Why We Are Still in the Sixties Today
The longest chapter in the book is entirely devoted to this topic.
"Is There a Sixties in Your Future? And If So, What Would It Be Like?"
It is based on the provable premise that during the year 1960 not a single one of the twelve major issues spawned by the Sixties would have found popular support, simply because almost no one would have found them remotely important. The author can make this statement with some authority simply because he was alive in 1960 and can distinctly recall the overall social climate of that time in the US. This would have even been true as late as 1964 or 1965, when these issues would still have struck most Americans (and most English or Germans or Dutch) as quite uninteresting.
But wait, precisely what are these twelve major issues I'm talking about? There were so many controversial conflicts during the Sixties, and they all converged together as the Viet Nam War slowly escalated. I have listed twelve of them in what follows, and yet even this paltry dozen does not exhaust the many differences that grew up between young and old, a conflagration that would soon be named "youthquake." In the book I go into considerable detail about each of the twelve, but to keep things simple, here I'm merely showing you the list.
Let me explain right away that many other areas were being hotly contested as well. For instance this list makes no mention of some of the most divisive Sixties issues, such as differences in musical taste, dance style, clothing, or personal grooming. Yet these alone were more than enough to trigger unwavering opposition from a generation too old to accept them.
I have chosen what I regard as the twelve most important of these Sixties divisions, and while half of them do indeed concern sex and drugs, the other half embraces a broad gamut of other causes. Here is that brief list--further details for each entry can be found in the book:
1. Soft Drugs
2. Hard Drugs.
3. Straight Sex.
4. So-called Kinky Sex.
5. Access to sex-related procedures and knowledge about them (birth control, abortion, sex-enhancers, etc.)
6. Gay Sex.
9. Eastern Mysticism & Cults.
10. The Commune Movement.
11. Widespread Sympathy for Black & Hispanic Civil Rights
12. Classical Left Wing/Communist Politics..
As noted, not a single one of these causes had anything like broad public support before the Sixties came along, yet each one was to build a far broader constituency during the Sixties era. Until 1966 these topics were at best quietly discussed in small groups on the two coasts or remained isolated in the universities. As I write, all but the last of these entries still enjoys considerable public support.
Even today they still have the power to infuriate many of those living in the past (or perhaps in the "red states"), proving once againif any further proof were needed how truly the Sixties brought about changes that still survive in all of us, even in those who would like to believe those changes never happened.
As I make abundantly clear in the book, the success of these causes owed much to the larger anti-war movement. Just as World War II created Rosie the Riveter and the changes in the role of women in the workplace she symbolized, so the Vietnam War provided the impetus for these twelve other movements to blossom. In fact, without the anger over Vietnam, it is possible that some of these other causes would have never come into being. At best they would have suffered severe postponements and delays.
Two important questions arise that must be addressed before beginning to state with any certainty what the next Sixties-like era might actually look like. First, what would be the main driving force for any such renewed progress, the large-scale social conflict comparable to Vietnam or World War II?
And second, what other issues would suddenly come forward and turn into militantly resisted and defended causes comparable to the twelve I have just named for the Sixties?
Concerning the identity of the "main driving force," I suggest several possibilities in the book, including:
growing passion about the environment;
public reaction to an ever-worsening economy;
the possibility of renewed racial antagonism;
soaring religious passion in several nations, leading to the ultimate culture war;
increased movement of peoples across borders, calling into question the entire concept of nations and nationhood;
Any of these developments could provide the detonating energy for something ap-proaching a renewed Sixties. But this time around what would be the attendant issues, similar to the twelve I identified for the Sixties?
Here too I have had no hesitation in placing my head on the block and precisely naming twelve adjunct issues comparable tobut altogether different fromthe Sixties dozen, causes likely to evoke comparable passion and resistance in today's or tomorrow's society.
Together they encompass a broad spectrum of social and political priorities, ranging from the space program to medicine to religion to economic and cultural topics to a new and almost totally unknown approach to sex.
But I'm afraid you'll need to read the book to find out precisely what each one is likely to be. Each one could indeed turn out to be a truly major issue, urgently requiring our thoughtful attention and action.
I am also entirely prepared that some readers won't be able to see them as major issues at all. Just as in 1960, the majority of US (or Western) peoples could not bring themselves to believe that the issues covered by my Sixties list possessed any particular importance or urgency. That's simply because we today are still necessarily living in 1960 where these new upcoming causes are concerned.
So yes, this book has a great deal to say about how the thoughts and deeds of the Sixties are likely to apply to today's world. Even though the specific issues will be quite different, it is entirely possible that the passion and urgency will be just as intense and partisan as it was back then. Let me end with the closing words from the chapter that deals with this subject:
_In other words, just as the Sixties were a wake-up call to American and European sleep-walkers, prompting them to look beyond all the lies they had been forced to swallow about sex, drugs, war, race, and other issues, so the new Sixties will be another such wake-up call, this time entirely international in scope and directed towards our vast public hypocrisy covering so many different areas, a form of hypocrisy shared in equal measure around the world.
And this time around the message may be even harder to bear. At the very least, in this chapter I believe I have already more than succeeded in making my point, that a period comparable to the Sixties quite possibly lies dead ahead of us, an enormous unavoidable iceberg so far invisible only to the captain and officers of the ship. And if we are extremely lucky, perhaps history will permit us to engage in such a struggle again._
Contact the author via email
Contact the author via Twitter