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Liberal Musings on the Character of the Generational Revolt (October 18, 1968)

The paradox that protest would issue forth from affluent children caused older liberals, such as Horst Krüger, to muse about the contradictions in motivation, appearance, and action seen among student radicals.

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The Children of Liberalism – Our Extra-parliamentary Opposition from Personal Observation

First the superficialities, the visuals, the details. I came, I saw, I heard. What struck me was their charm, their fine outfits, their provocative nonchalance. Aesthetically speaking, they are a pure pleasure; they have style. Never before was youth in Germany so resolutely and, at the same time, so convincingly young. This is an astonishingly beautiful generation of those very Germans still labeled as ugly throughout the world. The girls in their rakish pullovers, the boys with their impressive sideburns, they bring to mind the advertising world's most striking models; no designer for Pepsi-Cola could invent anyone more attractive. A bit of Paris, a bit of Greenwich Village, a bit of Swinging London; lively, hip, with a spontaneous sense for the bizarre and grotesque, they are at first glance the new German representatives of that worldwide youth culture that, inspired by America, has established a foothold in every Western metropolis. An ancient umbrella, rhythmically opened and shut in tune with the professor's figures of speech – I can't altogether resist the grotesque aesthetics of this kind of provocation. It is, for all its spirit of revolt, a strangely joyous generation.

A luxurious generation they've been called; I find the word too ambiguous, too dazzling to capture the phenomenon, but it is certain that their feeling for life, this bizarre mixture of liveliness and aggressiveness, is inconceivable without our affluent society. Although they protest the forms of consumption of a society of abundance, they remain its creatures and creations. Mascots of advanced capitalism, one might say, is their own characteristic slogan. It is certain that our flourishing economy has helped produce them. They are revolutionaries of prosperity.

The second thing that catches the eye is their social background. In conversation, it soon emerges that their most articulate representatives are almost always the children of prosperous bourgeois homes. This we know: these are the sons of merchants, lawyers, physicians, industrialists. Working class youth – as might be expected, given the class structure of our universities – is not represented. Children from farming families, the mechanical trades, the broad strata of the underprivileged are missing. From this perspective, their revolutionary claim of wanting to liberate the workers from the constraints of capitalism takes on a romantic and highfalutin quality.

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