December 5, 2012

Another theory of the Sixties: Vatican II

One frustration of historical analysis is that one's confident proclamation that "Y inevitably caused Z" often leads to rejoinders that "X just as inevitably caused Y, so, really, X caused Z. And, while we're at it, what about W?"

Therefore, it's attractive to look for non-inevitable events as causes. A reader writes:
I enjoyed your post on Takimag today, as I have appreciated so much of your writing online over the years. What prompts me to write just now is that I too have pondered “the Sixties” for quite some time. I do not have an answer to the mystery of why the 1960s happened as they did, but one thing I do know is that the mystery is larger than your column indicates. 
As you know, in France “the Sixties” are “’68,” and their “‘68ers” are our “Boomers,” more or less. Since so much of what we associate with “the Sixties” in the U.S. really refers to the period of 1968-74, I more often contemplate the question of why “1968” happened. And the big problem, or mystery, is that 1968 happened most everywhere. There was a ’68 in France, in Germany, in the U.S., in Mexico City, in Japan, and even---one could say---in Prague. There were smaller eruptions in England, in Canada, in Italy, etc. In each of these countries, the political narrative focuses on pretty much local concerns: In the U.S., it is a matter of racial justice and the Vietnam War. In Germany, it is a matter of the sons coming to realize the sins of the fathers during WWII. In France, it is a combination of Algerian decolonization and sexual freedom for students. And so on. The problem is that there are so many discreetly local “causes,” and yet there is a single, global “effect”---revolution by the young. For there to be so global an effect, there must be a global cause, I should think. What can it be? It cannot be racial justice, surely, for that had next to nothing to do with France or Germany, or hardly anywhere else than the U.S. 
For some in Europe, the global narrative concerns a generational coming to terms with the sins of the fathers during WWII. That makes some sense ---after all, the World War was a global experience, and no one on the continent was spared a great deal of sordidness in 1939-45. But in the U.S., WWII remains the Good War, so it cannot possibly be the case that 1968 represents our coming-to-terms with the sins of the fathers. Some American writers suggest that it is oral contraceptives, a technological development, that did it. But could that really explain Mexico City? And how could that revolution in the intimate sphere be related to the quite political nature of the agitation we associate with 1968/the Sixties anyway? 
The only original speculation I could offer is that it might have had something to do with Vatican II. The thought would be that, ever since 1789, the West, broadly, had sought a happy medium between the poles of Revolution and Reaction, and the Catholic Church represented the latter pole. In Vatican II, the Church seemed suddenly to leave the field, or indeed, seemed to throw itself on to the other pole. This created a disorientation of the entire political spectrum---for where is the golden mean between the French Revolution and a no-less Revolutionary Church? I am drawn to this sort of speculation because it is a cause no less extensive than its effect---though of course Japan represents the hard case even there. 
In any event, it remains a great mystery---much more mysterious than 1848, for example. I’m glad to find someone else who finds it all equally puzzling, rather than something to be taken for granted.

This has the advantage of putting the Sixties into a long historical-ideological framework that would have made sense to Voltaire, Napoleon, Zola, and many others. The recent triumph of the English language as the global lingua franca has helped Americans forget how central France, with its triangle of Revolution-State-Church, was to how educated people all over the world thought. But you can still see some of the power of this way of thinking in the seemingly bizarre global popularity of Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which, in its lowbrow way, tapped into the power of centuries of anti-Vatican cultural energy.

Political trends in Western Europe in the 1950s were not bad for the Church. Christian Democrats were doing well in many countries, and the strong new De Gaulle government in France represented about as much as the Church could reasonably hope for out of that crucial country.

In January 1959, Pope John XXIII called for a Second Vatican Council. This was a pretty evitable decision. Wikipedia says:
This sudden announcement, which caught the Curia by surprise, caused little initial official comment from Church insiders. Reaction to the announcement was widespread and largely positive from both religious and secular leaders outside the Catholic Church,[7] and the council was formally summoned by the apostolic constitutionHumanae Salutis on 25 December 1961.[8][9] In various discussions before the Council actually convened, Pope John often said that it was time to open the windows of the Church to let in some fresh air.[10]

Between early 1959 and when Vatican II opened in 1962, there were important events in rich and fast-growing North America. In Quebec, French secularists took power in July 1960 away from French clericalists. That same year, John F. Kennedy's declaration to Protestant ministers that the Vatican would have no control over him, followed by his subsequent election, was a huge event, but whether JFK's election marked an opportunity or a setback for the Church was unclear.

So, the notion that Vatican II may have played the role of an "unforced error" (as they say in tennis) might make sense. 

83 comments:

Simon in London said...

I thought it was just that the cultural Marxist conspiracy to destroy the West (& non-Communist civilisation in general) went into effect in 1968?

el supremo said...

Your reader raises an interesting point on the need to explain a global event with global/local causes.

The problem is that Vatican II isn't really a global event either - note the impact of the 60's on purely protestant regions - the German 68 generation was not centered in Catholic Bavaria, but spread across the protestant North Germany, nor did it somehow upset a Catholic-Protestant tension. Ditto for the impact of the 60's on Sweden, where Catholic theology is of absolutely no importance.

I think a more powerful explanation is to say that the global phenomenon of 60's instability provided an inspiration for different groups to make a challenge on the established order, even if that challenge was only anarchic and pointless (the race riots in America for example)

Tony Judt's "Postwar" covers the European '68 generation quite well, and with a critical eye one doesn't usually see in conventional academics.

Brazilian said...

The Jewish Daily Forward have a good article about Vatican II:

http://forward.com/articles/159955/converts-who-changed-the-church/?p=all

Anonymous said...

Earlier revolts were about too little freedom and too much bad times.
Sixties revolt was about too much freedom and too much good times.

Anonymous said...

Generation of Marx and Coca-Cola.

Anonymous said...

Vatican 2 had an impact on Catholics in the states, in the old days the atheist MS O'Hair stated that those in the Northeast were more opposed to her ideas than people in Texas or California. Now for some who think of the white evangelical megachurches of Texas today that would appear strange and these days the Northeast is the least religous then it was the farwest. Today Oregon and Washington and Alaska are still apart of the non-religous but California is no longer in the bottom 10. Also, the Jesus movement of the late 1960's and 1970's give a booast to evangelicals in the south and other places by creating the megchurch and spend off churches. Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa was a big part of the Jesus movement. So Roman Catholics become less conservative on the social issues while protestants outside of the mainline churches become more.

