Thursday, April 22, 2010

Harroes genietsalon

Herod's Pleasure Palace. Chapter 15 gets its name from the wave of increasing prosperity that ran from the end of the war to about 1974. European historians agree that those were the good times.

In this chapter, Geert Mak writes of his own generation, their new ideas, and how things changed. He finds that the Baby Boomers were not as conformist as their elders. Having grown up just behind them, I disagree. I remember the Boomers as extreme conformists, and find that they're often that way today. Today's tea partiers are yesterday's hippies. In any case, Mak's main point is that the biggest change for his generation was increasing consumption. The real revolution was in the increasing numbers of cars, appliances and televisions.

This chapter brought to mind my meetings with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin in 1987. I met Rubin on a tour of ad agencies with my school's advertising club. He was a suit by then, very polished and congenial. There was some buzz about him because of the past, but in person, he was very corporate and definitely in his element. Abbie Hoffman was on campus for some demonstrations. Hoffman had grown since the 60s, arguing for simple majority votes instead of consensus in community groups, which had been in fashion up to that time. He was still very political. There was something desperate about him. Although he had his audience, he was a man out of time. His generation had turned right, and younger people weren't as interested in changing the world. Abbie Hoffman represents what people think of when recalling the 60s. Jerry Rubin's trajectory represents what mainly happened back then.

In the Netherlands, the expanding economy got a big boost from a major natural gas discovery in 1960.

Since I started doing this, I have read a little bit about Mak. Some have commented that he is a naive leftist. I have not found this to be true. I did not expect someone derided as such to write about immigration and say the Dutch government pursued an, "Ostrich policy."

He contrasts the Paris Worlds Fair in 1900 with the National Fair in 1957 at Shiphol. The fair in 1900 had flying taxis and all sorts of fun stuff. The 1957 event was mainly centered on appliances. Mak points out that while everyone eagerly anticipated the future, nobody predicted the rise of computing, nor what that would mean.

1957 was also the year the European Economic Community got started. That's one of the details that makes this book interesting from my perspective. I have read about European integration before, but this isn't something you see when American media takes a look back.

Similarly, the 1981 demonstrations in Amsterdam were just a footnote here.

The chapter draws to a close with Mak reminiscing about his family and how they coped with bad news as time went on. Geert was the first in his family to get divorced. In 1979, his brother Cas, the only one to have followed Catrinus into the ministry, got cancer. Both of their parents were still alive, and it was heartbreaking for them. He died in 1980. Late in 1982, Catrinus was sick and in bed. He would talk in his sleep at times, speaking in Australian army slang. He died in 1983. Oddly, the century from which this book draws its title seems to come to an end with the death of Geert Mak's mother in 1987.

Seventeen pages to go.

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