpowered all else. And, by the way, what did we accomplish by invading and trashing Peace Arch Park?
Then we graduated, got cleaned up, went to work, retired, and now we’re back at it. We’re protesting everything under the sun again. That’s embarrassing. Forty years ago we listened to Neil Young’s protest songs and, wouldn’t you know it, we still do. In the old days we railed against “The Military Industrial Complex” , we screamed corruption every time we didn’t see the political decision we wanted, we just knew industry and government were colluding on every issue, we knew that the police were nothing but the fascist arm of big business, the judges were puppets of big business, and we knew that organized religions were simply tools to pacify the masses. Oh, did I mention that we also wanted to overthrow the government?
Now 40 years later what have we learned that the young protester wouldn’t know? Was big brother really watching us? Was there really a conspiracy by big business and government to enslave us all, to destroy organized labor, to sell our country lock stock and barrel to the US? Were profits really put ahead of cancer research, hospitals for children, work safe, education, public transit, caring for our elderly? Despite the dire warnings screamed out by our young voices the second ice age didn’t happen, we didn ‘t run out of fossil fuels by the year 2000, and the world did not come to a fiery end by way of nuclear holocaust. Instead of the Orwellian police state that we were convinced was inevitable, we have seen with our own eyes a Canadian society that has flourished for 40 years.
Four decades ago we blamed our parents and grand parents for creating the culture that we viewed as an utter failure. In our eyes we inherited this dysfunctional society that so badly needed to be fixed and we took it upon ourselves to fix it. If the young protester today has the same view, don’t forget that they inherited their dysfunctional society from us.
Today, I have a soft spot in my heart for the young activist full of energy and sincerely wanting to make the world a better place. On specific issues I think they ‘re right, but even if not, they certainly have a perfect right to be just as wrong as we were. Right or wrong, though, they have my best wishes. But as for the old and grey Neil Young fans, didn”t the last 40 years teach us anything? Yes, protest all you want, focus on the issues, but stop spewing those tired old corporate greed/dooms day clichés from the ’60s. This is a new age. Let the young people have their day and let their voices be heard.