Everyone likes to think they will be remembered but history resoundingly deflates that theory. Only the most important world figures hold our attention long past their years of service. The rest of us have to be content with the satisfaction that we tried to remain true to our values and did the best we could with the opportunities presented to us.
This was certainly true of my generation who became teenagers in the 1960s when the whole world seemed like a very crazy place. Millions of us were not sure we liked what we saw so we figured we would try to change things.
We were quite passionate about remaking our world into a better place of justice and fair play. We demonstrated, protested, and picketed. Many were jailed and some of our leaders were assassinated.
Nonetheless, important reforms were achieved. The war in Vietnam ended and there were significant advances in civil-rights legislation. A healthy dose of mistrust toward government also developed because of the . The fact that the President could lie was a major revelation at the time.
The mad pursuit of profits by big business was also increasingly exposed. Auto manufacturers opposing seat belts in cars, tobacco growers denying cigarettes cause cancer and other horrendous examples of corporate America’s disregard for safety led to the ground-breaking passage of OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Act) in 1970.
Yet today we can say that many of the worst features of the past have returned with a vengeance. Corporate and government power now work in tandem to deliver a one-two punch to those of us who work for a living.
I’ve learned to believe that reforms alone will not endure unless powerful trade union and social movements organize together independently of the business/government alliance. Following the radical influences of my youth, I have always tried to strengthen the voice of unions so that one day they can again return to the powerful force that speaks for the dreams and aspirations of those seeking justice and fair play.
The generation that finally succeeds in building such a powerful social movement will be remembered long into the future and deservedly so.