Inside America: The Rise and Fall of An Empire

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The 1960's saw a vast sea change in the American people's awareness of their environment. Not only the outer environment of land, water, and air, but also how food and drugs could have a negative impact on the health of Americans. In 1962 a marine biologist named Rachel Carson published a study on the damage done by poisons and pesticides used widely in agricultural production both in farms and also in homes. The pesticide DDT was singled out as unusually damaging to all forms of wild life and humans. Rachel Carson's book " Silent Spring " generated a hostile reception among the pesticide manufacturers who tried to discredit her, but the message was now out and neither the American government nor the American people could ignore the warning. The environment was now a critical issue both politically and culturally and it would become more so in the decades ahead.

America's love affair with the automobile would also become an environmental issue. By the 1960's, 41,000 miles of highway had been constructed by the American government connecting the cities with the newly sprawling suburbs and a " drive-in " culture was rapidly coming into being. Drive-in restaurants, motels, banks, and drive-in movie theatres dotted the landscape. Americans drove to work and also to have fun and the air pollution caused by the automobiles forced the American government to establish emission standards for automobiles to prevent further air pollution. Automobiles that emitted too much smog were made illegal.

The American government was also forced to warn American consumers that cigarette smoking was dangerous to their health. This was done with warning labels on cigarette packages. Television advertising for cigarettes was also prohibited.

Many Americans also became concerned about food pollution. Color additives and preservatives in food were seen increasingly as potential sources of cancer. Pollution in streams and rivers also was seen as harmful to the health of Americans. Hundreds of thousands of chemicals were being released into the environment and it was unknown what the ultimate health effects of these chemicals would be on the American population. Pollution from nearby nuclear reactors was also seen as a potential health threat as the effects of radiation became better understood. The atomic blasts in Japan and American nuclear tests at home had shown that radiation could linger in the air and harm all humans in the vicinity of where the nuclear energy was being released. This atomic danger would become clearer as the decades moved on. Americans soon discovered that they were living in a very complex world.


Dallas, Texas. November 22, 1963. It was here in this Texas town that American history shifted radically. President John F. Kennedy who had been elected in 1960 had brought youthful energy and passion to the presidency. Using television, President Kennedy rapidly became a handsome TV star along with his beautiful wife Jacqueline who represented to Americans a new version of royal glamour unseen before in America. President Kennedy was eager to shake things up and get the country moving again. He was a leader who wanted to shape history and he surrounded himself with idealistic professors and intellectuals-people who wanted to make a difference.

But on November 22, 1963. America's innocence came to an end. It was a sunny day as President Kennedy rode in his car and was shot to death by unknown assailants. The man accused of shooting President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald was himself shot in front of the TV cameras as a live American audience watched in fascination and horror. Oswald's death made his trial an impossibility and fueled an enormous body of conspiracy theories that continue to this day. Only two bullets had been seemingly fired from Oswald's gun.

So who had shot Governor Connally riding next to President Kennedy? Who was really behind the assassination? Witnesses had seen unknown men running away from the crime scene, but no one else was arrested. Doubts and distrust were now growing in the American psyche. An era of Televised trauma had begun. Negative forces were at work in America and no one wanted to take the blame. Only five years later, President Kennedy's brother, Robert F. Kennedy would also be shot while running for the Presidency prompting more whispers that would never be silenced.


How does one describe the beginnings of an invisible movement that would effect Americans just beneath the surface of their lives? In 1962, two American visionaries Michael Murphy and Richard Price founded the Esalen Institute near Big Sur, California. The Esalen Institute quickly became the launch-pad for the new Human Potential Movement. It was here that an ambitious plan for exploring human consciousness was begun. Many psychologists, writers, teachers, poets, and spiritual practitioners soon started leading seminars and workshops concerned with the vast inner potentials of the human mind.

The Esalen Institute soon offered to the American public new forms of experimental mind therapy that attempted to bridge the gap between western psychology and eastern forms of religion. Meditation and altered mind states were soon explored in order to enrich the workshop participants so that they could see the deeper roots of their psychological gifts and problems. Many kinds of mind and body work were invented at Esalen that tried to show the close links between the mind and body and how disruptions in daily life between the body and mind then caused various illnesses. This was something terribly new for many Americans.

A new wholistic view of reality was being pioneered at the Esalen Institute. People were taught how to see the complex links between things on many kinds of levels. Mental illness generated physical illness. Destruction of the physical planet generated dangers to the long-term health of the human race. What was being discovered from the moon outwardly that the earth was a complete living system with fragile links was now being discovered inwardly, through the consciousness of each individual, at the Esalen Institute. Outer space and inner space were fusing inside the minds of a few Americans and this cultural evolution would create a new group of Americans who would later number, at least, fifty million people.

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All contents of this site copyright by Michael Arthur Finberg