50 Years Ago Still Impacting Worldviews Today

Recently I attended a cabaret style program about the year 1966. It was a lot of fun and brought back memories of events and music. The program consisted of the performers moving back and forth between roles as news broadcasters talking about key events and singers of then popular songs.

This all came to a dramatic moment when, at the end, the audience was asked “How will people describe this year 50 years from now?” It was especially emotional for me because this year is my 50th high school class reunion. I began wondering, how are we as Americans describing 1969? What events are etched in our memories? What music do we still listen to? Do any of the books we read or movies we watched still have relevance? How did the events of that year influence my worldview?

First, however, back to 1966 and a few events that impacted worldviews then and have continued to rest in our collective worldviews, even if we didn’t experience them directly.

In 1966 over 380,000 young men were drafted to participate in the expanding Vietnam war where over 180,000 US troops were stationed at the beginning of the year. The Vietnam war was supposed to be over quickly, but it wasn’t, and it forever changed our worldviews about how war is conducted and how we view war.

Betty Friedan and 38 other women founded the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966. NOW made the struggle of women for equality even more public and that struggle continues today. NOW shifted individual and society’s worldviews about women’s rights.

China’s Cultural Revolution began under Chairman Mao and our relationship with what is now Communist Chine shifted from a worldview of China as an ally to viewing China as an adversary. Today it remains mostly a tenuous relationship between two superpowers.

So, I did a little checking on 1969. Here are some things that happened that had an influence on my worldview and to a greater or lesser extent, American society’s worldview. The Apollo 11 landing on the moon and the first person walking on the moon changed our view of technology and the possibilities of space travel. Woodstock has become a meme for multi-day music festivals and large groups celebrating fun and joy. On the other hand, the Manson murders continue to remind us of our darker side. The expansion of the military draft lottery shifted societal views about the draft and its social justice implications. The election of Richard Nixon as President brought a level of cynicism to American politics that has never been truly lost since then. Others might choose different influences from 1969 on their worldview. I invite you to do a similar exercise for a year that stands out to you from four or five decades ago.

In our worldview programs we often ask people to reflect on what events from their past they think have influenced their worldview. Each time I do the exercise I remember different things. Doing this little exploration reminded me of more items of influence.

As I think about 1969 and how I might describe it 50 years later, I think of it mostly as a great year for music, a year of national and international turmoil because of the Vietnam war, a year of a few great accomplishments, especially putting a man on the moon, and marking the end of a hope for a new world of peace and love that began in 1967 with the Summer of Love. And more personally, it was the year my worldview shifted from being a high school student to a college student and an expectation of entering adulthood.

Now, back to 2019. We are nearly halfway through the year. I wonder what the next half will bring. I wonder how people will describe 2019 fifty years from now and what events or people in 2019 might have shifted individual and collective worldviews? Will it be remembered as the year that climate change entered the political zeitgeist? Will Brexit and Tariff Boy Trump bring about the beginning of the ending of the modern global economy? Will the emergent trend toward nationalism become a global movement? What else might be in store for us? What worldview shifts might be in motion now?