The ’68 Revolution came late to sleepy little New Zealand apparently, only really catching up with us in our Summer of ’70, or ’71, depending on who is telling the tale, why they switched on, and when. The madness had been building since the early ’60s, with music, fashion, and values all moving radically away from what the War Generation knew.

One tale is of my uncle. He’s dating the local dental nurse in Te Aroha and he convinces her to give him the teeth her boss collects in his practice. He strings them into a necklace and wears it to parties, which he enters by giving a colossal pigs’ snort, the sort that would flush a boar down out of the bush to fight. “Tibby’s here!” people would shout, as he wades into the crowd dripping with pot and their relatives’ dentine.

Another tale his younger brother, who’s gone and got himself a job in the lab at the local milk factory. It’s a square job, testing the milk, running checks, all the usual stuff. My Grandparents are proud he’s doing the right thing and holding down honest employment. Apparently he uses the opportunity to manufacture something that puts diamonds in the sky, and is making a modest profit when he’s straight enough to get it out to market.

My mother is given the opportunity to help paint a mural at the local dance hall. Her and a few others, swept up in Beatlemania, paint it how they imagine the inside of the yellow submarine.

Change has arrived in small town, rural New Zealand, and in a big way.

Meanwhile in Auckland the Harbour Bridge has gone through, and my father uses it to check out. There the scene is Downtown, Grafton, Parnell. He disappears into the city, a middle child swept up in the spirit of the revolution. He’s confused by his place in the world, doesn’t fit into the rugby, beer and racing ethos of the North Shore. He drops out.

His father tells me years later that he would go to the city occasionally to look for him. He’d track him down, tidy him up, and bring him home to his Mum for a meal. There’s a single picture from this time. He’s seated on a step of the house, out in the yard, wearing an ill-fitting cardigan, collared shirt, Lennon glasses. He’s skinny and it emphasises the great bush of hippy hair he sports.

It was the last photo of him ever taken.

The thing about a Revolution is, you have to expect casualties. Today my liberal friends all seek ways to continuously expand on rights and freedoms. But they’re 40 years too late I think. The real battles have all been fought. The change did come, and though it has taken years in some places to finally trickle down to all layers of society, it has happened. Meanwhile, today’s attempts to further liberalise society are mere echoes of what happened then, because it is so safe. Soap-box liberalism of endless diatribes against ghost injustices, writ large.

The generation who stood up after ’68 and walked out of the post-War consensus did so for many reasons, most of them selfish, but stand up they did, and the price most of the real Revolutionaries paid still echoes down to us today. But they were times made of choices, in the context of a river of time still running.

The dark blood they whispered about my father. The dark blood. He’s obviously taken to that side.

But in truth? It was the dark side that took him, and he numbed himself from the pain of separation, of permanent and irreconcilable difference, in a Revolution of freaks, weirdos, and their groupies.

F,FLP

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