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The Paris riots of May 1968: How the frustrations of youth brought France to the brink of revolution | The Independent |

The French always celebrate 1 May with a few riots. They did so this year with added piquancy because it was the 50th anniversary of the famous "Mai 68" when, in the Latin Quarter of Paris, the Left Bank, the whole month was devoted to riotous assembly led by students. In contemplating these events, I recall Wordsworth's often quoted phrase: "Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive" - unless, of course, you were struck by a cobblestone hurled by a student demonstrator or soaked and knocked off balance by a police water cannon.

Presumably those who were demonstrating in Paris last Tuesday have now resumed their normal lives. The point about May 1968, however, is that they didn't go back to college or to work the next day, they carried on, some of them for the whole month. Why was that? After all, economic growth had been unusually strong, the country was calm, both politically and socially, inflation was weak, living standards had been rising and there was little unemployment.

Was it in a way a very 1960s thing? That question is prompted by a French historian of the period, Éric Alary, who observes that "May 68 is seen as a period when audacious moves seemed possible and during which society profoundly changed". For that is an accurate description of the nature of the 1960s, whether in Western Europe or in North America.

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The intellectual gods of these 1960s students were Marx, Freud and Sartre, the French existentialist philosopher. In a famous passage, Sartre wrote that "God does not exist, and as a result man is forlorn, because neither within himself nor without does he find anything to cling to".

This struck home. For as Bob Dylan sang in 1965 - "How does it feel/How does it feel/To be on your own/With no direction home/Like a complete unknown/Like a rolling stone?"

1968 Paris student riots Europe, Amsterdam - Berlin; USA Berkeley
British Pathé : 1968 Student Protests

by Oui on Sun Apr 12th, 2020 at 09:26:42 AM EST
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Contemporary ...

Bob Dylan - Like A Rolling Stone - the lyrics

    Once upon a time you dressed so fine
    You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
    People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
    You thought they were all kiddin' you
    You used to laugh about
    Everybody that was hangin' out
    Now you don't talk so loud
    Now you don't seem so proud
    About having to be scrounging for your next meal.

    How does it feel
    How does it feel
    To be without a home
    Like a complete unknown
    Like a rolling stone?

    You've gone to the finest school all right, Miss Lonely
    But you know you only used to get juiced in it
    And nobody has ever taught you how to live on the street
    And now you find out you're gonna have to get used to it
    You said you'd never compromise
    With the mystery tramp, but now you realize
    He's not selling any alibis
    As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
    And ask him do you want to make a deal?

    How does it feel
    How does it feel
    To be on your own
    With no direction home
    Like a complete unknown
    Like a rolling stone?

    You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
    When they all come down and did tricks for you
    You never understood that it ain't no good
    You shouldn't let other people get your kicks for you
    You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat
    Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat
    Ain't it hard when you discover that
    He really wasn't where it's at
    After he took from you everything he could steal.

    How does it feel
    How does it feel
    To be on your own
    With no direction home
    Like a complete unknown
    Like a rolling stone?

    Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
    They're drinkin', thinkin' that they got it made
    Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
    But you'd better lift your diamond ring, you'd better pawn it babe
    You used to be so amused
    At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used
    Go to him now, he calls you, you can't refuse
    When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose
    You're invisible now, you got no secrets to conceal.

    How does it feel
    How does it feel
    To be on your own
    With no direction home
    Like a complete unknown
    Like a rolling stone?

Speaking of a "domino effect", not in SE Asia, but in the western world as the youth took to power and demanded more democracy in institutions!

Nixon Loses Face: The Kent State deadly shooting - May 4th, 1970

by Oui on Sun Apr 12th, 2020 at 09:35:06 AM EST
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