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In the 1960s Americans started to question the America’s culture of materialism, consumerism and Political norms. In their quest into seeking a better world, they used music, politics and unconventional lifestyle bequeathing a new way of life that was referred to as the new counter culture. The 1960s were a period of protest and reforms as young American demonstrated against the Vietnam War, the African Americans demanded civil rights and the women were advocating for gender equality1. The hero, therefore, was that person who helped others especially in achieving these. Americans faced many issues that ranged from arms race, the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and to liberty issues that pertained to drug use and sexual orientations. This new culture incorporated the notions of peace, love and unity as well as the ideas of religion, the mystic world as well as usage of drugs to expand one understanding of his self-awareness. This movement contributed to the great changes that affected America as the youth were courageous enough to challenge the established authorities, were advocating for more social tolerance as the people’s perception of matters that concerned gender marriage, environment and children rights slowly changed.
A good number of the youths escaped from the problems of the cities like crime and drug abuse to find refuge in the countryside where they forged new lifestyles that emphasised a common political ideology and were faced with spiritual reawakening to indulge in new spiritual encounters that favoured the peace of mind e.g. the Yoga and meditation. Many Americans were under fear of the nuclear holocaust. The shock of the Vietnam War and the prejudices of the racial injustice were aggravated by the culture of materialism and consumerism a resultant of the brute capitalism. To counter all these, the youths engaged at sit-in at schools, colleges, churches, hotels and other facilities. These youths were inspired by leaders such as John F Kennedy, Martin Luther king among others that acted as the political ring leaders2. A group of democratic politicians and activist that advocated for improved welfare used the expansion of the welfare state in California to reach out to the party’s electoral coalition hence setting the preliminary stage of the party’s identity politics of the 1970s and beyond. Thus the youth had to change their appearance and character to suit whatever they were advocating for. These were done through clothes, musical lyrics and the expressions of the arts that were used to explicitly articulate and advocate for these changes that concerned matters of free speech, liberty and political reforms; phenomena’s were not new to the American society as they are the basis for the American state. Music was used as a force of change to alter people’s thoughts and action. It brought about a culture change that was based on the ‘hip hop’ culture. The fashion was not left behind as the men drew on crew cuts and the women had bouffant hairstyles.
By the middle of the 60s, the women were wearing miniskirts and hot pants that were worn with the go-go boots that revealed the legs while the body wear revealed the body curves of women as their hair was made either short or tall and thin. The culture ended the idea of making women second class citizens. All this advocating was not in vain as the period of change came in the 1970s where the social experiments were tried out leading to change and partly showed what the Americans would be like in the 1980s. In the 1970s the state of America ended its involvement in the Vietnam War and the civil and women rights movement attained many of the goals that they were advocating for. The economy at this time was hit by a very hard recession (the cyclic nature of a capitalistic economy) that saw high-interest rates and inflation. The repercussion was felt in the whole world leading to a drop in the supply of oil resulting into an acute shortage of the product. The liberal democrats who were in power for most of the 1960s lost in the 1970s to a conservative politician Richard Nixon where he was forced to resign during the Watergate scandal3. Gerald Ford the vice president came in but lost later. Carter who replaced him was also voted out as a result of his failure to improve the economy. These changes of the 1970s affected the pop culture, education and politics around America. In the film, radio and television industry, a popular program of the time was named “All in the Family” that was a factory worker who disliked black people and vehemently opposed women rights. But it’s his family that slowly made him change his ways and accept the difference of the America’s social fabric. Other programs helped Americas to escape from the problems afflicting them by depicting a utopian happy life e.g. “happy days” and the “Three’s company” the message was also similar in the music industry. The folk music was much appreciated in the 1960s as it concerned the social problems4.
With the advent of the 1970s different groups started to play hard rock and punk music. The reforms also led to a change in the education system as a lot of people were disinterested in furthering their education after college since they were busy advocating for social and political reforms5. The war in Vietnam had also bogged them down with the view that more education led to increased inequality. In the mid-1970s though, the need to make more money led to many Americans going for higher education as it had become acceptable and higher education provided the skills that were needed for this. In the 60s and 70 they were acting in a collective manner and after achieving many of their goals the focus shifted to making money and living a life that they had long desired. A sign of becoming more concerned with their personal life. This new counterculture ended the idea of making political decisions that people do not support and made the environment a priority for the government and the state of America in general6.
1. Bruce J. Schulman and Julian E. Zelizer, conservative in the Rightward bound: making America 1970s. (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2008), 7.
2. General Publishing Group, Of the people: the 200-year history of the Democratic Party. (Santa Monica: General Pub. Group, 1992), 140-160.
3. Rodney P. Carlisle, America in revolt during the 1960s and 1970s. (ABC-CLIO, 2007) 62-96.
4. Rodney, America in revolt during the 1960s and 1970s, 179.
5. General Publishing Group, Of the people: the 200-year history of the Democratic Party, 102-104.
6. Bruce and Zelizer, conservative in the Rightward bound: making America 1970s, 200-230
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