long story on his death in the Guardian, this ABC piece, this piece in the Australian by Richard Walsh who shared large elements of the journey, this piece in the Financial Review, all draw out certain common themes. The photo is of the Oz London team, Richard Neville on the far right.
Reading the various pieces as well as the comment threads, I was struck by the degree of liking for Neville as a persona as well as a sense of nostalgia.
Speaking on the ABC's Q&A program, and my thanks to kvd for the quote, Germaine Greer commented:
He looked forward to the new. I'm afraid I'm not really like that, I'm kind of a bit suspicious of the new. I used to tease him and say that he was the ad man for the revolution, because he didn't actually have any ideology. His ideology was endlessly supple, but in some ways that's important, that you are open to new ideas in that way, and not doctrinaire like me.I said that my piece was a critical one. I think that part of the reason was a sense of shock on reading the book, but part too lay in the difficulty of capturing, even sometimes of remembering, that brief past moment. While I am younger than Richard Neville, I too remember elements of that period. They are embedded in my memory because they are are part of a certain period of my life.
My historical research has required me to look back, to examine patterns of social change in the second half of the twentieth century. It makes me quite uncomfortable. Looking back, I am struck by the naivety, the innocence, of some of my own beliefs. It's quite difficult to explain because it is intimately connected not just with a belief that change was necessary and desirable, that new things could be done, but with the froth and bubble of events and life style at an impressionable age.
I was never a rebel in the sense that others were, wishing to break convention just because it was convention. But the idea of a different life style was deeply appealing even if I was enjoying the sybaritic present too much to really want to make the switch.
The period represented by Richard Neville was really very short, probably less than ten years, certainly less than twenty. While I no longer regard the 1950s as socially conformist and boring as I once did, it was fairly conformist as society re-asserted itself after the chaos of war. In 1955, the fifties were in full swing. By 1965, the wave of new ideas, of initial rebellion and change was well underway. By 1975 it had passed, although elements of course continued.
You can see the wave clearly in Australia's universities, something worthy of a piece in its own right. I sometimes think that in challenging conventions, in tearing down structures, all that grew from the resulting rubble were weeds, and that's ultimately a most depressing thought.