My parents were children during the Great Depression and teens during World War II in which my Dad served as an infantryman. They married in 1952 and lived in this time of prosperity and the promises of modernism as the middle class American dream only required a willingness to work 40 hours a week without the need of a college degree or even a high school education. Life was good and simple. Men went to work and women stayed home cleaning, cooking and caring for the children, and everyone in the neighborhood was the same; white, middle class and Protestant (My parents weren’t typical as my Mom always worked outside the home, too). The social norms of the fifties were in full force. I was born into this world in 1956.
Then in 1964, as I entered the so called age of reason (7 or 8 years old) in childhood development, the American counterculture (hippies) emerged rejecting those cultural standards of the fifties. They questioned “…racial segregation, the Vietnam War, sexual mores, women’s rights and materialism.” This counterculture movement, unbeknownst to me, divided the country. “To some, it reflected American ideals of free speech, equality, and world peace; while to others, it reflected a self-indulgent and unpatriotic assault on America’s moral order.” This division never ended and persists today.
By the time, I was 13 or 14, bell bottoms, blue jeans, peasant tops, tie dye shirts, long straight hair parted in the middle and long hair for males too, the Beatles, the Monkees, the Partridge Family, Laugh-In, Love American Style and Woodstock (even though I was too young to attend) defined my world. Peace, love, harmony, music and mysticism were the ideals of the time. The world was new and the old ways were discarded. We were freer to express ourselves and pursue many different ways of living and earning a living. Three years later, I was going to the Disco and styles changed that quickly, but that’s another story. But, between the formative ages of 8 and 16 (1964-1972), I became a liberal Democrat (I’m actually more of a left-leaning centrist) without even knowing that it was occurring. This is when my worldview was formed. It began to form when the Beatles’ song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was playing at the roller rink and was mostly hardened by the time “Rock the Boat” by the Hues Corporation was playing in the clubs.
The movement ended as the economic crisis of the time forced free spirits into traditional jobs and as the goals of the movement actually became part of the mainstream. The ending of the Vietnam War, improved civil rights and liberties, gender equality, environmentalism relaxed sexual mores, reduced focus on materialism and the acceptance of more casual dress was now the new normal. Mainstream philosophy, art, music, movies, theater, fashion, lifestyle, and social norms were forever changed.
Cultural change has been fluid over my lifetime, but those early formative years will always be my reference point. The self-awareness of the source of my worldview is enlightening as I try to understand others who think differently than me. My worldview was formed without conscious effort over a very short period of time. It was formed by the times and those around me and those who came before me. So, now I understand that everyone’s worldview is based on their individual experience from a very young age. I believe it is tweaked over the years but it’s original form is very strong and ever present, it is seemingly innate.
Even though many of these changes were absorbed by the greater culture, there were anti-change forces present from the very beginning that still exist today, and it has become increasingly stronger lately. Republican conservatism, Christian nationalism, white supremacy, anti-feminism, rampant materialism and the unbridled pursuit of wealth are the counter forces that have finally come into clear view after nearly 60 years of operating in the shadows. The election and presidency of Donald Trump shined a giant spot light on these forces that were not apparent to many of us or at least not to me.
While my worldview was being formed there were only four TV stations that expanded to about eight when UHF came into being and a few AM radio stations (FM radio played some instrumental music at that time). Now, our country is very diverse not just by race and ethnicity but by which media we consume. Today, we have thousands of cable TV channels, ever increasing streaming services and social media websites, internet and gaming platforms, blogs, podcasts and satellite radio. Nearly every divergent thought can find acceptance and reinforcement in this seemingly infinite information web so that the majority of us no longer share a common perception of life. Our simple division of the sixties has turned into a gigantic dispersion of different world-views to the point where ridiculous conspiracy theories slither into mainstream thought. I’m not sure there is any comparison to this time in history, no example of what to do. We can’t even agree on a common reality. Would education in civics and informed media consumption help us sort facts, opinions and fiction? How can a unified message get to everyone? Can I understand world-views formed in the eighties, nineties, oughts, and teens?
I hope this self examination has provided me with greater understanding as I consider the point of view of others. I’ll end with this final question. Who were the 8 year olds in 2016, who are now 12 in 2020? What kind of lifelong worldview are they going to have?
Referenced http://www.lumenlearning.com “The Sixties 1960-1969: Counterculture” for this blog.