decade of the 1960s (1960-1969)
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The sixties, known as the "countercultural decade" in the United States and other Western countries, is noted for its counterculture. There was a revolution in social norms, including clothing, music (such as the Altamont Free Concert), drugs, dress, sexuality, formalities, civil rights, precepts of military duty, and schooling. Others denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess, flamboyance, the decay of social order, and the fall or relaxation of social taboos. A wide range of music emerged; from popular music inspired by and including the Beatles (in the United States known as the British Invasion), the folk music revival, to the poetic lyrics of Bob Dylan. In the United States the Sixties were also called the "cultural decade" while in the United Kingdom (especially London) it was called the Swinging Sixties.

Quotes edit

  • We were there during the legendary sixties, with visions and insights and lava lamps and black lights and sitar music and really dynamite home-grown weed that would get you high in only 178 tokes. We lit candles and sat around listening to John Lennon sing, with genuine passion in his voice, about how he was the egg man, and they were the egg men, and he was the walrus, and by God we knew exactly what he meant. That was the level of hipness that we attained, in My Generation. Oh sure, people tried to put us down, just because we got around. Our parents would come into our bedroom, where we were listening to the opening guitar lick of "Purple Haze" with the stereo cranked up loud enough to be audible on Mars (which is where Jimi Hendrix originated) and they'd hold their hands over their ears and make a face as though they were passing a kidney stone the size of a volleyball and they'd shout: "You call that music? That sounds like somebody strangling a cat. Our parents' idea of swinging music was Frank Sinatra snapping his fingers in front of sixty-seven guys who looked like your dentist playing the trombone. They were totally Out Of It, our parents. Hopeless. They were so square they though that people, other tan Maynard G. Krebs, actually used words like "square." As Bob Dylan, who as so hip that sometimes even he didn't understand what he meant, put it: "Something is happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?" That was our parents: Mr. and Mrs. Jones. But not us. We defined hip. We set all kinds of world hipness records, and we were sure they'd never be broken.
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns 40 (1990). New York: Crown Publishers, p. 57-58
  • By the eighties, a lot of radio stations, realizing the size of the market out there, had started playing sixties music again. They called it "classic rock," because they knew we'd be upset if they came right out and called it what it is, namely "middle-aged-person-nostalgia-music." It's a very popular format now. You drive through a major urban area and push the "scan" button on your car radio, and you'll probably hear a dozen "classic rock" stations, ten of which will be playing "Doo-wah-diddy-diddy." (The other two will be playing commercials featuring "Doo-wah-diddy-diddy." We hear "classic rock" being played constantly in elevators, department stores, offices, churches, operating rooms, the space shuttle, etc. Almost every sixties group with at least one remaining non-dead member has reunited and bought new dentures and gone on tour, sometimes using special guitars equipped with walkers. And so, because we get to represent the world's largest summer horde, we get to hear Our Music all the time. We're wrapped in a snug, warm coccoon of sixtiesness, and we actually think that we're still With It. Whereas in fact we are nowhere near It. The light leaving from It right now will not reach us for several years.
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns 40 (1990). New York: Crown Publishers, p. 59
  • Another area in which my son makes me feel old is fashion. Especially hair fashion. I've always considered myself extremely liberal when it came to hair, because I remember how much I hated the ahir hassles I went through back in the sixties when I had long hair. I'd be walking past a clot of geezers who were sitting in front of a volunteer fire department, hoping somebody's house would catch fire so they could watch the trucks pull out, and one of them would inevitably look at me and say in a tone of voice suggesting that this was the cleverest and most original remark ever thought up by anybody with the possible exception of Mark Twain, "Hey, is that a BOY or a GIRL??" This awesome display of wit never failed to absolutely slay the other geezers, who'd laugh themselves into various stages of coronary seizure ("har har har har hack hack hack hack hawk hawk HAWK SPIT"), and I, being a Flower Child Peace Person in the Summer of Love, would give them the finger. But I would also vow to myself that no matter how old I got, I would never, ever, hassle anybody about his haircut. Of course, back then there was no such thing as "punk."
