Art, Literature and Society from 1955-1970
Fear and Loathing in a Clockwork Age
Ah! The noble search for identity. That intangible achievement that all artists lust after and lay in torment over. And during the post war era that struggle reached incredible magnitudes. The world cried out for legions of anti-heroes, who were only virtuous in their unapologetic and brutally honest lack of virtue. And the art world provided as many counter culture messiahs as was needed to “Damn the Man”. The Beats, hippies, and punks are evidence that behind the white picket fence of suburbia lay an America that wanted more out of life than the sugar coated portrayals of domesticity and patriotism it received from pop culture. The unfortunate side of authenticity often lead to the conclusion that autonomy was an impossible dream and that just mere existence required an individual to compromise his integrity. The post-war generation developed an interesting love-hate relationship with the mass culture of it's time. Some, like Andy Warhol, embraced the inevitability of mass culturalization in order to control the beast (yes, this is a reference to Revelations). While others recognized the American Dream as being a hypocrisy and so chose the Golden Eternity instead.
The Beat generation and early hippies sought to separate themselves from mainstream society where they believed they could start anew and fully experience life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The flower child philosophy was in fact very Transcendental, minus the stuffy New England mentality. The sexual, spiritual, and intellectual freedom and autonomy that characterized the Haight-Ashberry scene were closer to the Whitmanesque ideal than anything achieved during his life time.
Postwar America was extremely prosperous from the stand point of the middle class white suburbanite. The only problem was that not everyone fit that mold. And even those who were born into that envir…