Sunday, August 17, 2008

What WAS IT Like in the 60's?

My hair-stylist (some people call ‘em barbers, hmmm) asked me yesterday what was it like growing up in the 60’s. 

I looked a closer look at her and saw a 40 year old eastern European woman. Her question about the 60’s came at the end on a complaint that today people have no respect.  In the 60’s they did have respect, didn’t they?  I dunno. Maybe respect for each other’s youth, but not a lot of respect for the “establishment.”  

Frankly I did not have an elevator speech prepared regarding what was it like back in the day.   I muttered a few observations – none startling I am sure – to point out that there was a changing of the way people perceived their lives growing up in the 60’s.   The depression era parents were raising children differently then they were raised. And at the same time blaming themselves for what the youth they were raising.  But this has become only clearer as time has gone on.  We living back then didn’t think of ourselves as growing up any differently than the generations.

So, were we all liberals then, and young?   Maybe.  Some of us followed a more traditional path but still considered ourselves part of the voice of the 60’s.  I was in the Air Force for 5 years towards the end of the Vietnam tragedy.  But I considered myself a kind of rebel in my own regard. I criticized the government, hated the Nixon regime, and loved the Beatles. I believed in rights for people of all color (my hero Muhammed Ali), thought women should be educated and contribute what they wanted or could)  to society, thought a woman ought to have control of her own body.  The era was teeming with social movements back then.

Today, we have supplanted social movements with social media, thus bringing a new powerful voice to those who want “change” we really can believe in.  But I haven’t seen much of the vitriol that emerged during the 60’s explode yet in the new millennium. OMG, the peaceniks would bomb government buildings!  Now only terrorists do that.

To me, there seems to be a lack of passion in social causes that there once was.   And I think passion and even vitriol provided the tension that fueled the changes that occurred.  NOT that everything changed.   We left Vietnam but now have an undeclared war in Iraq, a real crisis in healthcare, a nation still split by race and origin (Hispanics now), an imperfect economic system that seriously favors the haves and an educational system that still victimizes the poor. 

Yet, we don’t hear the loud voices that we heard back in the day.  And the funny thing is that those voices are still here – but now the voices belong to the parents and grandparents.  Why aren’t they making themselves heard?  

And I spend increasing amounts of time wondering what really has changed from the 60's to the millennium.   So after yea these many years of living, I have come up with a few observations that I toss your way.  

Nothing to do with walking miles to school, I promise.  Or even having to get up to switch channels on the telly.  But I think the forces of postmodern living have resulted in monumental “paradigm” shifts in the way people live now.

 The maturing process (i.e. passage to young adulthood ) was hastened back in the day (BITD) because of the military  draft.  Everyone (females excluded, of course) had the opportunity was targeted by the military (in more ways than one) at 18 years old.  Many did. Today only the “lucky” volunteers get that opportunity.  One can do a lot of maturing in two years in the Army.  What they taught best back then (and probably now) is responsibility to others and to oneself. They teach true teamwork and truly education in many ways. When and where are those lessons learned today by the 22 year olds today?  

BITD, the 18 year old was not nearly as experienced as today’s youth.   Ubiquitous foreign travel without getting shot at, drinking, drugs and sex at earlier ages might have something to do with this phenomena. You would think this would have a maturing effect something like military service.  I haven't observed that yet.

BITD, kids that behaved badly in the social/education settings were punished.  Today they are diagnosed and medicated.  It seems to me that both methods lack overall results.

BITD, very few people kept dogs in their homes and if they did, they were invariably small dogs.  Today, no dog lives outside (at least in the east), small or large. And ones as large as deer are kept as house dogs.

BITD, children didn’t speak to adults.  Today, children freely engage adults often in intelligent conversation.

BITD, no one revealed their sexuality and queer was in the closet.  Today, queer is out of the closet and very much in our face. It disturbs me to hear Gays and Lesbians make fun of themselves by embracing terms like “Queer” and “”Dike.”  I think there is some parallel to African Americans calling themselves the “n” word. I think categorizing and stereotypes always plays to ignorance. 

BITD, people had "pride" – tell no one what went behind closed doors, or anything about what went on in the family.  Today people still have pride, but it’s in the telling of what goes on behind closed doors. It's living out loud. See reality TV. 

BITD, drinks at lunch during were common place.  See Madmen.  Now, almost no one has a drink at lunch.  I don't know when that stopped, but it stopped all at once, seems to me.

In the 60’s, Ozzie and Harriet.was “reality” TV.  In the new millennium, Ozzie and Sharon Osborne and other celebs brought new meaning to “reality.”   I suspect neither of these shows got reality right, or even close to right.  

So what were the 60's like?   After considering all this and more, I really can't come any closer to that elevator speech I mentioned earlier.  One thing I think is for certain.  Change is always in the wind and someday someone from the now generation will be comparing the outrageous behavior of the youth of 2050.  

What were the 60's like for you? Use the comments section below to get the discussion started?


  1. I, for one, am a keeper of dogs as big as horses in the house. As I was born in the 60s, it's all I know...seems perfectly normal to me. :)


  2. Mary,

    Nothing wrong in keeping large pooches in the house, if that's your please. I'm just sayin'