The Low Countries - 2017, № 25
31 March 2017
‘Be Realistic. Demand the Impossible’
The Ambiguous Heritage of the Sixties
We will not make the mistake of mythologising the 1960s. Imagination never made it into power; beaches did not emerge in the streets from under the paving stones and something always remained prohibited. But between the late 1950s and mid-1970s Western society and culture undeniably experienced great changes, which also affected the Low Countries.
The first symptoms of protest culture originated in the 1950s. The most frenzied events took place at the end of the 1960s and the far-reaching consequences of their various changes became clear in the 1970s.
Power and authority, at least the traditional forms of authority (that of government, educators, teachers and the churches) sustained serious damage. Young people freed themselves from all kinds of shackles. Fear was gradually removed from sexuality. People experimented with new social customs, new forms of society. Narcotics were still seen as expanding the mind. Women slowly but surely became emancipated, gaining awareness of their own bodies and rights. Music was the expression of a personal world, raising its middle finger at anything seen as bourgeois. The times smelt of romance, of the grand gesture, of frivolous activism. Self-expression became an aim in itself. The sky was the limit. The impossible became reality, or at least had the potential to do so.
But perhaps this is mythologising by the back door.
After years of rebuilding following World War II, at the start of the 1960s prosperity had arrived. Consumption was definitively on the up. It was that prosperity and optimism which made much of the above possible.
What remains of all that in the Low Countries half a century on? Let me quote just two sentences from the answers you will find in the following pages: ‘There was plenty of narcissism and ego-tripping in the “Golden Sixties”, but this period also introduced a feeling of solidarity from which twenty-first-century advocates of a new sense of community still have a great deal to learn,’ (Geert Buelens); and, ‘There is no need for more flexibility, discontinuity and extravagance; there is, however, a need for non-paternalist forms of authority, based on a deep, confidence-inspiring knowledge of affairs and the power to delegate them to others’ (Cyrille Offermans).
In this book, we discuss student uprisings in Amsterdam in 1969 and 2015, and Boudewijn de Groot, iconic singer-songwriter of the Low Countries who is still singing today. We discuss the sexual revolution and the price revolution always entails. We ask what the happenings of pop art have to tell us now, and investigate the extent of secularisation in the Low Countries in the last half century and to what degree today’s sharing economy is indebted to initiatives and practices which emerged in those years. We close the theme with a refined literary anthology: Harry Mulisch as fellow traveller of Provo, an ode to erotic vitalism (which now sounds sexist and neo-colonialist to some) and the positioning of a poet who was a committed outsider in the 1960s.
We were not a poetic theme by Mao.
We thought, we’ll make our own poem.
We thought, we’ll make history here
On the sly.
Browse through the first pages of the brand new issue here:
Check out the articles below:
Articles in this issue
- ‘Be Realistic. Demand the Impossible’ - The Ambiguous Heritage of the Sixties
- An Era of Early Globalisation. The 1960s in the Low Countries
- The Search for Lost Authority. The 1960s – Again
- Revolt of the Students. 1969 versus 2015
- Surviving Changing Times. The Singer-Songwriter Boudewijn de Groot
- The Price of Freedom. On the Sexual Revolution
- From Ice-Block Action to Peanut-Butter Floor. Belgian and Dutch Pop Art since the 1960s
- Church Bells Are Still Ringing. But the Minarets? Secularisation in Flanders
- A Feverish Decade. The Religious Heritage of the 1960s in the Netherlands
- From Ownership to Usage. The 1960s’ Legacy of the Sharing Economy
- ‘Beneath the Paving Stones the Beach’. A Small Anthology from and about the Sixties
- The Importance of De Stijl. An International Unity in Life, Art and Culture (1917-2017)
- The Indo Author Tjalie Robinson. Pioneer of a Multiracial Identity in the American Sixties
- The Secret of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
- Manneken Pis or The Subversion of a Water Pipe
- Characters in Search of an Author. Maria Stahlie’s Engagement
- A Victorian ‘Arbiter Elegantiae’. The Paintings of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema
- The Most Industrious of All Centuries. New Perspectives on the Nineteenth Century
- A Wedding of Words. Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes Revisited
- On Duality and on Painting as Sculpture (and Sculpture as painting). The Visual Work of Lili Dujourie
- The Bluebirds of Ghent. One of Europe’s Hidden Gems?
- Fiction Is Always Non-Fiction. The Oeuvre of Jan Brokken
- What You See Is Not What You Get. The Architectural Fiction of Filip Dujardin
- Managing Climate Change. Adopting a Macho or a Modest Approach?
- The Oldest Museum in the Netherlands. Arts and Sciences at Teylers in Haarlem
- The Fierce Talent of an Unpolished Chronicler. Dimitri Verhulst’s Prose
- The National DNA. Boardroom Portraits by Taco Anema
- Flanders Fields, 1917 – A Crucial Year
- ‘Making the Personal Political’. Art by Hans van Houwelingen in the Public Domain
- The Measure of Our Exile. On the City Essays of Guy Vaes
- Choreographer of Letters, Servant of Text. Illustrator Gert Dooreman Fights Banality
- Leeuwarden-Fryslân 2018. An Exceptional European Capital of Culture
- Longing for Perfection. ‘The Red Turtle’ by Michael Dudok de Wit
- Breaking Free from Expected Patterns. Fien Troch
- Before She Became Mata Hari. Newly Discovered Letters by Margaretha Zelle
- ‘The Only Friend of the Indians’. Restoring the Reputation of Father Pieter-Jan De Smet
- 500 Years Old. The ‘Collegium Trilingue’ in Leuven
- Occupied City. Paul van Ostaijen on the Map of Modernism
- Start Early and Keep Going. Flanders and the Netherlands at the Frankfurt Book Fair
- An Ingenious ‘Exercice de Style’. ‘The Evenings’ by Gerard Reve
- ‘Writing with Such Freshness and Agility’. A Well-Chosen Selection of Dutch Short Stories
- From Weekly to Monthly. ‘Vrij Nederland’
- A Double Talent with a Double Personality. Jaap van Zweden
- Jazz legend ‘Between a Smile and a Tear’. Toots Thielemans (1922-2016)
- A Modern Troubadour. Jozef van Wissem and His Lute
- Lutherans in the Low Countries. Self-Imposed Thresholds and Calvinist Clout
- A Theatre Icon from the Lowlands. International Appreciation for Ivo Van Hove
- Light and Balance. Museum Voorlinden
- Rocky Mountain Landscapes, Vast Distances and Mysterious Valleys. Hercules Segers and his ‘Printed Paintings’
- Olivier Schrauwen. The First True Internationalist of Flemish Comics