I must be out of my mind again. I just left a career in real estate, my own paid-for house, a devoted sister, mother and aunt, and the most beautiful girl in the Smith class of '76, all so I could return to Harvard as a 30-year-old junior. Of course, I've always been a freak. When I got even freakier from 1967 on, I almost went insane for a while; but I soon found out I was not alone, that the world was crazier than I was; being a freak could be fun, and besides, we freaks had a mission.
Yes, I was here for the strike of '69. It was glorious, intoxicating--and a damn nuisance. But hey! What rice paddy would you be in today? Sure, we'd all have liked to pursued careers, but there was this little war whose demands for cannon fodder grew and grew, whose uselessness split up families bitterly, and whose deadly jaws opened wide for us, sheepskins in hand.
Before the takeover of University Hall, Lewis Feuer wrote in The Conflict of Generations: "Harvard through its history underwent cycles of generational insurrection, but that element of the moral de-authoritization of the older generation so essential to the rise of a student movement never emerged." He spoke a moment too soon. It was all coming together: the escalating, attention-getting tactics of the civil rights movement; the new wholesale liberation through the birth-control pill from traditional sexual patterns; and the growth of a hedonistic, re-programming counter-culture among the young.
At the Harvard "Teach-In" of Feb. 11, 1968, Martin Peretz told the crowd: "If this country is to be saved the disaster of a poisonous and rancorous war...then it is you, the moderate, the decent, the liberal young people who all by yourselves will have initiate the political movement against this kind of foreign policy. You must engage in psychological guerilla warfare against your parents and friends. You must make it too taxing, too costly for them to support this war or to be apathetic towards it." Well, it cost us a lot too. Many had to leave board and the FBI, taking low-profile jobs or dealing drugs, to avoid being caught up in the System.
Remember too that the hottest conflict over civil rights came during the same period. After all the grief I got from my Mississippi-born parents over my views on race, try to understand my irritation at the recent HEW television piece where high school students watch a film on segregation and then go to the lunch room. The black kid says, "See, there's no sign saying Colored Sit Here." And the white kid says, "yeah, our generation seems to have gotten it all together." Pretty smug, baby...
But life goes on, doesn't it? After the war wound down and affirmative action was getting in gear, New Lefters faced three logical alternatives: terrorism, the hippie life, or local political organization. I stayed happily hippie until my running battle with the Nixon-bolstered American Gestapo (the DEA) took a turn for the worse. Watergate was distracting; but as the Mountie told the renegade Eskimo in The Savage Innocents,men forget and men die, but The Book doesn't. Too, my father's passing made the nation's economic problems one of my concerns. It got involved in politics with encouraging results. I was getting back in the mainstream, and college made sense for me again; but I really wasn't ready for the students of today.
First of all the college scene as a whole is too square for my jaded '60s palate. David Riesman told me recently, "People think these students are conservative, but they're not." I said, "Well, maybe not so far as left and right; but they're not talking much about the way things ought to be." He added, "That's right; they feel powerless." After what happened to their older borthers and sisters, today's undergraduates are wary of taking risky stands. Today's "critical situations" are different too.
Feuer quotes a prophetic passage from Sigmund Neumann on the Germans who were children during World War I: "They went on with their studies, followed professions...They had no headaches. Economics, techniques, sport--those intersted them...They did not want to reform the world. They wanted to live...If there was a great experience comparable to the roar which impressed this problemless generation, it was the inflation..."
In the most recent issue of Harvard Magazine, Lansing Lamong '52 wrote of today's students: "In a world of scarcer resources and increasingly competitive achievers, they see the stakes looming larger and larger...they also find less time for dreaming and introspection... " So I'm not the only one who thinks the workload is heavier around here now.
Here is a lost of three non-negotiable demands for the '80s:
1. A Harvard T.V. station with a huge library of film classics for all-night viewing.
2. A monorail to the Quad.
3. A tuition decrease.
Stephen Tapp left Harvard in 1969 and returned this year. He is a Sociology concentrator living in Adams