    • Dave Barry, Dave Barry Turns 40 (1990). New York: Crown Publishers, p. 61
  • The current generation [1965] of students is unique and very different in outlook from its teachers. I am referring to the good students in the better colleges and universities, those to whom a liberal education is primarily directed and who are the objects of a training which presupposes the best possible material. These young people have never experienced the anxieties about simple physical well-being that their parents experienced during the depression. They have been raised in comfort and with the expectation of ever increasing comfort. Hence they are largely indifferent to it; they are not proud of having acquired it and have not occupied themselves with the petty and sometimes deforming concerns necessary to its acquisition. And, because they do not particularly care about it, they are more willing to give it up in the name of grand ideals; as a matter of fact, they are eager to do so in the hope of proving that they are not attached to it and are open to higher callings. In short, these students are a kind of democratic version of an aristocracy.
  • In the early sixties that what was wanted was a liberal education to give such students the wherewithal to examine their lives and survey their potential. This was the one thing the universities were unequipped and unwilling to offer them. The students’ wandering and way-ward energies finally found a political outlet. By the mid-sixties universities were offering them every concession other than education, but appeasement failed and soon the whole experiment in excellence was washed away, leaving not a trace. The various liberations wasted that marvelous energy and tension, leaving the students’ souls exhausted and flaccid, capable of calculating, but not of passionate insight.
  • Alexander W. Astin’s research tells us that in the mid-1960s, more than 80 percent of entering college freshmen reported that nothing was more important than “developing a meaningful philosophy of life.” Astin, director of the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, reports that “being very well off financially” was only an afterthought, one that fewer than 45 percent of those freshmen thought to be an essential goal. As the years went on, however, and as tuition shot up, the two traded places; by 1977, financial goals had surged past philosophical ones, and by the year 2001 more than 70 percent of undergraduate students had their eyes trained on financial realities, while only 40 percent were still wrestling with meaningful philosophies.
    • William M. Chace, “The Decline of the English Department,” American Scholar, Vol. 78, Issue 4, Autumn 2009
  • I thought inside “I must really be crazy, now—because craziness is where everybody agrees about something—except you!” And yet I felt saner than I had ever felt, so I knew this was a new kind of craziness or perhaps a new kind of saneness.
  • The mid-1960s witnessed the climax of the postwar global economic expansion. Whether measured by mounting raw-material, agricultural, and manufacturing production, or by high employment and consumption levels, the growth between 1945 and 1965 had been nearly universal. Primary-producer countries had also shared in this prosperity, increasing their annual gross domestic product by at least 4 percent in the 1950s. In the 1960s—which the United Nations designated the First Development Decade—this figure rose to 5 percent and was even higher in the oil-producing countries. The Green Revolution in agriculture (the application of technology, including irrigation, fertilizers, pesticides, and disease-resistant, high-yield crop varieties) increased the world’s food supply. But the new global landscape also had darker sides. Increased food yields and improved transportation networks led to steep population growth but also an alarming drop in local production. There were the first warnings of a “Silent Spring”— the threat of industrial chemicals to the natural environment, made vivid in Rachel Carson’s 1962 book by that name. Scientists feared the reduction in biodiversity as a result of applying technology to agriculture. There were also significant economic and social consequences, including a rise in class disparities in the countryside (wealthier farmers were better able to acquire loans and information, and men had easier access to credit than women), the delay or cancellation of land-distribution programs, and the mass migrations of rural people to Third World cities that lacked houses, jobs, schools, medical facilities, and social services for the new arrivals. By the mid-1960s the Superpowers were experiencing the limits of their economic strength. The vast US and Soviet expenditures on their conventional and nuclear forces, ambitious space programs, and expanding weaponry deliveries to their allies and overseas clients increasingly diverted capital from civilian investment—particularly from education, social services, public health, and infrastructure projects such as mass transportation—and promoted inflation (which the Soviets were better able to hide), leading to the erosion of the quality of public life in both the West and the East.