Anonymous said...

The 60s were caused by the end of the 1950s anticommunist "witch hunts"--actually completely legitimate investigations into the subversive activities of the Communists and their allies, disproportionately Jews.

Most Jews were not Communists but their attitudes overlapped with the Communists on so many issues it didn't matter. They had to go underground for a while and wait for the storm to blow over. By the mid 60s with a liberal democrat in office it was safe to continue the destruction of Western culture under the banner of the New Left.

Why did the United States succeed in Korea but fail in Vietnam? It's because in 1950-53 it was considered treasonous to sympathize at all with the Communists. That war could have dragged on just as long as Vietnam, both were stalemated after all. The difference was that in Vietnam the enemy had every incentive to hold out until the American homefront collapsed while in Korea the only domestic opposition wanted the war to be expanded and virtually nobody advocated unilateral withdrawal.

Anonymous said...

Jesus Movement against free drugs and sex but communial living and rock music. Also, the strangest group the Children of God came from this period. Later on they were responsible for thinking its cool to have childhood sex.

Whiskey said...

There were revolutions all over Europe, in 1848, in places like Germany, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and even attempted ones in Russia.

They were related, and were broadly speaking the attempt of the liberal middle class to create some kind of representative government against the monarchical and aristocratic regimes.

Your reader kind of misses the point, Steyn is correct, the arrow of history does not point only one way.

The Sixties can be understood as a "the revolt of the new Aristocracy," where all across the Western World (and Mexico), the new young privileged aristocrats sought to crush the "Band of Brothers" roughly flat egalitarian WWII generation. In order to usher in hereditary, "Red Prince" rule.

That's basically it. Once you understand that, the sixties as a conflict between the new privileged semi-hereditary elite, and the more ordinary middle classes for power and governance, you can see things more clearly. The elitism of the 1960's shines through. As does the desire to exterminate the White Middle Class.

Anonymous said...

Was US the epicenter of the 'sixties'? If it hadn't happened over here, would it have happened over there? Or was US following trends across the seas?

Anonymous said...

"Why did the United States succeed in Korea but fail in Vietnam? It's because in 1950-53 it was considered treasonous to sympathize at all with the Communists."

US hardly succeeded in Korea. It was a stalemate. Besides, it was a conventional war between North and South. And it was brought to an end in three yrs.
Vietnam War was tough because enemies hid in the jungles in the South. It was hard to tell who was the enemy and who wasn't. Had the war ended in three years, it might not have been so divisive.
If Vietnam had been surrounded by seas like the Korean peninsula and had no jungles, US might have pulled it off. But there were jungles everywhere and North Vietnamese sent troops and supplies through Laos and Cambodia. It was a very difficult situation.

Anonymous said...

The 60s were caused by the end of the 1950s anticommunist "witch hunts"--actually completely legitimate investigations into the subversive activities of the Communists and their allies, disproportionately Jews.

Most Jews were not Communists but their attitudes overlapped with the Communists on so many issues it didn't matter. They had to go underground for a while and wait for the storm to blow over. By the mid 60s with a liberal democrat in office it was safe to continue the destruction of Western culture under the banner of the New Left.


From what you write, we should conclude that the investigations into anti-American activities in the 1950s delayed the developments associated with "the 60s" by a decade--into the 1960s.

a very knowing American said...

An interesting book if you run into it and have some time to kill is "See No Evil: Life Inside a Hollywood Censor," by Jack Vizzard. The author started out training to be a Jesuit but wound up working on the Hollywood film censorship board back in the fifties and sixties. You get a strong sense of just how powerful the Church was around the mid-century (and Irish Catholics especially): no longer viewed as alien and subversive (as in earlier American history) but with a strong sense of mission. The whole regime of film censorship just fizzled out in the early sixties at the same time as Vatican II and the Kennedy assassination, which left Catholics more accepted, but less cohesive. Movies (and pop culture generally) were a lot less subversive when the Legion of Decency was strong than either before (the Jazz Age) or after.

socks said...

Early stages of the demographics transition produced young populations that were very disruptive to societies and led to a variety of bad ideas. Maybe all of this was just a later stage in the demographic transition of these countries. The population had continued to explode, but the oldest, stabilizing generation was still relatively small.

Anonymous said...

Were the Sixties more about student revolt or youth revolt?
In earlier generations, relatively few people went to college.
Most young men found jobs soon after highschool--or joined the army--and most women got married young. They were too busy with life to protesting.
But with rise in college enrollments, men and women could enter into a kind of extended youth and could pursue arts, sex, and idealism. Youth became something more than a phase. It became a 'consciousness'. And even for dropouts, allowances from their parents--or dealing in drugs--extended a life of no responsibility.

And since the social and political order was still relatively uptight in the 60s--with reins of power held by the old guard--, the students had something to bitch about. But once the institutions became liberalized in the following years, student culture was more about partying than protesting. Why protest when college environment is open to radical ideas and expressions, sex, alcohol and drugs?

Prior to the sixties, the general power structure was about old guys with most power and adult men waiting their turn.
So, the dynamic was between grandparents and parents.

But in the sixties, the power conflict became one between grandparents and grandchildren(in college). The best educated and most idealistic generation thought it knew best. It didn't want to wait its turn to gain power like their parents were doing. They wanted to overthrow the grandparents right away and gain control.
Maybe this was the danger of Kennedy's assassination. Young people saw him as a parental figure an sort of identified with him. But when LBJ took over, it was as if evil grandpa was at the helm. As for Nixon, he was born old. And Europe in the 60s was mostly run by very old men.

josh said...

The New Deal was caused by the New Dealers defeating their political enemies in the early 1930s. The 60s was caused by the defeat of the anti-communists in the early 1960s. Both movements had global impact because both sets of elites were global (th elatter group more so because they had won WWII and rebuilt the destroyed countries selecting the new elites in the process).

This would explain the importance of the JFK assassination. LBJ was a genuinely evil man who put in place some genuinely evil programs run by genuinely evil people like McGeorge Bundy. JFK according to some insiders was at least a bit resistant to our CIA/Banker/Foundation overlords. They probably did kill him, you know.

Anonymous said...

Korea vs Vietnam.

The US, while it had some allied forces in Vietnam had serious contributions in Korea on the ground and air: Brits + Commonwealth, Turkey etc. Also Brits + Commonwealth were a significant part of the naval operations the The US was not fighting alone to the same degree as in VN, that probably helped shore things up too.

Anonymous said...

"US hardly succeeded in Korea. It was a stalemate. Besides, it was a conventional war between North and South. And it was brought to an end in three yrs.
Vietnam War was tough because enemies hid in the jungles in the South. It was hard to tell who was the enemy and who wasn't. Had the war ended in three years, it might not have been so divisive.
If Vietnam had been surrounded by seas like the Korean peninsula and had no jungles, US might have pulled it off. But there were jungles everywhere and North Vietnamese sent troops and supplies through Laos and Cambodia. It was a very difficult situation."

I used to believe this, but not anymore. Vietnam ended as a conventional war, after all.

The essential dynamic was the same, even if there was a guerrila aspect. The enemy would only give up if they thought they couldn't simply "outlast" the United States.

I figure that if there had been no undermining of the war effort Vietnam could have been wrapped up by late 1966. The only reason the North Vietnamese continued beyond that was the accurate conviction that there was no staying power in the U.S. By comparison, U.S. staying power in Korea was quite strong, nobody was demanding a unilateral withdrawal like in Vietnam even though we were fighting the Chinese as well.

Anonymous said...

I think that the coincidence of two phenomena - one demographic, the other socio-political goes a long way towards explaining the 1960s. First, starting in the early 1960s and culminating in the late 1960s and early 1970s the children of the post-War baby boom (which was really a demographic phenomenon that played out amongst almost all the belligerents in WW II) began entering early young adulthood and a large fraction of these started attending college. Most countries at this time had greatly enlarged the size of their higher educational system (think red brick universities in England, National Defense Education Act in the USA, loosened admissions criteria in France, etc.). As a result very large numbers of post-adolescents were crammed together in institutional settings where traditional methods of aculturation and social control broke down under the stress. These young people were essentially free to act out their adolescent impulses with a certain amount of impunity. There was a great shift in faculty at this time too. An enormous increase in faculty openings and a glut of young people with Ph.D.s meant that the faculty, rather than controlling students, wound up assisting them in their "cultural revolts". Many college students brought their rebellious attitudes and behaviors back home with them, infecting their younger sdiblings, fellow HS students who'd gone to work or into the armed forces, and even, occassionally, their parents.

I entered Brandeis University as a freshman in 1965 and saw all this play out. My friends and I in college encouraged one another's alienation. We passed this on to our siblings and friends back home. (I know I did.) The faculty at Brandeis contained a quite large number of recently minted Ph.D.s. These tended to be the more radical faculty although not always. Many of them conspired with student activists and abetted if they did not instigate many of the demonstrations and acts of lawlessness I saw during my undergraduate years.

The results are still playing out. I wouldn't be surprised if, when the last of me generation and the one or two after it pass from this vale of tears that we've helped create, there is a reaction and a return to more civilized behavior.

Bill said...

I more often contemplate the question of why “1968” happened...

Since we've been reading about environmental causes, maybe it was the pill.

On December 28, 1967, the Neuwirth Law legalized contraception in France, including the pill.

Victor said...

I think the 60s happened when large numbers of young people went to college in the postwar era, becoming marinated in leftwing swill. College attendance rose rapidly after World War 2. Add to that all the young baby boomers coming of age, and is it any wonder the youngins moved hard left?

Anonymous said...

How about the trauma of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the panic and fear it engendered of an imminent nuclear holocaust? After its conclusion, everyone "stopped worrying and learned to love the bomb. As a youngster, I remember the fear vividly.

SFG said...

Vatican II? Spoken like a true Frenchman. ;) America is Protestant.

I'm inclined to think it's technological...how else would it have happened in so many countries at similar times?

Steve Sailer said...

"The faculty at Brandeis [in 1965] contained a quite large number of recently minted Ph.D.s. These tended to be the more radical faculty"

Generationally, the best gig of all time was to be born right before the Baby Boom, so there wasn't much competition from guys your age or a little older, but there were all these younger people (half of them girls, if I might add) who were looking for leadership, for somebody to tell them to do what they felt like doing.

Anonymous said...

There was a great shift in faculty at this time too. An enormous increase in faculty openings and a glut of young people with Ph.D.s meant that the faculty, rather than controlling students, wound up assisting them in their "cultural revolts". Many college students brought their rebellious attitudes and behaviors back home with them, infecting their younger siblings, fellow HS students who'd gone to work or into the armed forces, and even, occassionally, their parents.

Check out speech patterns too, Traditionally, the professors spoke the Queen's English, carefully enunciated and self-censored. It was the plumbers that talked like sailors. But in the 50s and 60s, it was upwardly mobile tradesman who clipped their speech, and the professors spewed stream of consciousness profanity.

Michael Anton said...

In the category of "unforced errors" my theory has long been that "the Sixties" began Oct 1, 1964 when the UC police arrested Jack Goldberg for violating the prohibition against political activity on campus. "Tabling" on Sproul then as now a sacrosanct thing, you set up a car table and handed out leaflets for your cause, some of them worthy, most stupid, but it was basically harmless and certainly protected by the 1st Amendment if you ask me.

Anyway, he was arrested, a spotaneous crowd gathered, a leader arose whose name was Mario Savio, and for 30 some hours, the police were unable to get Goldberg out of there until Savio told everyone to go home peacefully, which they did.

Voila, you have the whole free speech movement and the culture of left-protest of which Berkeley is the ancestral homeland but which now is absolutely everywhere.

The university administration really had no business interfering with tabling and they created a massive backlash that we still live with.

Anonymous said...

"Were the Sixties more about student revolt or youth revolt?
In earlier generations, relatively few people went to college.
Most young men found jobs soon after highschool--or joined the army--and most women got married young. They were too busy with life to protesting."

Winner, winner chicken dinner!

Anonymous said...

"The essential dynamic was the same, even if there was a guerrila aspect. The enemy would only give up if they thought they couldn't simply 'outlast' the United States."

