Last week, listening to the radio in the car (again) between parishes, I was struck by the kind of things people regard as formative influences on their younger selves. Suzanne Vega, the pop singer (and, I suppose, a near contemporary) was speaking about the radicalising effect of the student revolts and anti-Vietnam War protests of 1968 - all very standard affluent western leftish fare, I suppose, even for someone who would have been about nine at the time.
And then I got to thinking about an experience of my own. It was again 1968, my last year at primary school. My parents had given me a transistor radio the Christmas before to replace the old crackly and superannuated wireless set I had in my bedroom, and I became addicted to listening (through the new headphones so as not to wake up the household) to the news at all hours of the night.
I remember the first chilling reports coming through of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in the August of 1968, the tanks in the streets of Prague, the arrest of Dubcek and the brutal snuffing out of the 'Prague Spring' and of "socialism with a human face," a development my rather odd and precocious ten-year-old self had been following avidly.
It's curious how western governments and the various elected democratic establishments became the propaganda "bad guys" of 1968, while a determinedly blind eye was turned in the direction of the true Marxist reality of tanks on the streets and the crushing of dissent. These things stay with you: it's radicalisation of another kind - "1968" with a difference, and probably the reason I never wanted to wear a Che Guevara 'T' shirt or, even now, to sign up to the various smug 'progressive' agendas currently doing the rounds in both Church and State. The Berlin Wall eventually fell and the Warsaw Pact simply dissolved into nothingness but not before "cultural Marxism" - the bastard child of 1968 - conquered the west, and now we are reaping the whirlwind.
We are told, ad nauseam, stories about the Woodstock generation, the peace movement, the student riots in Paris. But what I remember most about that year is hearing about the tanks in the streets of Prague. So, in a way I'm a child of '68 too - just not their '68.