    • Carole C. Fink, The Cold War: An International History (2017)
  • All the Sixties were complicated, you know. On the one hand it was funny too, you know; on the other hand it was cruel, you know. The communists are so cruel, because they impose one taste on everybody, on everything, and who doesn't comply with their teachings and with their ideology, is very soon labeled pervert, you know, or whatever they want you call it, or counterrevolutionary or whatever. And then the censorship itself, that's not the worst evil. The worst evil is — and that's the product of censorship — is the self-censorship, because that twists spines, that destroys my character because I have to think something else and say something else, I have to always control myself. I am stopping to being honest, I am becoming hypocrite — and that's what they wanted, they wanted everybody to feel guilty, they were, you know... And also they were absolutely brilliant in one way, you know: they knew how effective is not to punish somebody who is guilty; what Communist Party members could afford to do was mind-boggling: they could do practically anything they wanted — steal, you know, lie, whatever. What was important — that they punished if you're innocent, because that puts everybody, you know, puts fear in everybody.
  • that was kind of the '60s mentality, too—you didn't need to be published, that was mainstream. You just wanted to be an artist and create something.
  • One of the wonderful things about the 1960s was language. There was a new language and there were wonderful new ways of describing psychedelic states, spiritual states, trying to find new words for political actions like those of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. What do you call that when you sit at the lunch counter and you don't move and you do it with peace and love?
    • 1993 interview in Conversations with Maxine Hong Kingston edited by Paul Skenazy and Tera Martin (1998)
  • My advice to myself and to everyone else, particularly young people, is to turn on, tune in and drop out. By drop out, I mean to detach yourself from involvement in secular, external social games. But the dropping out has to occur internally before it can occur externally. I'm not telling kids just to quit school; I'm not telling people to quit their jobs. That is an inevitable development of the process of turning on and tuning in.
  • As Black people, if there is one thing we can learn from the 60s, it is how infinitely complex any move for liberation must be. For we must move against not only those forces which dehumanize us from the outside, but also against those oppressive values which we have been forced to take into ourselves. Through examining the combination of our triumphs and errors, we can examine the dangers of an incomplete vision. Not to condemn that vision but to alter it, construct templates for possible futures, and focus our rage for change upon our enemies rather than upon each other. In the 1960s, the awakened anger of the Black community was often expressed, not vertically against the corruption of power and true sources of control over our lives, but horizontally toward those closest to us who mirrored our own impotence.
  • Historically, difference had been used so cruelly against us that as a people we were reluctant to tolerate any diversion from what was externally defined as Blackness. In the 60s, political correctness became not a guideline for living, but a new set of shackles. A small and vocal part of the Black community lost sight of the fact that unity does not mean unanimity — Black people are not some standardly digestible quantity. In order to work together we do not have to become a mix of indistinguishable particles resembling a vat of homogenized chocolate milk. Unity implies the coming together of elements which are, to begin with, varied and diverse in their particular natures. Our persistence in examining the tensions within diversity encourages growth toward our common goal. So often we either ignore the past or romanticize it, render the reason for unity useless or mythic. We forget that the necessary ingredient needed to make the past work for the future is our energy in the present, metabolizing one into the other. Continuity does not happen automatically, nor is it a passive process.
  • The 60s were characterized by a heady belief in instantaneous solutions. They were vital years of awakening, of pride, and of error. The civil rights and Black power movements rekindled possibilities for disenfranchised groups within this nation. Even though we fought common enemies, at times the lure of individual solutions made us careless of each other. Sometimes we could not bear the face of each other’s differences because of what we feared those differences might say about ourselves. As if everybody can’t eventually be too Black, too white, too man, too woman. But any future vision which can encompass all of us, by definition, must be complex and expanding, not easy to achieve. The answer to cold is heat, the answer to hunger is food. But there is no simple monolithic solution to racism, to sexism, to homophobia. There is only the conscious focusing within each of my days to move against them, wherever I come up against these particular manifestations of the same disease. By seeing who the we is, we learn to use our energies with greater precision against our enemies rather than against ourselves.