They knew they could outlast the US because they had a conduit to the South through Laos and Cambodia. Also, Ho Chi Minh was a legendary figure for many in the South too, and there was a sizable resistance movement in the South as well.

Most South Koreans saw US as liberators who defeated the Japanese whereas Vietnamese history was defined by a long resistance against the French, and the man who finally defeated the French was Ho Chi Minh. So, when Americans carved out South Vietnam, many even in the South saw Americans as the new imperialists.

Public opinion did matter in the Vietnam War, but the main reason the North fought on was because it knew it could go on harassing the enemy forever.
Of course, if US had bombed North Vietnam back to the stone age--and at times it came close--, it would have won, but that was no moral way to win hearts and minds in the Cold War.

USSR had a tight control on its media but it lost in Afghan and why? Rugged terrain and ceaseless guerrilla warfare. They had enough after a decade. The nation that defeated Nazi Germany decided to call it quits in Afghanistan... and we are about to do the same too.

spandrell said...

Haven't they discovered the real cause in the Soviet archives yet? Some Russian must be laughing his ass off at how clueless we are still after so long.

RKU said...

Well, don't forget the Chinese Cultural Revolution of that same period, which probably impacted more people than all the examples of Western youth unrest combined, and was also more extreme and fanatic. I really doubt that the Chinese were prompted by Vatican II.

I think the most plausible explanation is the simplest---the approximate coming-of-age of the huge post-WWII Baby Boom in all those different countries.

James Kabala said...

"but whether JFK's election marked an opportunity or a setback for the Church was unclear."

That's mostly in hindsight, though - nowadays we can see the roots of Catholic support for abortion, gay marriage, etc. in JFK's speech, but at the time almost no one interpreted it that way. Remember it was addressed to conservative ministers in Houston, not liberal secularists in New York. It was mainly saying, "I'm not going to make Catholicism the state religion" - which no one really thought he was going to do anyway, but he had to get it on record. There were undertones of "I won't take away your birth control or right to divorce" (If only people had known his real private life!), but I don't think the Church ever could have gotten THAT powerful no matter what course things had taken.

DaveinHackensack said...

"I am drawn to this sort of speculation because it is a cause no less extensive than its effect---though of course Japan represents the hard case even there. In any event, it remains a great mystery---much more mysterious than 1848, for example."

Doug Casey sketched out a theory in the 1990s that explains both 1848 and 1968: that generations cycle through four archetypes, "Hero", "Artist", "Prophet", and "Nomad", and 1848 and 1968 were both times when "Prophets" were ascendant.

Casey on the Boomers, who he characterizes as part of the "Prophet" archetype. He wrote this in the late 1990s:

They came of age during a period that might be called an Awakening, and it's recurred on schedule five times so far in American history. Awakenings are times of religious and moral ferment, when the youth tend to challenge prevailing cultural values pretty much across the board. Young adults were into New Age things this time around, in the 1960s and '70s. At the time it seemed utterly shocking and completely new, but that was only because nobody then alive had seen the previous Utopian Awakening in the 1830s and '40s, the Pietist Awakening of the 1740s and '50s, the Puritan Awakening of the 1630s and '40s, or the Protestant Reformation of the 1530s and '40s.

[...]

The Boomers are an archetypal Prophet generation, a type born after a secular crisis, just in time to create another one. Get the image of a grim elder, with a well-defined vision of what's right and wrong, calling down wrath, and laying down the law for a troubled nation in chaotic times. That's the type of person who tends to lead countries into wars, as well as through them. Interestingly, the Boomers in America have their counterparts abroad today, especially in China, where they grew up during the Cultural Revolution. Two ideologically driven, righteous groups running two such powerful and alien cultures is almost a guaranteed formula for a millennial-sized crisis. Which should appear, coincidentally, sometime shortly after the millennium.

Anonymous said...

"Well, don't forget the Chinese Cultural Revolution of that same period, which probably impacted more people than all the examples of Western youth unrest combined, and was also more extreme and fanatic."

That was simply ordered by Mao. If he hadn't pressed the button, it wouldn't have happened. Same can't be said for what happened in America, though there were powerful people who pushed the button.

The controllers of the media were far more likely to cast young ones and radicals in a favorable light and cast 'powers that be' in negative light. So, even though the police won the fight against hippies, yippies, and radicals in the 68 convention, the media made the police look evil and the protesters look good. With rise of mass media, image war became more important than the ground war. Media could turn water into wine, wine into blood.

BigStraightPhil said...

"But in the U.S., WWII remains the Good War, so it cannot possibly be the case that 1968 represents our coming-to-terms with the sins of the fathers"

Perhaps in Britain and America, the generation that fought in the war had built a huge amount of their own sense of personal and national esteem into the fact that they had 'defeated fascism.' So when their own sons and daughters turned around and said 'you are acting like Nazis!' they found themselves morally disarmed, and more suggestible to a liberal line of reasoning than they would otherwise have been.

anony-mouse said...

The big news in France at the beginning of the Sixties in France wasn't Vatican II, but rather the end of the Algerian War and the takeover of power by De Gaulle and the development of a strong Presidency as a result (something that neither the 3rd or 4th republics had). The loss of its Empire and the movement (starting with the pieds-noirs of large amounts of darker peoples into la Metropole was far more important than the effects of Church affairs in part due to the link between the Church and the Vichy government (In 1944 the conservative de Gaulle had Cardinal Suhard banned from the celebration mass in his own cathedral)

Dahlia said...

Agnostic and RKU are correct.

Also, add in scientific advancements that made us less corporeal physically and emotionally, particularly antibiotics.
(I did not add birth control, because Ancient Rome taught us that where there is a will, there is a way)

An extremely slow slide to the Left/autonomy has been taking place since the late 1300s punctuated by sharper lurches during the Reformation, France 1789, Russia 1917, and 1968.

What I find fascinating is that I believe we may be witnessing the beginning of something historic right now: a nascent religious revival in the midst of civilizational demise analogous to when early Christians hid/grew/survived the fall of Rome.

For me, the bus incident in Israel in 2011 stopped me dead in my tracks. This was something new, something that had not been experienced for hundreds of years in the West: a turn to the Right/communal.

