Thankyou Claire for this question. I hope that I can do justice to it- from my heart. More later.
I told my son I was once a hippie and he looked at me quite perplexed and I knew he was trying to reconcile how his Dad, a pillar of society, could have been such a goofball looser. He asked me how young I was seeming to find some satisfaction in chalking up my temporary idiocy to youthful naïveté.
To some degree, I’m sure he was right. Every generation has an inclination to challenge the establishment and rebel against the prescribed doctrine of the day. There is a long historical parade of flappers, beatniks, hippies, punk rockers, etc. exemplify our youthful exuberance for thinking we knowing a better way. Much of it I’m sure is simply a way of carving out a sense of self-identity- a developmental benchmark that we later outgrow as we begin to take life more seriously (or perhaps, it is less seriously).
So, with some reservation and fear that, I’m being a bit too overly romantic (talking as much about my own “coming of age” as I am about that particular time), I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the 60s were indeed a very special time in our history, when a great part of our generation,, for a brief moment, were able to come together in a way that today seems hard to imagine, let alone, possible.
I’m sure it had much more to do with the circumstances of that time, rather than any special generational attributes. Most of us were lucky enough to feel secure and optimistic. After all, our parents had won a world war and we were riding high on a tremendous economic boom (pushing us several notches up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs). We didn’t have to worry about surviving. The cold war was still quite abstract. Living was relatively easy and with that came the luxury of self-reflection and a dramatic change in the way we saw our lives unfolding. We had conquered the enemy without, and for the first time, (in a very long time), we were willing to look at the enemy within.
And the revelation, that we thought we had discovered afresh, was that there was a value to life far beyond the materialistic “goals and standards” of the day. Happiness was not synonymous with owning a two car garage and a color TV. Keeping up with the Jones did not feed the soul. We rebelled against the excessively repressed and inhibited way that our society appeared to arbitrarily dictate the meaning to our lives.
And what we discovered was the revelation- that what was really important- what really made life rich and worthwhile, was the intimacy that we could develop with each other.
As simple as that sounds, I think was the most profoundly valuable idea of that time- one that pervasively rippled through the entire fabric of our society. Intimacy required that we find a way to be known, to be authentic. We coveted spontaneity, freedom of expression, creativity and just about any and all idiosyncratic ideas or beliefs. We looked beyond the superficial and respected our individual differences with an amazing amount of tolerance, acceptance and respect. We each had a “life style”. It was a time of social experimentation.
As silly as this sounds today in our world of such extreme polarization, we made an effort to move past superficial labels and see each other as something more, something worth connecting to. And if we tried, more times than not we could really feel that connection. There was common ground. After all, we all had feelings- not so different or alien from anybody else. And for an amazingly large part of our generation, we actually felt as if we were a family- brothers and sisters under the skin.
Others have questioned how the 60s can be considered such a golden age with so many social ills. But social ills have always existed. What made the 60s special is that it was the first time in a very long time in our history that we were REALLY willing to really look at it. It generated considerable social turmoil and strife, but that is that nature of the process of change. It made reform possible. It is because our perspective so dramatically changed that we were able to actually believe that our ethnic and gender differences were superficial, that sex was not bad and that perhaps the real enemy was not to be found in Vietnam…
Small wonder that many of us felt that we were on the verge of creating a utopian communal existence. But, we weren’t capable of sustaining it then.
Perhaps, that is human nature. Certainly there is a problem with a utopia that can’t trust anybody over 30 (which I of course, am now saying because I’m over 30 🙂 ).
But it isn’t the first time in our history that we have made that attempt and I sure that it isn’t the last.
Maybe some day we will be ready.
Some of that stuff is pretty rad but it is still going on. We still have surfers, lava lamps, classic cars, listening to The Beatles, Woodstock, and other stuff like that. The 60’s is just another decade that is another start for something great. Yeah, nowadays it seems all “WTF?” but not all of us are like that. It’s different in every state, too. Some of us stayed with being hippies and keeping albums of the past like that. But a new flow appeared. When ever a new thing comes up, we do the old thing instead. We’ll get another Golden Age. Just have hope.
