was the worldwide web our swinging sixties – surveillance now our vietnam?

Some good stuff in the Guardian this morning.  This, on Mandy Rice-Davies, shows how deep and far goes the naked corruption which led to VIP paedophilia being tolerated by so many, for so long.  A quite separate issue in Rice-Davies’s case – but the environment, the primal soup in question, remains the same.

Meanwhile, another article, this time on Charlotte Rampling, comes up with this lovely quote on the subject of the Swinging Sixties (the bold is mine):

[…] They weren’t just made, but fixed: in plenty of minds, Faithfull and Rampling are still those wild girls revelling in liberation, their lives one long and decadent party. Faithfull put it another way when I interviewed her earlier this year: “We went through a bit of the same thing in the 60s,” she said. “She was treated like a pretty fool, too.” Rampling is more generous. “It was a very free time. Everything was possible, genuinely possible. Of course, it couldn’t last.”

And what do we have, in the place of such freedom?  Perhaps another quote from the same interview gives us an indication, quite despite ourselves (again, the bold is mine):

[…] But the commandment has stuck: Do Not Look. Just a glance to check the picture’s OK, maybe, but that’s all. “You just glimpse,” she says. “You don’t go into it.” That way narcissism lies. “It’s selfie selfie selfie, Facebook Facebook Facebook, Facetime Facetime Facetime.” She looks crushingly serious as she says this. “I don’t know where the fuck that can go, other than just being very empty.”

Leads me all to the following observations.

Looking at how my children have experienced their youth, a post-Internet, post-web generation, I compare it with my own infancy, and how it was taught to me at – as well as remembered from – school.

Yes.  The Swinging Sixties, a particularly English event, process and set of moments, I think.  And savagely truncated by other events such as the Vietnam War, Cambodia and the Lord only cares to acknowledge what else.

In a way, a very strange way, the early days of the worldwide web have been, for all of us who have experienced it but in particular the young people who have known nothing else, the Swinging Sixties of this time.  As already underlined, it really has been a very free time – and perhaps, probably, precisely for being so free, condemned in much the same way to end.

More interestingly, where the Sixties of our time has been the wonderful experiment that was the web, so the end of that freedom, that equivalent if you like of the Vietnam War (whose threads were there from the beginning), is the widespread surveillance that now dominates our online lives.

I don’t only mean organisations like the NSA or GCHQ.  Surveillance can come from many directions and sources: the Sony hacking scandal is just one in a long line.  Whether it’s our governors who spy on us and each other or their avowed enemies who spy on them and us, it’s clear that our one big generational shot at swinging our decade has finally reached its nadir.

A pity, I know.  But not necessarily a nadir we cannot recover from.

Hope may be just around the corner.  Maybe it’ll take a decade or two yet.  But as we reinvented our Sixties’ freedoms almost bizarrely online, who knows where they might next pop up?

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