Turns out, gender segregation has been going on there for awhile and is growing.
A commenter, "Jesse", at the Thinking Housewife says Israel and the Jews are a generation ahead of everyone else in the demographic transition.

http://www.thinkinghousewife.com/wp/2012/10/fertility-and-the-counter-culture/

http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2011/12/27/ultar-orthodox-jews-israel-protest.html

Ron Unz's piece was yet another piece that showed real world consequences of this transition taking place; it isn't a fantasy/dystopian nightmare in some demographer's head anymore.

Anonymous said...

Nah, you guys are all wrong. Don't forget that the 60s were the heydey of UFO sightings. Clearly it was aliens beaming down mindrays in preparation for an invasion but the paperwork launching the invasion got lost somewhere and so we were left with the effects of battlefield preparation. A divided enemy is easier to conquer and all that.

Dennis Kucinich knows.

Anonymous said...

"They knew they could outlast the US because they had a conduit to the South through Laos and Cambodia. Also, Ho Chi Minh was a legendary figure for many in the South too, and there was a sizable resistance movement in the South as well.

Most South Koreans saw US as liberators who defeated the Japanese whereas Vietnamese history was defined by a long resistance against the French, and the man who finally defeated the French was Ho Chi Minh. So, when Americans carved out South Vietnam, many even in the South saw Americans as the new imperialists.

Public opinion did matter in the Vietnam War, but the main reason the North fought on was because it knew it could go on harassing the enemy forever."

But the Chinese and North Koreans also could have harassed the Americans "forever" if they wanted to. They didn't have to sign the cease-fire and if there were signs of weakening in the U.S. the war could have dragged on into 1954, 1955, and beyond. They signed the agreement because the homefront held firm, unlike in Vietnam. There was nothing to gain by holding out.

kudzu bob said...

If you're looking for biological explanations for the tumult of the Sixties (such as leaded gasoline, which you mentioned earlier), it might be worth considering the radical changes in American dietary habits that took place after the Second World War. Did processed food make our brains soft?

Anonymous said...

"But the Chinese and North Koreans also could have harassed the Americans 'forever' if they wanted to."

But not in guerrilla war fashion. There was nothing like the Viet Cong in South Korea, and as Korea was surrounded by water, there was no way Chinese or North Koreans could infiltrate to the South. Once Chinese pushed Americans back to 38 parallel, it was mostly fought like WWI.

Anonymous said...

"But not in guerrilla war fashion."

True, but it doesn't really matter. A lot of people were getting killed in both wars, the difference was that the homefront held firm in spite of these casualties in Korea and did not in Vietnam.

Brazilian said...

In 1967 De Gaulee called jews 'elite people', in 1968 he was out of the Government thanks to the revolutionary pedophile Daniel Cohn-Bendit...

Old fogey said...

I haven't read through every single comment, but haven't seen anything in the ones that I have perused suggesting that something outside of the human race itself might have been at work that affected us that we didn't identify. Perhaps the earth was moving through some interesting and unsettling magnetic field not recognized by science. Perhaps there were unusual evolutionary changes underway in a few of the microbes that thrive in our intestines. Perhaps something flipped in the dark matter surrounding us about which we know nothing. Let's not be so "species-specific" in looking for explanations for seismic changes in human behavior or, for that matter, in other aspects of life on this planet.

Five Daarstens said...

I happen to think that one of the reasons for feminism rising rapidly in the 60's was that alot of married women were alone during the day in the newly created suburbs. Being alone is unpleasant and would be a motivator for women wanting to have careers. In earlier times, married women would have lived in neighborhoods where they would have been surrounded by many relatives and had the ability to socialize and get support from them. I think in some European societies it is still like that.

Hunsdon said...

kudzu bob asked: Did processed food make our brains soft?

Hunsdon theorized: Yeah, but that was mostly later, I think. I trace it to the 'fencerow to fencerow' policy under Nixon. I could be wrong. That's my theory.

kudzu bob said...

I happen to think that one of the reasons for feminism rising rapidly in the 60's was that alot of married women were alone during the day in the newly created suburbs.

Bingo. That observation should be in italics, bold font, underlined, and all capitals, with a few exclamation points thrown in for good measure.

Certainly JG Ballard would have also agreed with you. In a particularly memorable novella of his, Running Wild, the ultra-alienated children in one such sterile, soulless suburb rise up to massacre their parents en masse.

Anonymous said...

I saw a statistic once that claimed that the parents of the Baby Boomers were, on average, the youngest generation of parents (in history), I think it was, but it might have been otherwise qualified (in the US; in the English-speaking world; in the West, etc.). This seems counter-intuitive (surely people married at an earlier average age in the past?), but the more I've learned about English history, it could be right. Often in the past it seems English-speaking people married very late.

In any case, a huge number of people got married very fast, very young, at the end of WWII and got busy having families and kids and trying to "do it all". Maybe they just didn't have the aggregate experience or support needed and got overwhelmed by all their unruly young angels.

Perhaps they just weren't old enough and experienced enough to keep civilization together. Surviving WWII was easy compared to raising the next generation so as to maintain civilization. Throw in all the other things undermining their limited experience and insufficient extended-family support (TV, the pill, the suburbs, cheap autos, mobile careers requiring constant movement...). A lot of these young parents had also learned to expect "The Government" to organize a lot of their lives... they often assumed that all that new mass education "knew best".

So maybe it happened pretty much all over the world because WWII happened all over the world.

Fran├žois said...

In Quebec, it's not the secularists who took power in the sixties, it's the progressive catholics from the Catholic youth movements of the 1930's who took power both in the Church and in the Legislature. But secularists became the clear winners in the subsequent decades and History is written by the victors.

I'm surprised to see my homeland mentionned on this great blog and maybe I'm pushing my luck but if you are interested in the subject there is this great book by Canadian historian Michael Gauvreau:
The Catholic Origins of Quebec's Quiet Revolution, 1931-1970


So, at least in Quebec, Vatican II is the key to understand what happened in the sixties.

Steve Sailer said...

Fran├žois:

Thanks. I need to read up on Quebec. I occasionally realize that I barely know anything about Anglophone Canada, much less Quebec. And yet they are these alternative realities, natural experiments, right on my own continent.



Anonymous said...