  • The 60s for me was a time of promise and excitement, but the 60s was also a time of isolation and frustration from within. [...] It was a time of great hope and great expectation; it was also a time of great waste. That is history. We do not need to repeat these mistakes in the 80s.
  • Sixties radicals rarely went on to graduate school; if they did, they often dropped out. If they made it through, they had trouble getting a job and keeping it. They remain mavericks, isolated, off-center. Today's academic leftists are strutting wannabes, timorous nerds who missed the Sixties while they were grade-grubbing in the library and brown-nosing the senior faculty. Their politics came to them late, secondhand, and special delivery via the Parisian import craze of the Seventies. These people have risen to the top not by challenging the system but by smoothly adapting themselves to it. They're company men, Rosencrantz and Guildensterns, privileged opportunists who rode the wave of fashion.
    • Camille Paglia, “Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders: Academe in the Hour of the Wolf,” Arion, Third Series, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Spring, 1991), pp. 176-177
  • I see today’s parents as terrified of their children, not least because they have been deemed the proximal agents of this hypothetical social tyranny, and simultaneously denied credit for their roles as benevolent and necessary agents of discipline, order and conventionality. They dwell uncomfortably and self-consciously in the all-too-powerful shadow of the adolescent ethos of the 1960s, a decade whose excesses led to a general denigration of adulthood, an unthinking disbelief in the existence of competent power, and the inability to distinguish between the chaos of immaturity and responsible freedom. This has increased parental sensitivity to the short-term emotional suffering of their children, while heightening their fear of damaging their children to a painful and counterproductive degree. Better this than the reverse, you might argue—but there are catastrophes lurking at the extremes of every moral continuum.
  • San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not…but every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
    My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour...booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turnoff to take when I got to the other end...but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went, I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was...
    There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda...You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil...We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...
    So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes, you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
  • If anything, the sixties was a decade of change, with the lines often drawn between those who embraced change and those who resisted it. And time after time, it was those who embraced it who prevailed.
    • Tim Wendel, Summer of ’68 (2012), Chapter 5 (p. 135 in the paperback edition)
  • Although the '60s counterculture has been much maligned and discredited, it attempted to provide what we still desperately need: a spirited culture of refusal, a counter-life to the reigning corporate culture of death. We don't need to return to that counterculture, but we do need to take up its challenge again. If the work we do produces mostly bad, ugly, and destructive things, those things in turn will tend to re-create us in their image. We need to turn to good, useful, and beautiful work. We need to ask, as Thoreau and Ruskin did, What are the life-giving things? Such important questions are answered for us in the present by the corporate state, while we are left with the most trivial decisions: what programs to watch on TV and what model car to buy.
  • Unlike the civil rights struggles of African Americans or the protest politics surrounding the Vietnam War, the Chicano and Puerto Rican movements represent a decidedly underexplored aspect of 1960s New Left radicalism. Outside of the communities themselves, the names, places, and events of these two movements are virtually unknown.
    • Beltrán, Cristina, The Trouble with Unity, 2010
  • In two books about the cultural flowering of the 1960s, the many volumes of Chicano poetry, short stories, songs, and skits go unmentioned. In two books on the underground press, Robert Glessing's The Underground Press in America and Abe Peck's Uncovering the Sixties, you will find no mention of Chicano movement newspapers in the first (except for two listings in its appendix) and two references in the second. Yet there was a Chicano Press Association comprising 60 newspapers and magazines in those years.
