The Culture Crush
Society Is Everybody's Business
Savio-leading-demonstrators-into-Sproul-Hall-photo-1964-Warren-UC-Bancroft-Library.jpg

The Weekly

THE WEEKLY

Ongoing examinations of our culture and the back and forth between the expressions of the mainstream and the movements and ideas that stand to counter them. But more than a trip through the cultural continuum, it is a weekly conversation between generations, industries, and schools of thought. We ask you to join us in posing questions about our society— and about ourselves.

WELL DRESSED, YET STILL OPPRESSED

019b9c54-5e6b-4d72-a04e-a90e88bb3af0.png

So what ever happened to the counterculture? Where are the radical political and aesthetic movements now? In this week’s column, author Adam De Gree makes the argument that the countercultural movements that defined our society in the latter half of the 20th century failed to instill the change that they set out to accomplish.While at the heart of those movements there was a deep discontent which, at the time, was being felt by the fringes of society, there was a failure to recognize that this discontent was not limited to just the United States or Western style democracies.

To the contrary, that discontent was a function of the realities of modernity and its trappings; the equating of technological progress with social progress, the creation of a faceless, powerful technocratic class, and the loss of social integration. In his article, De Gree points out that several dissidents in, what was then, the USSR attempted to bridge this divide in thinking, but failed to impress upon the world the global nature of the problem. Read Whatever Happened to The Counterculture?

8fca07de-ef69-4c99-b3e7-b40fb6300de8.jpeg

While the 20th century is long gone, the problems have not been resolved since the time of Mario Savio, Allen Ginsberg, and Huey P. Newton (or their Soviet counterparts). If anything, the social issues that the Black Panthers, the Free Speech Movement, and Women’s Liberation Movement organized against have only gotten worse.

The governments have fused with private corporations to create monstrous entities not bound by or to any particular nation. Now, there is a global corporate class, ironically linking the United States and Russia, which is accountable to no one, creating crises in democracy. The only remnants of these older movements seem to be aesthetic ones, like the old saying goes, “capitalism commodifies everything, even resistance to capitalism.” 

While the 20th century is long gone, the problems have not been resolved since the time of Mario Savio, Allen Ginsberg, and Huey P. Newton (or their Soviet counterparts). If anything, the social issues that the Black Panthers, the Free Speech Movement, and Women’s Liberation Movement organized against have only gotten worse.

The governments have fused with private corporations to create monstrous entities not bound by or to any particular nation. Now, there is a global corporate class, ironically linking the United States and Russia, which is accountable to no one, creating crises in democracy. The only remnants of these older movements seem to be aesthetic ones, like the old saying goes, “capitalism commodifies everything, even resistance to capitalism.” 

e51bc04c-0285-4029-8a2c-f7f335317f7f.png

Today, we have expensive shirts covered in slogans that would have once been controversial, hippie garb worn to music festivals sponsored by the same corporate entities that the hippies were a reaction to, and the symbolism of Civil Rights and protesting being used in commercials for clothing made in sweatshops. The aesthetics of the ‘60’s counterculture have now been fully assimilated into mainstream culture in order to give the illusion of resistance with none of its substance.

With widespread alienation comes widespread discontent, which the current era of extreme visibility has only exacerbated by making us all hyperaware of the world and our place, or lack of place, in it. So the question becomes “where does the resistance live nowadays?”

In a modern world that has so successfully made a social and material commodity out of resisting, what form is the counterculture going to take? Will it be people in pink knitted hats with cat ears taking selfies at rallies? Or will it be people climbing up poles to tear down Confederate flags? Will there be a new uniform of resistance? A new recognizable aesthetic? Or will the counterculture of the new age be invisible?

line1.png
line1.png
3a9bb789-c56f-4a84-8226-0575d07d4a72-2.png
2af8ebec-3fc6-4543-87d7-de4cbc49abfa.jpg

All this talk of hippies and counterculture movements had us arguing about what a true revolutionary even looks like. After digging through our photography archives, we found the answer — revolutionaries looks like a bunch of 1950’s poets in berets hanging out at a bookstore. Back when we went to City Lights Books in San Francisco to speak with its founder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, he explained how all of the infamous American counterculture movements have the Beat Poets to thank for starting everything.

He said, “The poets catalyzed the scene out there, and they really were the precursors of the hippie generation. The Beats were the first ones to articulate the main themes of the hippie movement, they attracted people to be part of something and to stand for something they believed in.” But the main difference between the hippies and the Beats was the aestheticism. Unlike the hippies, the Beats dressed like everyday people. 

If you look at photos of the Beats, you’ll see men in collared white shirts and frumpy slacks. The name ‘Beats’ sounds like it could be a back alley gang or a bunch of hard-hitting tough guys, but Ferlinghetti explained, “Jack Kerouac said ‘beat’ stood for ‘beatitude’ as in the Catholic term. Kerouac was like a Catholic Buddhist. The other side is that it came from be-bop jazz.”

This further proves the Beats didn’t care so much about what a counterculture looked like, they cared about what it sounded like and what it did. Ferlinghetti said, “It took until the 1950’s for there to be a cultural cohesion, and we needed a catalyst to bring things together. Publishing Howl was that catalyst. Allen Ginsberg was never arrested for writing Howl, we got busted for publishing it.”

To us, Lawrence Ferlinghetti standing in front of his bookstore, broadcasting banned books on a giant poster sign while wearing his Sunday Best, looks ten times more rebellious than any 1960’s hippie with flowers in their hair or even a 1990’s grunge kid with a mohawk and leather studded belt. True rebellion lies in the heart, not in the wardrobe.

debra scherer