Most of the current leadership of the Catholic Church doesn't care too much for Vatican II. A lot of the stupid leftist progressives have been purged, but they've been replaced with stupid right-wing reactionaries of the sort you expect to find in Bible-thumping Protestant churches ("Harry Potter and yoga are evil!". The Church is picking an interesting time in history to double down on mysticism and superstition...

Andrew said...

But who was protesting?

Look at my now flaming liberal (by voting) parents. But at the time ... born in late December 1945, my father paid his way through college driving a forklift in a North Carolina factory and then went to Northwestern on grad scholarship where he met my born in 1949 mother, who was paying her way through by digging at Cahokia in the summers. Up to around 1967, my father was a Goldwaterite (and a pacifist comming from a Mennonite/Brethren background), and my mother was a docile and demure WASP from Miami. They met because my father rescued my mother from the attentions of the campus Episcopal Priest during a mixer, where he was plying her with drinks. In 1968, he was politically radicalized, most probably by what he saw in the new on the streets outside the Democratic convention and from the news out of Vietnam. My mother took on whatever political opinions he had, but in her heart and to this day has remained the perfect mixture of her parents: an unreconstructed southern racist and a liberal Rockefeller Republican. They were married in 1971 (when my mom was 22), and quickly settled down to a conventional and uneventful life having children and owning houses but also voting for the most radical liberal Democrats and occasional liberal Republican.

My point in recounting this is that this same sort of story, with minor changes in details, is the story of probably 99% of young people of the Baby Boom/Post-War generation. They weren't hippies, didn't experiment with drugs and orgies, didn't fight for Civil Rights, and weren't draft dodgers (other than simply going to college). They were not the radicals or the leaders of the radicals or the mob of protestors.

If you look at the birthdates of the actual leaders of the counterculture and various radical groups (think people like Abbie Hoffman, Bob Dylan, and Bill Ayers), they are actually members of the Silent Generation, generally born between 1936 and 1945 with the occasional older guide like David Dellinger. Their influences are not 1968 and Woodstock, but the Beat Generation and the early Civil Rights movement pre-Vietnam and pre-1964 Civil Rights Act. When a Baby Boomer is involved, they are on the very leading edge of the generation - think people like Bill and Hillary.

When looking to pin the blame on rebelling Baby Boomers, we should instead look at the Silent Generation as the guilty party. The people in power who conceded every point to the radicals and fostered their movement were not old men, but people like Yale President Kingman Brewster, then 49 and in the prime of his life, and who had himself been a student protestor in the late 1930's/early 1940's in the cause of staying out of WWII, and who was of the same generation as the real culture makers like Hugh Hefner and John Kennedy.

Until we reframe things to look at the correct people, we will be mislead in the diagnosis.

Cail Corishev said...

Vatican II was a major "own goal" and a big landing on the downward staircase. But as others have said, it was one of many, and probably more a symptom than a cause. I like to point out that the creators of Vatican II weren't idealistic college students; they were established bishops and other older clerics whose formative seminary years were in the supposedly staid 30s and 40s. The rot crept in well before Vatican II; that was just when it took over.

G.K. Chesterton and Pope Leo XIII, among others, warned against modernism around the turn of the 20th century. If you read Chesterton without knowing his time period, you might think he was talking about the 1960s in some of his works. But really, what we think of as emerging suddenly after the Kennedy assassination had been festering for decades, and was visible to people with enough discernment.

Bill said...


spandrell said...

Haven't they discovered the real cause in the Soviet archives yet? Some Russian must be laughing his ass off at how clueless we are still after so long.

It was not all Soviet archives which were opened. And they were opened only for a relatively short time. There is a lot from the Communist Party. There is not much from the KGB and predecessors. The military I don't know.

Interestingly, this website from summer 2012 refers to "recently acquired" KGB archives, so maybe what I am saying above is not true any more.

What we have learned so far from the scholarship on the Soviet archives, from the declassification of the Venona Intercepts, and other sources is that McCarthy was not paranoid enough. Relative to his contemporaries, he was a great hero, of course: a midget amongst Liliputians.

neil craig said...

I think it was because men stopped wearing hats.

Look at any crowd picture from ... well long before photos started and almost everybody is wearing a hot.

In turn that can be loaded back to central heating and the general increase in wealth, and in poorer countries, the media becoming so world-encompassing that a fashion change in rich America was adopted everywhere.

Since the '60s anybody wearing a hat is seen as incredibly old fashioned and reactionary.

ben tillman said...

The Jewish Daily Forward have a good article about Vatican II:

http://forward.com/articles/159955/converts-who-changed-the-church/?p=all


And there's Joseph Roddy's take published in Look in 1966: How the Jews Changed Catholic Thinking

http://www.fisheaters.com/jewsvaticanii.html

Anonymous said...

Steve
Lots of similarities between Pierre Trudeau and Obama. Law professors, more at home away from home than at home, on transformational change. Definitely worth reading one of the biographies about him. John English's two volumes on him or Max Niemi's two volumes are a good start. Lots of differences too. Trudeau seems tougher, much more complicated and brighter though not as bright as he thought he was.
Good start here..

http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?id_nbr=8418

XVO said...

It seems like your quoted reader gets really close to a very probable conclusion from his analysis. 1968 would be right around the time that the post war/post depression generation finally gains political power in these countries. It would seem pretty obvious that they would want to change society seeing as what they were born into and saw first hand the destructiveness of their parents and grandparents generation. It's pretty easy to draw the conclusion that racism and imperialism was responsible for the war and systematic and societal mismanagement caused the great depression. They may not have had the right ideas to solve it but they wanted to make some sort of change to the status quo.

People born from 1930-1950 would be making up nearly half or more than half of the voting population in these countries.

Anonymous said...

"I happen to think that one of the reasons for feminism rising rapidly in the 60's was that alot of married women were alone during the day in the newly created suburbs."

Didn't happen in Japan.

Anonymous said...

"I happen to think that one of the reasons for feminism rising rapidly in the 60's was that alot of married women were alone during the day in the newly created suburbs."

What really mattered was who controlled the TV shows they were watching.

Dutch Boy said...

Vatican II facilitated the takeover of the Church by modernists, which rendered the Church impotent against their enemies,the Jews and Protestants.

Anonymous said...

The problem was Vatican II wasn't reformist enough.

