Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts & The 60s: Years of Hope - Comparison


The preface to Peter Collier and David Horowitz\'s Destructive
Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties and the introduction to Todd
Gitlin\'s The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage both try to explain the
authors\' reasons for writing their books. Both books, based on nostalgia,
deal with the good and the bad which have come out of the sixties. However,
while Collier and Horowitz describe the sixties more as a time of
destruction, Gitlin places more emphasis on the spirited atmosphere which
led to the destruction. This destruction they all refer to includes the
diminished placement of trust in America, the rising problem of drugs, and
the overall havoc created throughout the country. Therefore, the authors
give two very different descriptions of the era of which they were all a
part.

Even in the beginnings of the works, the differences are very
noticeable. Collier and Horowitz begin by trying to describe a "summary
moment" (Collier and Horowitz 11) of the decade. This "moment" involves a
revolutionary group known as the Black Panther Party. The authors seem to
criticize this group by commenting on their appearances and their actions
in certain events. For example, at a cocktail party, one Panther spit in
the face of an army draftee because he brought a black friend from the army
home while on leave. When the Panther returned to the party, the people
present pretended not to notice that anything had happened. Later, when
misunderstandings occurred between two guests at the party which resulted
in one of them making a racial remark, anger was fueled in the group and
among others who had heard about the event. Collier and Horowitz, when
remarking on their reactions, emphasize that while in ordinary times the
event would not have caused many problems, during the sixties, people
considered it more of a sign that revolution was worthwhile. Perhaps the
authors were suggesting that the revolution was created out of exaggerated
problems or that those leading the revolution, such as the Black Panthers,
did not quite understand why they were leading it. Collier and Horowitz
seem imply this belief through the portrayal of the Panthers as uneducated
when listening to Genet speak on their behalf: "The Panthers milled around
in sullen incomprehension as he talked" (P.12). These tend to be their
reasons for why the revolution caused so much destruction.

On the other hand, Gitlin begins his introduction by describing his
life before and during the time he became involved in the sixties movement.
He tries to describe the feelings he was experiencing during the period in
which he joined. "I was moved by the idea that \'people should make
decisions that affect their lives\'" (Gitlin 2).

While Collier and Horowitz use one small event and describe it in
detail as an attempt to show the problems of the sixties, Gitlin uses many
different events as if to create a whirlwind of excitement and confusion to
express the spirit of the sixties.

The authors all feel, however, that the generation of the sixties was
out to build or create a new world. They all wanted to improve what
existed. While one author describes the generation as having the "modest
ambition of shaking America to its roots" (Gitlin 2), the other authors
described the generation as a "scouting party for a new world" (Collier and
Horowitz 14).

Another thing the authors appear to agree upon is their reason for
writing their books. They all view the sixties as an important part of the
past and want to teach others about their experiences during this time.
Collier and Horowitz even stress that the sixties are, in fact, still with
us today: "This book is about the sixties and also about that phenomenon...
that might be termed the Sixties-within-the- Eighties" (P.15). However,
Gitlin just states that he wants to express the spirit of the sixties
without the dreamlike qualities affixed to it at that time (P.4).

Nevertheless, despite their similar reasons for writing about the
sixties, the three authors give very different viewpoints on what they saw
occurring during that time. Their differences are important though, because
it is through these differences that the reader is able to determine his or
her own viewpoint rather than assume that everyone feels the same about the
many events which occurred during the turbulent era of the sixties.

Works Cited

Collier, Peter and David Horowitz. Destructive Generation:
Second Thoughts About the Sixties. New York: Summit
Books, 1989.

Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. New
York: