After the 1950s, aspects of the Beat movement metamorphosed into the counter-culture of the 1960s, accompanied by a shift in terminology from “beatnik” to “hippie”. Many of the original Beats remained active participants, notably Allen Ginsberg, who became a fixture of the anti-war movement. Notably, however, Jack Kerouac broke with Ginsberg and criticized the 1960s politically radical protest movements as an excuse to be “spiteful”.
There were stylistic differences between beatniks and hippies – somber colors, dark sunglasses, and goatees gave way to colorful psychedelic clothing and long hair. The beats were known for “playing it cool” [keeping a low profile – their mantra was “turn on, tune in, drop out”], but the hippies became known for “being cool” [displaying their individuality – their mantra was “make love, not war”]. Beyond style, there were changes in substance: The Beats tended to be essentially apolitical, but the hippies became actively engaged with the civil rights movement and the progressive/liberal sponsored anti-war movement.
The Beats had a pervasive influence on rock and roll and popular music, including the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison: the Beatles spelled their name with an “a” partly as a Beat Generation reference, and their leader, John Lennon, was a fan of Jack Kerouac. Ginsberg later met and became friends of members of the Beatles. Paul McCartney played guitar on Ginsberg’s album Ballad of the Skeletons. Ginsberg was a close friend of Bob Dylan and toured with him on the Rolling Thunder Revue [a Vietnam War reference] in 1975. Dylan cites Ginsberg and Kerouac as major influences.
Placed within this history, the counterculture of the 1960s appears less revolutionary than cyclical – part of a tradition of cultural criticism that periodically revives similar themes and pursues similar alternatives. Still, there was something different about the 1960s. Earlier movements remained relatively small, esoteric expressions of a cultural elite. But the counterculture of the 1960s grew to be the dominant expression much, but not all, of an entire generation.”
Having grown up in a decade that was darkened by the specter of “atomic war” and raised by a generation fixated on successful careers so that they could provide for theirs what they never had as children – as reflected in such works as Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit by Sloan Wilson and What Makes Sammy Run? by Bud Schulberg and influenced by events (civil rights triumphs, sexual freedom for women and popular anti-heroes) in the 1950s – African-American, female and adolescent male college students across America during the 1960s were predisposed to rebel against the status quo and so, encouraged by the progressive/liberal intelligentsia waiting for an audience at the nations universities, rose up to demand “reform”.
“By 1960, the heady, optimistic, post-war days were over. On campuses from Berkeley to New York, white students demanded unrestricted free speech [and still do – as long as it was progressive/liberal speech], withdrawal from the war in Vietnam, love-ins and more, while African-American students led the cause for desegregation [later to degenerate into the welfare-state]. Highly idealistic and inspired by periodic successes, these students believed they were creating a new America. [The slog had begun.]
During the decade, young Americans on and off campuses were encouraged by their professors and animated by their anti-heroes to challenge conventional lifestyles and institutions. As newly independent adolescents, unburdened by responsibility, they protested the materialism, consumerism, and mania for success that drove their parent’s post-war society [on their parents’ dollar, of course].
They urged each other to experiment with alternative patterns of work and domesticity. They enthusiastically challenged traditions surrounding sex and marriage. And they pursued and rationalized popular new paths to deeper fulfillment, especially those involving illicit drugs. They believed they were creating a new America. [What they really accomplished was to devalue a culture of self-help to establish a new culture of self-absorption.]
The challenge faced by Cal Berkeley’s activists when they stepped off campus was echoed throughout the country. Student leaders engaged in endless debates about how to grow and educate the movement, what issues to pursue, and what tactics to employ. And at the center of this debate was the recognition that once they stepped off the college campus, they encountered huge organizational and tactical problems. Local authorities were hostile, sometimes violent. But this was to be expected. More problematic was the fact that many of the constituencies they hoped to mobilize – racial minorities and working class youth – were indifferent to their efforts.
They were more successful on campus as they succeeded because they convinced the administrations that their philosophical anti-war position was correct. But when the students, inspired by their academic victory, stepped off campus to march through the streets of Berkeley in opposition to the war, and when they tried to shut down the Army induction center in Oakland, they found opponents less moved by their intellectual and rhetorical powers.
They encountered local residents who were offended rather than moved by their commitment; they confronted draftees who were annoyed rather than swayed by their arguments; and they were driven back by a police force that was not held in check by a frustrated but philosophically sympathetic university president.