I really want to ask you a question. Are you giving inspiration to look back in the years so we don’t forget? Do you truly believe that is our last Golden Age? Do you even know how a Golden Age even happens?
I enjoyed that little presentation. I was born in 1968, but a lot of that stuff was still around when I was a kid. In fact, I was delighted to see my pale blue Princess phone in there–I got it in the early ’80s after a long search. My mother agreed to let me use the phone line in my bedroom, but I wasn’t allowed to have my own line. It took me a full year to find the phone I wanted 😉 I still have it, but we don’t use it anymore.
When I think of the ’60s, I don’t think it was a Golden Age. In reality, I don’t think we in North America have had a Golden Age in a long, long time. When I think of the ’60s, I think of Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney, the three civil rights workers who were murdered by the KKK because of their work with trying to get Black people registered to vote. I think of the horrible film shot by Abraham Zapruder, which captured the assassination of JFK. I think of the stories my brother told me of the Monday morning announcements at his high school, where the principal read the names of the school alumni who had been killed the week before in Vietnam. I think of the horrible film footage of police using fire hoses on people in the South because they had the temerity to actually ask for the rights they had already been guaranteed by the Constitution. I think of the pictures of the Watts Riots, the ones with buildings burning in the background as chaos reigned supreme. I don’t think of a Golden Age. I think of a troubled decade.
And I find as I think of each decade of the 20th Century, that I see a decade full of trouble and difficulty. I see it in the ’50s, when people thought there was a communist hiding under every rock. I see it in the ’40s, when the whole world was at war, and found out just how far a madman was willing to go to destroy a group of people. I see it in the 30s, when the Depression turned the entire world upside down. Need I continue?
And yet, I will say this. For all the trouble that every generation has faced, there has always been one constant: hope. Hope that the war will end. Hope that next year we might be able to buy a car. Hope that things will get better. Hope is the conjoined twin for every trouble we have ever seen in North America, and, in truth, the world. Emily Dickinson wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul.” I have yet to see anything in my nearly 40 years on this planet which has managed to knock hope from its perch inside the human soul for any great length of time. Innocence? It’s long gone, and has been for ages. But hope? Hope is with us always. It may disappear for a bit, but it always comes back to roost in our hearts. Always.
Was N. America ever innocent? I don’t think so. How were the 60s the last golden age? Those terms may be meaningful to some people but not to me or any of my peers.
How would you describe “innocent” in relation to a country?
What is a “golden age”?
Human Supremacist Attitudes rejected through Civil Disobedience might make a new one. Human Supremacist Attitudes cause Global Warming. Signs to effect and such. Suicidal Greed, Damaged Ecosystem. An Animal Life is equal to a Human Life to remove it wrecks ecology in practical terms.
Innocence, or a faded image of innocence in one’s mind is often merely the glossing over of the negative aspects of the bygone time. All generations face hard and troubling times, we all have our triumphs and our failures.
The sixty’s might be a golden-age to some old white men, but I’m fairly sure that women and blacks don’t have quite the same memories.
The 60’s were a golden age? WOW I was there through it all and missed that part. And America has never been innocent. Get real and wake up. remember the roaring 20’s and prohibition? Innocent?
60s the ‘Golden Age? Just ask any Viet Nam veteran who was about 18 at the time…ducking for cover and breathing in napalm about loss of innocence. Ask any black person who wasn’t even allowed to drink from the same water fountains as whites about loss of innocence. Ask any college student who was too high to care about any of it about loss of innocence.
How lucky so many of us are, to have the ability to idealize a time in history when so many others were giving up their innocence for our right to do so.
Ah yes the 60’s… it was so much better then. Schools weren’t integrated, we couldn’t be bothered with civil rights…
People always like to say “the good ol’ days” but they tend to forget the ugly side of those times.
U.S has no innocence none of the country in the world does (i think) actually U.S was the strongest when Bill Clinton was president the ECONOMY WAS REALLY GOOD IN THE 1990s UNLIKE TODAY