Generational change is an iron law of history, yet generational evolution demands each generation carve out its own way. So 2008 will not be 1968. The 126 million Millennials and Xers -- the vast majority still under the death age of 30 -- will not build a hippie counterculture ... the rocked world of HST ... cultivate Beat sensibility. Yet, they now know the grownups have really screwed things up. The war in Iraq! The economy here at home! The environment! Their future! Knowing this is fodder for building something new. A generational shift is in the air. something is a-changin'.
We don't know what this post-Boomer change in the making will end up looking like, but we do know that when political credibility is undermined, the forces are hard to contain. In our interconnected world, when one wall blows, then more collapse. Social and political turbulence creates a strong wake. In 1968, it wasn't only America that exploded, also France, Germany, Mexico, many countries exploded. Youth all over the planet were screaming, "We're not taking this crap anymore." Although 2008 will not be 1968, the same domino theory of rebellion does appear to be spreading. The same anger seems to be brewing. The same "we're not taking this crap anymore" seems to be growing.
The Olympic Torch is on a haughty march around the globe before ending this summer in Beijing. But this is not the usual media tour for the Olympia sports extravaganza. When the torch left its home in Greece, it marched straight into hostile action. Then in London there were even larger demonstrations. This was followed in Paris by larger demonstrations and more violence. Never, has the torch tour been such a disaster for the hosting country. Now the torch has arrived in San Francisco and is being guarded by a posse of Chinese Special Police. They like blue jump suits and dark sunglasses and angry smiles. But daylight will bring another anger, so the media is reporting. When the torch and its Chinese guards march along the San Francisco Bay tomorrow afternoon, there will be screaming and demonstrating against what has now become a symbol of Tibetan genocide: the Olympic torch. In the front row of the demonstration will be Gen Xers and Millenniums. The young always are.
I hear in San Francisco young people are asking some very profound questions. Is there a place in this world for a peaceful, spiritual people? Can nations exist in harmony and freedom without being stomped by ar brutal, vicious neighbor? Can Americans allow the Chinese bully to continue raping and murdering Tibet? Yes, the music of change is getting louder. With Boomers in semi-retirement from political activism, another generation needs to walk in the spot light. Will Xers and Millenniums take their brewing-below-the-surface anger and let it rip on the Chinese government and American corporate globalists? Or do Xers have to work tomorrow? Will the music suddenly stop?
When I lived in China in the early 1990s, I never found a single Chinese, not one, who believed their country's brutal policy toward peace-loving Tibet was wrong. Today, evidently, Chinese remain the same. Blogger Jane Stillwater is in China right now, and she wrote: "Every Chinese I meet see China as the victim in Tibet."
When the West began turning its back on Tibet about a decade ago, the Chinese became convinced that the expansion of their empire into that poor, isolated peaceful country had become their right. The West's deepening silence was interpreted as yet another sign that China was quickly rising while America and Europe were falling fast. Beijing arrogantly insisted Tibet would be a cakewalk. Yet, sometimes cakewalks are not made of cake. Sometimes a torch is more than a torch. Sometimes young people accept the torch of generational political responsibility.
I hear the music again, a unique wail from a gravelly throat saying the times are a-changin'. Yes that's an old song, like "Free Tibet" is an old slogan, like Boomers are becoming an old generation. Yet, sometimes the old becomes the new as a new generation steps up to the front lines for tomorrow's battles. Like tomorrow, at the battle for Tibet on the streets of San Francisco. We'll see.
Stewart Nusbaumer can be reached at: SNusbaumer@gmail.com
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