On another front, Harvest of Shame was a 1960 television documentary presented by broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow on CBS that showed the plight of American migrant agricultural workers. An investigative report intended “to shock Americans into action”, it was “the first time millions of Americans were given a close look at what it means to live in poverty” via their televisions. It was Murrow’s final documentary for the network; he left CBS at the end of January 1961, at President John F. Kennedy request, to become head of the United States Information Agency.
In 1961, John Kennedy, the first American President born in the 20th Century, coupled his presidential oath of office with an announcement that the torch of American idealism had been passed to a new generation. He called on Americans to join in a self-sacrificial campaign to explore a new frontier. Together they would fight “tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” They would send American ambassadors of good will around the world, and they would even land a man on the moon. Kennedy called on Americans to create a new America. This call fell on the curiously deaf ears of America’s college students.
In 1962, Michael Harrington, updating the precedent set by John Steinbeck in his book The Grapes of Wrath in 1939, published The Other America, a shocking expose of poverty and want in the United States. Thoroughly researched, the book chronicled the plight of “the unskilled workers, the migrant farm workers, the aged, the minorities, and all of the others who live in the economic underworld of American life.”
The book had an immediate impact. More than 70,000 people bought the first edition, including President Kennedy. Described as shocking but necessary reading, the book drew a curious and telling response. After all, poverty was hardly new. Many of the people and regions so powerfully described by Harrington were not recently impoverished. For the tenant farmers of the rural South, the isolated occupants of Appalachia, and struggling immigrants of northeastern ghettoes, poverty was not a new condition.
But what was new was the degree of affluence that surrounded these pockets of poverty; what was new was the extent and type of material comfort enjoyed by most Americans [many of them survivors of the Great depression and World War II]. Real, desperate poverty, set against this backdrop, represented a disturbing challenge to Americans’ sense of their nation.
The Other America and the reception to it were, therefore, somewhat optimistic. They were grounded in the belief that poverty need not exist, that it was not part of the natural order, and that societies and their governments could take steps to eliminate it. During the 1930s, Franklin Roosevelt had created a new expectation for the American government – it should aggressively intervene in the economy to redress its periodic downswings. During the 1960s, politicians would carry this logic to the next step – they would declare war on poverty and embrace a moral and political responsibility for driving it completely from America. [Unfortunately, no one bothered to realistically define poverty.]
Tragically, Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, TX on Friday, November 22, 1963, after only 1000 days in office cut short his plans to deal with poverty and revealed just how intensely many adult Americans had invested emotionally and ideologically in his presidency. For three days, the nation grieved collectively; not since Abraham Lincoln’s murder a century earlier had Americans experienced such a sudden shattering of hope.
Unfortunately, Kennedy’s legacy was inflated by the tragedy of his death. Launched amid extraordinary hope, and ended just as it was gaining traction, his presidency was romantically characterized as one of historic vision. He was to be the President that eliminated poverty and advanced civil rights, and his achievements were celebrated as portents of even greater things to come.
In the bundle of proposals labeled “The New Frontier,” he had called for the creation of a health care plan for the elderly – Medicare – increased federal aid to education, and the renewal of America’s cities through a newly organized department of urban affairs. He promised to extend American good will around the world through the creation of the Peace Corps and to restore America’s scientific status by landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
However, Kennedy’s legacy was defined by his failure to make much headway on this vision and his reluctance to push harder for causes that carried political risk. To his critics, Kennedy was a president of empty promises and meager achievements. In the final analysis, they charge, he was more style than substance. Intimidated by Southern Democrats, he was slow to take action on civil rights. He even shied away from the unilateral options open to him as chief executive.
After promising to end discrimination in public housing, he dragged his feet and, eventually, signed orders guaranteeing equal access only to future projects. He appointed southern segregationists to the federal bench, and he gave FBI director J. Edgar Hoover the green light to tap Martin Luther King, Jr.’s phones in order to investigate Hoover’s absurd allegation that King was part of a communist conspiracy.
As we have seen, in November 1963, Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency and immediately set about expanding Kennedy’s vision of social and economic perfection and build a “Great Society” that elevated the poor, cared for the elderly, and offered educational opportunities to all. We have also seen how miserably that vision has failed America’s most vulnerable.
Championed by Johnson, as we know, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination in public facilities, such as parks, and in public accommodations, such as hotels and restaurants. It also prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or gender, and it authorized the federal government to initiate lawsuits against discriminating schools and municipalities. The Voting Rights Act, passed in the following year, forbade all voter tests, such as literacy tests, which had frequently been abused to block blacks from voting.”
