Youth too lost, scared to rebel say '68 veterans
By Sylvia Westall
Thu Feb 14, 2008 8:35pm EST
BERLIN (Reuters) - Forty years after Dany Cohn-Bendit's flaming
red hair and infectious smile became a symbol of idealized rebellion
across Europe in 1968, today's students face a more fragmented
Cohn-Bendit, now 62 and in the European parliament, says the
difference between students then and now is simple.
"We had a much more positive feeling towards the future.
This makes the social movement different from the ones you see
today. Now there is more anxiety and fear."
The 1968 generation wanted to revolutionize society, battle against
authoritarianism and demolish what they saw as the old social
order. In the United States, demonstrations against the Vietnam
War triggered massive peace marches worldwide.
Forty years on, those involved in the protests of 1968 say modern
activist campaigns lack the force and scope of the movement which
helped give birth to them.
Campaigns today may back a cause, they say, but they do not aspire
to change the world in the way the '68ers sought to. Then young
people, seeing authority embodied by monolithic institutions,
envisaged a radically different social order based -- according
to taste -- on Marxism, anarchism, or free love, with slogans
such as "Be realistic, demand the impossible".
Where protesters in Paris 1968 lifted paving stones to build
barricades and hurl at police, today market economics in its many
forms reigns virtually unchallenged in a globalized world, and
some from the 1968 generation argue that consumerism has dulled
students' rebellious spirit.
Students face much tougher competition for jobs and much greater
pressure to conform: for some, even the tame rebellion of self-expression
through social networking sites on the Internet is a peril, risking
rejection from future employers.