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D-Day Generation

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Oh good, another 1960s retrospective. And another. And another. You can't move for celebrations of "the decade that changed the world forever". Tate Britain is honouring the art of the swinging decade in an exhibition starting at the end of the month. BBC Four is a week into its Summer in the Sixties season, while the Sunday Times magazine is devoting acres to the 10 years that shook the planet.

Why this surge of interest? Has a milestone passed? Or is there no better excuse than the fact that 2004 marks the 40th anniversary of 1964?

Not that the 60s generation need a reason to celebrate themselves and all their works. They rarely stop. Open a magazine or click on the TV any time and before long you'll see the raddled face of, say, David Bailey, cackling as he recalls how many beautiful women he slept with in those golden years. Next Alan Parker, Terence Stamp or Ken Russell will pop up to pay homage to David, each other and the decade that made them all.

To put the question simply: has any other generation ever banged on about itself more and with less merit?

I spent the weekend in Normandy with veterans of D-day, a group who can list saving the world among their collective achievements. They were studies in stoic modesty, depicting themselves as frightened lads who had only been doing their duty. Yet their children, the baby boomers, born at war's end, have no such reserve. They claim for themselves much greater accomplishments, constructing nothing less than a new society.


Edited by Jonathan Freedland
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