On their face, these acts were the culmination of the dream of the Founders who endorsed, with their lives, fortunes and sacred honor, the essential phrase in the Declaration – “All men are created equal…” – by institutionalizing that concept in the law.
As for their implementation, not every American marched in lockstep to the same vision of “progress.” Citizens and politicians questioned the wisdom of expanding government services, arguing that they were costly and might breed a culture of governmental dependency. [How right they were!] The new lifestyles advocated and lived by college students and other members of the counterculture were condemned as immoral and anarchistic. Student protesters were labeled self-indulgent children without the experience to make sober judgments.
And not every reform or vision advanced during the 1960s survived into the 1970s. American capitalism did not collapse under the pressure of student revolutionaries. Consumerism remained an essential element of American society. And many of the conventional institutions and practices of both Wall Street and Main Street survived.
But student protestors did contribute to the unsatisfactory ending of the war in Vietnam, they did advance civil rights, and they did transform the culture of American colleges. Many of the values of the counterculture did work their way into the mainstream. America’s workplace is now more diverse and flexible, our sexual ethics have changed, and environmentalism has become a widely-embraced set of values. Many of the programs created under Kennedy and Johnson are now accepted fixtures within the nation’s web of social services. Educational opportunities are far greater. And in 1969, the United States landed a man on the moon. But, at what cost?
The 1960s remain a controversial decade. The era also created the welfare state, bred a culture of immorality and self-indulgence, and bequeathed to America’s taxpayers an enormous financial burden now approaching $20 trillion! In addition:
· What began with peaceful lunch counter “sit-ins” to protest racial segregation in 1960 ended with urban riots in many major American cities.
· What began with the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley ended with the Kent State shootings at Kent State University in Ohio, which involved the chaotic shooting of unarmed college students by the Ohio National Guard on May 4, 1970.
Fearful guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis. (As usual, the press got it wrong by featuring a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph – of a 14-year-old runaway-girl kneeling over the body of a victim minutes after he was shot – on the covers of national news magazines as representative of the tragedy. She was completely irrelevant to the story but has since made a cottage industry out of her celebrity).
· What began as a crusade against poverty with the telecast of Harvest of Shame in 1960, ended with a Welfare State firmly in place that would decimate the African-American community.
· What began with the introduction of the combined oral contraceptive pill (COCP), often referred to as the birth control pill or colloquially as “the pill”, which promised to allow women to take control of their own reproductive lives and was first approved for contraceptive use in the United States in 1960, ended with Roe v. Wade reaching the Supreme Court on appeal in 1970 – eventually resulting in more than 60 million immoral but “legal” child-murders over the next 45 years.
· What began with two war veterans proud of their service, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, vying to replace the man who had defeated Hitler in the European Theater during World War II, ended in 1972 with Nixon running against a veteran who was ashamed of his service during that war – George McGovern.
As we have seen, by 1970, the cultural debacle that was the Great Society was already in motion; the progressive/liberal press and media was about to bring down, with glee, a conservative President; Congress would abandon Southeast Asia to a Communist genocide; America would then elect a Georgia peanut farmer as President and then watch as his incompetence and ineptness would let loose radical, militant Islam upon an unsuspecting world.
These forces would then play out over the succeeding 35 years until the present day when we find ourselves attacked by radical, militant, barbaric Islam, losing more than 3000 innocents, yet find that the progressive /liberal/Democrats in academia, in the courts, in the press/media, in the arts & entertainment industry and in politics are incapable of understanding (or even admitting) that we are at war with an enemy who makes no apologies for their goal of wiping Western Civilization (along with Christianity and Judaism), and its billions of citizens, off the face of the earth. Recall what FDR did when we lost 2500 servicemen and women at Pearl Harbor.
At the same time, the Great Society, with the praise and encouragement of progressive/liberal/Democrats in academia, the press/media, the arts & entertainment industry and politics, and with the support of the activist-court system, which continually finds hidden rights in the simple words of the Constitution, has reduced our culture to one of dependency upon a bankrupt and corrupt federal government that is incapable of understanding (or even admitting) that we are at war with ourselves and are systematically destroying our Constitutional democracy, our people and the major cities that have made us great.
Two wars – one against foreign enemies, the other against domestic enemies – neither acknowledged by the PLDC.