First off, it should have changed its policy on celibate priests. Failure to do that handed over the Church to homos and pedos. The chickens came home to roost in the massive scandals in the 90s.
In yrs past, the Church had much respect and so healthy men were willing to join.
In the modern world, there were lots more options, and most healthy men were not gonna take a vow of celibacy to join the priesthood.

And though I can understand Catholic's stance on abortion(though I support abortion), it should have okayed contraceptives and condoms. Does the world really need all those Third Worlders have tons of babies?

The Church should have eased on divorce laws. Too much Catholic doctrine have nothing to do what Jesus said. Go back to the basics. Jesus never said anything about marriage laws.

There had been at time when many people were drawn to the church for education, morality, entertainment, and welfare. For most folks, going to church on sunday could be kinda fun before there were movies and Tv. And church offered schooling and charity.
But with rise of public education, mass entertainment, and welfare, the church lost a lot of its former appeal. So, reforms were necessary, but Vatican II didn't go far enough, and that's why it really lost.
Not because Vatican II was 'too radical' but because it was too safe.
Church should have been more creative. Of course, not enough to allow women priests--I don't like the look of it--or 'gay marriage', but enough to come across as sane!

Anonymous said...

An ideal church should stand for eternal/timeless values, not cling to dogma of the past. The point of religion is to transcend.

Anonymous said...

Drop dead dogmas of the past, avoid trivial trends of the present. Hold dear the fundamental values and moral truths that guide mankind through the ages.

corvinus said...

Vatican 2 had an impact on Catholics in the states, in the old days the atheist MS O'Hair stated that those in the Northeast were more opposed to her ideas than people in Texas or California. Now for some who think of the white evangelical megachurches of Texas today that would appear strange and these days the Northeast is the least religous then it was the farwest. Today Oregon and Washington and Alaska are still apart of the non-religous but California is no longer in the bottom 10. Also, the Jesus movement of the late 1960's and 1970's give a booast to evangelicals in the south and other places by creating the megchurch and spend off churches. Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa was a big part of the Jesus movement. So Roman Catholics become less conservative on the social issues while protestants outside of the mainline churches become more.

Obviously, if the Catholic Church became more liberal due to Vatican II, it would have lost its appeal to the more religious of any religion. A severely weakened Catholicism would thus indirectly have caused Protestantism to strengthen... which is exactly what we have seen since then.

Another things is that in 1968 and 1969, the Catholic Mass and all the sacraments were entirely revised, and basically turned into something similar to those in the Church of England or more conservative Lutheran churches. The Catholic Church of Leo XIII would have declared modern Catholic sacraments to be invalid.

Of course, this did not come out of the blue, as there had been liberals in the Catholic Church for decades before, calling for drastic reform, including our own James Cardinal Gibbons. Getting liberals into the papacy was finally what did it.

irishman said...

"Anonymous said...
The problem was Vatican II wasn't reformist enough. "

The problem with the Catholic church is that it was "reformist". Religion is either serious, the most serious thing in your life, and compelling or it isn't. Think of what Christianity claims...

It claims that God created you for the purpose of living a Christian, moral life and that if you do so you can conquer death and go to heaven. If this is the case, then the means of living a Christian and moral life must be timeless, eternal and unchanging...

it's a question of equal protection. If gay-sex was wrong for Semitic tribes wandering the desert, it must be wrong now, and be judged the same way forever and always. A religion which reforms itself with the latest fashion loses all standing and credibility. This is why those religions which have reformed, for example, the CofEngland are in decline, they are just impossible to take seriously.


PS,I am an atheist who is glad that superstition is dying.

corvinus said...

An ideal church should stand for eternal/timeless values, not cling to dogma of the past. The point of religion is to transcend.

Drop dead dogmas of the past, avoid trivial trends of the present. Hold dear the fundamental values and moral truths that guide mankind through the ages.

I find these statements hilarious. The "dogmas of the past" were "eternal/timeless truths" in the old Catholic Church, but modern liberals for whatever reason decided they were "of the past". A bit of a contradiction there. I fail to see how truths can be "outdated"... just because certain liberal periti have convinced a majority of people that they are? (For example, gay marriage. It used to be considered not just wrong, but out of the realm of rational possibility. Now, you're a bigot if you're not for it.) Is that really a valid criterion?

Anonymous said...

The "dogmas of the past" were "eternal/timeless truths" in the old Catholic Church.

--------------

No, so much of Catholic teachings had little to do with religion or spirituality. They were accumulations of historical artifacts and prejudices that had little or nothing to do with what Jesus said or preached.

The Catholic smartly came around to accepting heliocentrism long ago, and Vatican II was right to accept evolution.

All that stuff about masturbation being mortal sin and other crap had to go.
And the Church should have cast a skeptical eye on miracle-ism, which made the church an object of ridicule. I mean what are people gonna think of the church when dufus believers say they found Mother Mary image on a back of a turtle or a toast?

Church should have focused on core morality and made peace with human biology.

Ever see the movie Therese? I mean there was some really sick going on in the Church. And that movie is respectful of the Church!

Anonymous said...

A lot of the stupid leftist progressives have been purged, but they've been replaced with stupid right-wing reactionaries of the sort you expect to find in Bible-thumping Protestant churches ("Harry Potter and yoga are evil!". The Church is picking an interesting time in history to double down on mysticism and superstition...

In other words, they've replaced left-wing materialists with right- wing materialists. A miracle-less Church is naturally going to be less tolerant of Harry Potter and Zen Buddhism.

Also in the Cold War, the Church considered its main enemy to be secularism. It therefore tolerated mysticism, even the non-Biblical stuff, as being a lesser evil compared to godless secular materialism (such as communism). Pope John Paul II was the epitome of the Cold War Popes, having grown up in Poland during the occupation of secular totalitarian foreign powers.

Times have changed, now. The Catholic Church no longer needs "idol-worshipping" Muslims and Buddhists as allies, much less "Potterites". Although the last one is hardly a religion, but try telling that to the new Christian Right.

Cail Corishev said...

"The problem was Vatican II wasn't reformist enough.

First off, it should have changed its policy on celibate priests. Failure to do that handed over the Church to homos and pedos. The chickens came home to roost in the massive scandals in the 90s.
In yrs past, the Church had much respect and so healthy men were willing to join.
In the modern world, there were lots more options, and most healthy men were not gonna take a vow of celibacy to join the priesthood."


