Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Robert Kennedy - photo courtesy of www.saddleback.edu
Pete Seeger (right) with Bob Dylan - photo courtesy of the Austin Chronicle website

Peter, Paul and Mary - photo courtesy of www.marytraversblogspot.com

Joan Baez - photo coutesy of the BBC website

We have bought the DVDs of the second season of Mad Men. Now, if you're a regular reader here, you'll know that I am pretty near obsessed with this show. And being the deep thinker (some would say over-analyser) that I am, I have been asking myself: why? Why do I love this show so much? Yes, the clothes are beautiful. Yes, the sets are mesmerising in their period detail. Yes, the plots are thoroughly engaging. But is there something else? And then I realised - yes, there is. Innocence. If you know the show, you may well laugh at this juncture. Innocence? In that hot-bed of extra-marital activity of an advertising agency, Sterling Cooper? Are you kidding? Are you even watching the right show? But what I mean is, the overall innocence of the era. Hey, I am no fool. I am well aware that people throughout time are people. They have good motivations and they have thoroughly awful motivations. Sometimes in equal measure. But when I think of the early to mid 1960s, I think of it as an era of innocence, when Western society as a whole (and that is all I can really vouch for) believed that things were possible. I'm sure there are a million holes that you could poke in that argument. This idea was informed initially by what my mother has said about the era: "People believed in things. We thought we could change things." Now, my mother was no radical and neither am I. I am notorious, in fact, for not having strong opinions on matters political. But I love the idea that people thought things were possible. Folk music of the era spoke of it especially. People like Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary and Pete Seeger. Music, thanks to my Mum, that I was raised on.

Lately too, on this same theme, I have become fascinated by the story of Robert Kennedy, JFK's brother. And before I go any further, I know all about the stories of the Kennedys. The philandering, the extra-marital affairs, the apparently appalling attitude towards women. And I don't condone that for one second. But, recently, watching a documentary about Robert Kennedy, I was very interested to learn of the change he went through after his brother's assassination, how tragedy and absolute sorrow nearly broke him. But eventually, it didn't. He didn't live imbibed with hatred. His social policies, in fact, suggest the complete opposite. I love this quote of his from 1968:

"My favourite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

To me, it suggests that growth - not destruction - can come through pain and life's sometimes profound hardships. There is not always the easy fix which we sometimes seem to look for today, but solutions will come.

Do you agree with me? Do you think that more than anything we are blighted by cynicism now? Or are we, as Kennedy began to suggest, learning from all that's happened worldwide since the 1960s - as painful as much of it has been - to emerge in a better condition when all is said and done?


Stardust said...

Hmm...I can't really figure it out..=P but the insight by Aeschylus, that really speaks to me.

Feronia said...

It's a lovely quote, isn't it :)

Bodecea said...

Hi Feronia,

Interesting question! The 60ties (and, also, a bit the 70ties and 80ties) were naive in some way.And some very horrible movements in time were naive, too, and thought anything could be changed and become perfect - I think about the Nazism or Sovjet-Communism.

But we - and maybe more the "youth of today" - are too "realistic" in some way, too much bound to "unchangable" circumstances like the economy and "how the world is".

Maybe the truth is between both positions. You cannot change the world with a folk song.

But what a sad world if no one tries!


Feronia said...

You're so right, Bodecea - I think it's the "trying" that I love!