Within these centers of power, and other large, metropolitan areas, virtually all communication of information is managed by the progressive/liberal apparatus and the government bureaucracy that issues the rules and regulations of mass communication – the press and their society wannabes; entertainment venues such as television and radio and their celebrity “talking heads”; academia in the form of studies, polls, teachers unions and accessible (and partisan) “experts”; liberal office holders (the “usual suspects” beholden to the local political “machine” and SuperPacs) and activist judges – all of whom are given access to the halls of power because they can be relied upon to spew the liberal “party line”.
The entities that control information have been lauded as the “commanding heights of the culture” by none other than Vladimir Lenin – the architect of the modern communist state – the very state visited by American progressives in the 1920s, before they returned to populate and influence the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.
When control of information, managed by one calculating, callous, crass and politically connected entity and denied to any other, is provided with the large concentration of voters in the comparatively small geographic area around the great cities, an inordinate amount of control can be exercised by relatively few individuals. When these individuals have a unified message that is not subject to an adversarial form of scrutiny, a false reality is created in the minds of the consumers in that geographic area.
The result has been a cultural divide between the great cities and the rest of the citizenry. As we have seen – from the results of the last several national elections – huge concentrations of (mostly public-school educated) voters, whose only easy access to information is tightly controlled and biased toward one political ideology, now exercise an ill-informed and inordinate influence over the federal election process.
One need only look at the voting results by county to see this effect. In Tennessee, for example, in the 2012 election, only four of ninety-five counties had a majority Democrat vote – each of these being the site of one of the four largest cities in the state – Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga – where one local liberal newspaper and network television news dominate and control the dissemination of information about the great issues of the day. Every state reflects this phenomenon. Don’t believe me? Read on.
Nationally, the results in 2016 were even more incredible – mind-boggling, in fact – as Donald Trump won 3084 out of the 3141 counties in the 50 United States while Hillary Clinton won only 57 – yes, just 57!!! That is a margin of – I hope you’re sitting down – 98%! Yet, these few counties provided the bulk of the 65 million votes Clinton received. Just a handful of counties around Los Angeles, CA provided her entire 3 million vote margin of victory in the popular vote count. As you can see, the influence of the PLDC in our large urban centers is staggering – and dangerous to democracy.
Only the recent arrival of cable news and the Internet has slowed this cultural trend by giving more people greater access to “un-managed” information or to information from other political viewpoints. However, this source must be purchased by voters (cable news and information, electronic devices, content driven websites, etc.), which reduces its competitiveness when matched against free and home delivered information.
(The latest trend in education is the providing of laptop computers to all public school students. We will all learn in the not too distant future that the only free source of news provided with these computers will be a national liberal news service.)
The recent trend in election results driven by voter ignorance (willful by the individual or calculated by the PLDC) or apathy is dangerous. It has already resulted in the majority of consistent voters having become dependent upon the government for free income and services and voting for candidates who will perpetuate this largesse – voting in their own (progressive/liberal encouraged) enlightened self-ish interest – with no regard for the common good.
The progressive/liberals have provided no encouragement to those Americans who have historically struggled in our capitalist economy, where initiative, ingenuity and an indomitable spirit have proven to be important for anyone who would exploit the economic opportunities available to all citizens – opportunities for education and training, for choosing and following a career path to success, for self-improvement by adopting and adapting to the essential qualities and core values of the Judeo-Christian ethic and the tenets of Western Civilization.
Rather, they have worked hard to convince these Americans that they cannot “make it” in America without the help of government entities – from the cradle to the grave – provided one is allowed to reach the cradle at all. This form of government is a cynical and evil tyranny – the tyranny of low expectations – that has resulted in the economic failure of generation after generation of our most at-risk citizens and the cultural disaster that is occurring in our major cities – those same cities served exclusively by the progressive/liberal controlled press and media. Instead of joining the parade (especially since the “war on poverty” began over 50 years ago), they have been persuaded (or bribed with free “stuff”) to remain on the sidewalk and watch progress go by.
To large segments of society, America has a victim mentality. Somehow, “America” is not fair.” The minimum wage is too low to support a family.” I can’t get the job I want unless I relocate.” “Things are ‘too hard.’” “We can’t get ahead.” “Costs are too high and pay is too low.” “Taxes are too complicated and, if you call the IRS, they have already told us that they will not answer questions!” Now we have a new right – to healthcare but, that “…is too complicated and expensive.”
These are not national crises; they are modern-life happening. There may be some confusion in calling us human beings – we need to be human “doings”. It is through action that we progress. Just “being” is the mindset the progressive/liberals have created in the welfare state. It must end.
Next time: The corrupting power of power.