Yeah, because denominations like the Episcopalians certainly don't have a "homo" problem. They're manly husband types one and all, I hear.

Back here in reality, the Catholic Church had a glut of priests and religious coming into the 60s. As Steve's quote clearly shows, V2 came as a surprise because there was no obvious need for reform -- ordinations were way up and the Church appeared to be doing very well. It was an unusual council in that it wasn't called to combat any particular heresy, but simply because they got caught up in the spirit of the age and felt like "change" for change's sake.

(In truth, there were serious problems developing, but V2 didn't attempt to address them at all, so it ended up playing into them instead.)

Homosexuals didn't get into the priesthood because the celibacy requirement made the Church desperate to take them. They got in because modernists/feminists/communists got into positions of power and stopped filtering them out of the seminaries. That started well before V2. The priest shortage was a symptom of V2 and the general effeminacy of the clergy, not the other way around.

To save time, I'll just say that the rest of your comment is equally clueless.

Anonymous said...

Back here in reality, the Catholic Church had a glut of priests and religious coming into the 60s. As Steve's quote clearly shows, V2 came as a surprise because there was no obvious need for reform -- ordinations were way up and the Church appeared to be doing very well.

Maybe that was the reason for V2? There were too many priests, not too few, and something needed to be done to cut the competition, and make priesthood less attractive.

Anonymous said...

"Back here in reality, the Catholic Church had a glut of priests and religious coming into the 60s. As Steve's quote clearly shows, V2 came as a surprise because there was no obvious need for reform -- ordinations were way up and the Church appeared to be doing very well."

Early 60s. But as times were changing, Catholic Church was gonna be left in the dust, and it was.

"Yeah, because denominations like the Episcopalians certainly don't have a "homo" problem. They're manly husband types one and all, I hear."

But Epis have been culturally liberal.

Anonymous said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Vatican_Council

What happened at Vatican II that was soooooooooo radical? I don't get it.

Anonymous said...

The Beatles.

corvinus said...

No, so much of Catholic teachings had little to do with religion or spirituality. They were accumulations of historical artifacts and prejudices that had little or nothing to do with what Jesus said or preached.

'Cause it ain't in da Bah-boe, it ain't real. Gotcha.

The Catholic smartly came around to accepting heliocentrism long ago, and Vatican II was right to accept evolution.

On the other hand, the Catholic Church was also so backward it invented the Gregorian calendar, and a monk invented modern genetics.

All that stuff about masturbation being mortal sin and other crap had to go.

There are valid physiological reasons for masturbation being a mortal sin. There's in fact some blog by some guys who have stopped the practice and have enjoyed a lot of health benefits from doing so. And their sex drive has come back.

And the Church should have cast a skeptical eye on miracle-ism, which made the church an object of ridicule. I mean what are people gonna think of the church when dufus believers say they found Mother Mary image on a back of a turtle or a toast?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but burnt-toast Virgins and that kind of tomfoolery only started showing up after Vatican II. The Catholic Church had historically been extremely careful about that kind of thing. They were likewise notoriously selective about their saints, whereas John Paul II canonized more saints than all other popes combined.

Maybe that was the reason for V2? There were too many priests, not too few, and something needed to be done to cut the competition, and make priesthood less attractive.

Gay ghettoization (another Steve Sailer concept?) seems to have done the job perfectly.

Dunnyveg said...

"So, the notion that Vatican II may have played the role of an "unforced error" (as they say in tennis) might make sense."

Okay, let me ask the question you alluded to: What caused the perceived need for Vatican II?

I say it is classical liberalism and its inevitable class tensions, especially after workers successfully started fighting back by forming unions and agitating for favorable labor laws.

It is also the globalism of capitalism. As Thomas Jefferson is reputed to have said: The merchant cares not upon whose soil he does business; his sole loyalty is to the money in his pockets. And money makes the rules.

And, of course, the problem stems from the cultural confusion caused by several centuries of dizzying rates of change.

So, from these arbitrary antecedents, we have the inevitable concatenation of events that have led to the downfall of the West.

Anonymous said...

Vatican III

Add Athena to the pantheon.

Anonymous said...

"There are valid physiological reasons for masturbation being a mortal sin. There's in fact some blog by some guys who have stopped the practice and have enjoyed a lot of health benefits from doing so. And their sex drive has come back."

Maybe, but does the church wanna peddle in that stuff and look stupid?

Anonymous said...

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but burnt-toast Virgins and that kind of tomfoolery only started showing up after Vatican II."

No, the church had been duping people with superstitious stuff forever.
Watch La Dolce Vita with the two kids who claim to see the Virgin.

Anonymous said...

"The Beatles."

But they were nothing compared to this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gvL8_LC118

Anonymous said...

There are valid physiological reasons for masturbation being a mortal sin. There's in fact some blog by some guys who have stopped the practice and have enjoyed a lot of health benefits from doing so. And their sex drive has come back.

If what you said is actually true (and most likely relative to excessive masturbation) then treat is as a medical problem and not a spiritual one.

Anonymous said...

The secularists that came here what is your end game how do you plan to stabilize things with some mysticism. The real story of the twentieth century is that the Virgin and the dynamo failed completely. For different reasons though. Religion because contement was rejected for a search for pleasure the dynamo because technology cannot produce new tools without a subsequent uptick in expectations. Only religion can deliver increases contentment without increases expectations.

Luke Lea said...

Vatican II caused the Sixties? I can't see it. The old standby trio of "sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll" seems much closer to the mark. The globe was already connected via television and other forms of instant communication, so the phenomenon of contagion was probably a factor. China's cultural revolution (1966-1974) was also very much a youth rebellion against the older revolution, and there is little doubt Mao, who orchestrated it, was keenly aware of what was going on in the West. He personally experimented with sex, drugs, and (in his case) Western swing in his own personal life -- may he have taken LSD? -- while encouraging rioting, vagabondage, and back-to-the-land for China's 14-to-22 year olders.

Howe said...

It's OK> Vatican II said this in it's Constitution Dei Verbum:
"Consequently it is not from Sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same sense of loyalty and reverence."

Vatican II showed that traditions should be kept with loyalty. Not thrown away.