|LOOKING AT YOUTH 15 YEARS AFTER THE FACT|
|by David Eide||.|
I think about the 67-74 period of time. I think about the light and dark of it. There was plenty of both. On the bright side was earnest idealism, a desire to see something integral in life not be corrupted; a desire to see the values and principles be lived out to their fulfillment. A feeling that what was occurring in the world was not real in a way. But it turns out, everything was real: Vietnam, cold war, civil rights, women rights, environmental concerns, war on poverty, space adventure being a few of the real things happening. To one protected by his role as student it was assumed that the good fights for civil rights and environment were fait acompli. That to be "against Vietnam" was as natural as breathing. But to say these things had any substantial weight in the soul of a student is not true. That would come later, after the deluge.
There was a belief in the strength of ideas. And that even war was abolishable by the mere thought of wishing it so.
Young men were on a lark. Young men were getting away from family. The meeting of youth, as a tribe, formed some united front against the elders. Cultivation of the arts and whatever delighted the senses and sources of meaning were ways and means of staying the hand of the cold world.
Ideology had greater influence at this time than did popular culture. Ideology became one of the burdens young people had to shake loose of. If they eventually escaped academia they usually did.
The male was finding his female; the female was finding her male. What zaniness this inspired. The worst thing possible was for the weak aspect of the gender attributes to dominate. Interesting stories emerge out of this natual experiment in a free, playful stage of life. The male felt ashamed for the brutality and dominance of the male spirit. The female was ashamed of her impotence, her brain so full of bright idealism.
Young men are always under the spell of the female as they work out the mother problem. So, the women of that generation had a great deal to do with the growth of rock music, sexual freedom and the protests against the war in Vietnam not to mention civil rights and women liberation. The boys got their keys off the girls. Not until the boys fought the mother and resolved this did the influence wane. The female had a good deal of sympathy. It reached some apex and then headed downward. The male started down and then struggled upward.
It went with the wholesale attack on the men of the older generation. In the struggle between the generations some good and bad occurs. The good is that a spirit of reform entered the picture, the bad is that the intellect was knocked for a loop so the reform dissipated into cultish, millennialist type endeavors. As a result of that no transformation occurred since the transformation got caught up in cynicism. All of that makes sense. At the time it didn't make since.
The irrational, fueling itself, renders human experience absurd. It reduces all things to a power struggle that is appropriate for a barbaric tribe but not a civilized one. Yet, the irrational surges up when it is repressed or hidden away so the psychologists say. The lesson is that it is the responsibility of the rational to make sure that the irrational is not hidden or repressed.
Powerful collective emotions surged during this period of time. Mass media played an enormous role. The riots and assassinations and Vietnam above all else, had much to do with it. It was a moment of extreme feelings and ideas.
Artistically there was rock and folk music and that was dominant through this period. There was poetry that was vital through the period. Novelists like Vonnegut had an influence. Some lovely songs emerge out of it. Fiction struggled with a powerful reality that was creating minds and seemed unprecedented. There was general acceptance that this was a new time or new age, that WWII was a dividing line and succeeded by the dominance of nuclear weapons and the space adventure.
Drugs were very prominent through this period. There was a thorough retreat from the "establishment" for a time.
What survives? First, the self has to survive. I'm not sure it survives with drugs and loud music and ferocious sexual activity. It tries to for as long as possible I suppose. Those things destroyed the self and then the self was taken away by fundamentalist cults or political ideology/fanaticism of one kind or the other. That is the dark side of all this; the destruction of the integrity of self that is necessary to carry on liberal democratic values. And those liberal democratic values were threatened at every turn. The main struggle in academia was between the old liberal, classical humanism and the new left with its "either/or" along very determined lines. New habits developed from the counter culture and general new rules for dealing with women and minorities came into play.
The exhaustion of youth is the flip side of the passions of youth. Youth that believes nothing will harm them so harms itself and drains its vitality drop by drop.
As soon as that time ended it was apparent the great weakness of it had been its lack of perspective.
The discontented of the older generation gained credibility as youth inverted the pyramid.
Spiritual humanism won over science and bureaucracy.
Culturally and historically I am not sure what significance blows through the time. Certainly the effect of the cold war was like a frozen hand over everything. The space adventure augmented the environmental concern since the "whole earth" was palpable. It also went toward the utter shattering of notions of time and space. The destruction of several Presidents and the subsequent destruction of the political establishment led to the the breaking up of the culture into fragments that did not cohere. The various popular movements fueled irrationality and destabilized the institutions. The irrationality was pervasive and wiped out old habits. It was a new form of rationality that opened space up for people who felt locked out of the mainstream culture. But it was also a utopian view that would never admit to its impossiblity.
There was a crisis in nationalism. The older and younger generation clashed over questions of nationalism and globalism. It came down to what role the U.S. was to have post-WWII. There was a tendency, as well, to reduce everything to psychological causes and that tended to simplify the complexities of the time. It became a pernicious instrument of manipulation since it could objectify human nature and evaluate it, leaving the actual person empty of everything but scorn and ridicule. This started a wild scramble for self-identity. Psychology was seen as the rationalization of the scientific point of view.
The period is over as a visceral era. The Reagan years intervened between this period and that one. Much of the darkness of that period played throughout the Reagan years. Reagan himself no doubt. '81-'88 is actually looking cognizant to me. What creativity occurred through this period? It was very fallow as any in American history. The institutions, money, traditions, end of Soviet Union, rise of Japan and Germany, trouble in mid-east all have intervened. Things settled down culturally except in the inner cities where drugs and gangs dominate. There's been a renewed interest in the environment
Well, who can know these things fully? What passes through the mind either makes sense or it doesn't. What is exciting at this time? Cosmology can carry that load although only a few people fully understand it. Computers and their enhancement throw an interesting twist into things. Attempts to establish the direction and future of the United States can demonstrate the absolute maximum the mind is capable of while holding the image of a "state" in itself.
How about artistically? Some of the rock videos are a novelty and little else. The movies are horrible. The literature is pretty tame. I hear noises but little art. In this sort of cultural moment the creative mind has to move around and search for the things that will inspire the work, that will fill his mind with treasure; that will provoke the moral sense. Since it is a huge nation and a larger globe you can only, finally, do what you can do given your limitations.
NOTE: Use the era of your youth as a resource and get out of it as quickly as you can.
© 2014 David Eide. All rights reserved.