TO THE SIXTIES:
people like to say that, the Sixties in America, was a period
of wild sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll. But this is really a
simplification. Easy divorce, relatively easy access to contraceptives
and an openness to sexual promiscuity was common in earlier
periods of American history such as the 1920's. What was new
was the change in attitude. The displays of nudity and promiscuity
in new films, plays and in hippie life had shock value because
it did not speak for all Americans. The majority of Americans
were still sexually conservative. Yet this change in attitude
would have profound effects in later decades for many Americans.
the 1960's, drug use was already rampant in America. Just before
1960 arrived American doctors had prescribed 579 tons of tranquilizers
to Americans and millions of dollars worth of barbiturates,
amphetamines, anti-depressants, and other mood-altering drugs.
Before the Sixties marijuana, heroin, and cocaine were most
commonly associated with low-life people or the Beatniks. In
the Sixties the use of illegal drugs would finally spread to
the American middle class and to the American soldiers fighting
became a form of cultural protest for young Americans and when
LSD or " acid " became popular, it led to an expanded
awareness among young Americans, that the human mind had many
unknown dimensions that deserved further exploration. Many young
Americans then became interested in different kinds of meditation
that could copy this mind expansion without the use of drugs.
Even before LSD became popular, the CIA had shown interest in
the drug in many secret experiments using unwilling civilians.
When LSD became illegal, it became like marijuana, an intense
form of social protest.
know that Rock "n' Roll had started in the 1950's with
Elvis Presley, but the lyrics of the music were often tame and
had little to do with social protest. Love and fidelity were
usually extolled and it was only in the mid-Sixties that many
Americans realized that something was now happening to popular
music. Singers like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez began singing about
intellectual rebellion. Music was becoming more political and
complex . The Beatles, recently, influenced by drugs and Eastern
religion then pioneered the " psychadelic " or "
drug " sound. The words of the music now became strange
and nonsensical. This drug music was no longer about broken
hearts and relationships. But about strange dream landscapes
that were no longer rational.
art which later had an artistic kinship with the new drug music
was even older and had begun in the 1950's. Many artists bored
with traditional styles of painting began attacking the American
materialist culture by using its symbols in strange new ways.
Andy Warhol painted consumer items like commercial soup cans
in strong colors and exaggerated sizes. American comic books
and the American flag were also portrayed in exaggerated ways
by other pop artists which forced many Americans to reject the
new art as unpatriotic and strange. Indeed, the majority of
Americans did not get to participate in the cultural revolution
of the Sixties until much later and often this participation
would be in a very watered down form. But the ripples of Sixties
revolution would have profound effects, nevertheless.