  • White radicals of the 1960s-many of them called "the New Left"-learned tactics from African Americans, who had learned some of theirs from Asians (Gandhi) and who also adopted tactics from white workers of an earlier era. Native Americans took tactics from Blacks. Asian-American youths were inspired by young Puerto Rican activists. Chicano organizations copied from the Black Panther Party, as in their breakfast program. Yet the "New Left" is usually staked out with Eurocentric boundaries in our books on the 1960s. Even many people of color define the New Left as white, and would deny that their activism had anything to do with a new, old or any other kind of Left. The New Left was indeed born primarily white. But its vision of a society in which the exploited and oppressed become an empowered collectivity did inspire people across racial and national lines. That vision generated an international political culture that stirred youth from Paris to Mexico to Tokyo and lives on today. Who cannot be reminded of that New Left ideal, "participatory democracy" (a phrase used by Students for a Democratic Society), when hearing of how 3,000 Chinese students voted on every major decision in Tiananmen Square in May 1989?
  • The 1960s were revolutionary times. Across the world, people demanded national independence, racial equality, women's rights, and more humane societies. Their actions gave birth to radical changes in politics, culture, and social relations that influence our lives to the present day. Specific events and individuals moved the hearts of Puerto Ricans living in the United States. The African American struggle for freedom and justice led the way. Malcolm X's powerful speeches about self-determination and self-defense taught us that revolutionary change was in our hands. When Malcolm was assassinated in 1965, we mourned the loss of a great spokesman and leader. Two months later, don Pedro Albizu Campos, Puerto Rican freedom fighter, died after being imprisoned for twenty-six years in the United States where he was subjected to radiation experiments. Again, we cried and grieved a national hero. The war in Vietnam dominated global attention. In 1968, the Tet Offensive a series of attacks by North Vietnamese forces on South Vietnamese cities, including on the US Embassy grounds in Saigon-shocked the world. The American command retaliated swiftly causing heavy casualties, and live television coverage brought the war's reality into our homes. Worldwide protests intensified. A year earlier, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had spoken out against the war, calling it an enemy of the poor among other things. Emphasizing the relation between the war machine and poverty, Dr. King organized the Poor People's Campaign urging black, white, brown, and Asian people to camp out in front of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. until either a job or a living income was guaranteed for all. When Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, thousands took to the streets in more than two hundred uprisings in 172 cities. Many had lost faith, and no longer believed, that America could be reformed via elections or demonstrations. A new wave of grassroots militancy surged.
    • Iris Morales Through the Eyes of Rebel Women: The Young Lords 1969-1976 (2016)
  • It could be that today's conservative movement remains in thrall to the same narrative that has defined its attitude toward film and the arts for decades. Inspired by feelings of exclusion after Hollywood and the popular culture turned leftward in the '60s and '70s, this narrative has defined the film industry as an irredeemably liberal institution toward which conservatives can only act in opposition—never engagement. Ironically, this narrative ignores the actual history of Hollywood, in which conservatives had a strong presence from the industry's founding in the early 20th century up through the '40s, '50s and into the mid-'60s]. The conservative Hollywood community at that time included such leading directors as Howard Hawks, Frank Capra, and Cecil B. DeMille, and major stars like John Wayne, Clark Gable, and Charlton Heston. These talents often worked side by side with notable Hollywood liberals like directors Billy Wilder, William Wyler, and John Huston, and stars like Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, and Spencer Tracy. The richness of classic Hollywood cinema is widely regarded as a testament to the ability of these two communities to work together, regardless of political differences. As the younger, more left-leaning "New Hollywood" generation swept into the industry in the late '60s and '70s, this older group of Hollywood conservatives faded away, never to be replaced. Except for a brief period in the '80s when the Reagan Presidency led to a conservative reengagement with film—with popular stars like Clint Eastwood, Sylvester Stallone, and Arnold Schwarzenegger making macho, patriotic action films—conservatives appeared to abandon popular culture altogether. In the wake of this retreat, conservative failure to engage with Hollywood now appears to have been recast by today's East Coast conservative establishment into a generalized opposition toward film and popular culture itself. In the early '90s, conservative film critic Michael Medved codified this oppositional feeling toward Hollywood in his best-selling book Hollywood vs. America.

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