TO THE SIXTIES:
to be equal and free, yet also different. This was the question
that 77 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964 were now
asking themselves. Many saw themselves as living in a cold standardized
culture based only on material consumer values and for many
young Americans this was not enough. America was rich, but there
were still many poor people. America was culturally diverse,
but many people felt caught in a huge consumption machine that
made little sense to them now that their basic material needs
had been met. Many young Americans were increasingly more educated
and many now also felt that deeper meaning in their lives could
not be brought on, by more and more kinds of material consumption.
Especially, if this kind of material consumption generated more
regional wars and more destruction of the global ecology.
issues were dimly understood at the time by most Americans regardless
of their class, gender, or race. But it was during the Sixties
that these issues first became culturally addressed in a linked
way. Many young Americans began to see that all modern problems
were inter-linked and that simple solutions to complex problems
would not work. The need for " free speech " was seen
now, not as a luxury, but as a basic survival need. Many young
Americans became involved in political causes out of idealism
and because they had the leisure time to do so. Economic times
during the Sixties were good and one did not have to work hard
hippie movement was a revolt against crass material consumption
in American life. As American politics became more violent many
young Americans began to drop out of society instead of trying
to improve it. A cultural split developed between young Americans
who wanted to improve the culture and those who felt that the
culture could not be improved.
groups were increasingly seen as unpatriotic by more conservative
Americans not only in the middle class, but also in the shrinking
working class. This " silent majority. " would finally
bring Richard Nixon to power in 1969. A man who lost the presidency
to John F. Kennedy by the narrowest of margins in an earlier
election which had been decided by the power of television.
Before John F. Kennedy debated Richard Nixon on national television.
He was an unknown senator from a small state. After the debates,
Kennedy became a Television super-star.
America became more politically and culturally divided, many
Americans became fearful that the country would fall part. Too
much diversity and too much freedom was seen as unbeneficial.
As the Sixties came to an end the national mood had become more
and more conservative. Richard Nixon was the symbol of this
new mood as he became the new president. Many Americans supported
Richard Nixon's call for law and order. But, as the Seventies
arrived, the war in Vietnam continued and so did the cultural
revolution that had started in the turbulent Sixties.
Ritchie family would reflect this state of affairs like many
" So Mara how was the concert. ? "
Mara: " Oh, it was pretty cool. There were a lot of speed-freaks
and pot-heads, but it was great to be part of the scene."
Chad: " Are you looking forward to college? "
Mara: " Yeah, I think it's time I stopped playing with
Barbie dolls and started to really find out what's really important
in my life. "
Chad: " Did you hear about the play 'Hair ' on Broadway?
I can't believe they allowed it to happen. "
Mara: " Who cares what people think. Long hair and nude
people on stage. It's just the way things are now. People want
to be different. They don't want to be part of the big machine.
I mean who does really? "
Chad: " This machine you complain about brought you your
food and clothes and even this house. Everything is now more
efficient in society and that's why more people can benefit
from this efficiency you don't like. "
Mara: " Yeah, but look where this efficiency is taking
us to really? We're being polluted to death. The stuff on TV
is total garbage. It's just junk food for the mind. It's not
cool at all. The stupid war in Vietnam makes no sense at all.
I don't understand why we're even there. "
Chad: " I don't either, but we have to respect some of
the laws we live under. Then were would be if we didn't? It
would be complete anarchy. "
Mara: " I guess this is just the ' generation gap ' people
keep talking about on TV. Some things have to change. I mean
things are moving so fast now. What I'm learning in school isn't
helping me understand any of these changes. "
Chad: " I realize that you're confused about things, but
things take time to sort themselves out sometimes. "
Mara: " Well, maybe we don't have as much time as in the
past. Maybe we need to raise our consciousness a lot faster.
Chad: " So everything has to be a ' teach-in ' or a ' be-in
" I don't know. Maybe it's got to be a ' see this '. It's
a little complicated right now. I don't have a lot of answers.
I do know that we need to ask a lot of new questions though.