To most the sixties were just an era of personal changes and challenges. Few had a hand in the big picture. We were an audience to a spectacle that would some day be glorified as was the ‘roaring twenties.’
In my novel The Summer of ’62 one premise explored is that not everyone was changed by the ‘counter culture’ movement. Personal changes take root long before. It is a series of small events that change lives. That is one of several underlying themes to the The Summer of ’62. My main character, Rich Larsen, knows there is a world beyond the horizon. It is a world he reads and dreams about. It is the world from where the late evening radio broadcasts come from. Those are not the things that change him. They are merely an alternative to his present life.
Once We ‘Changed The World’ We Got Real Jobs
People make too much of the sixties. Perhaps because some from the sixties exaggerate their own influence or importance on events and changes. ‘We changed the world,’ some tout. Actually it was the world that changed us.
The real change of the sixties had its beginnings in the fifties. It became like a ripening apple. The beatniks became the social revolutionaries or so called ‘counter culture’ that produced hippies. They were poets, writers, and musicians. There was a strange mysticism about them that drew impressionable youth.
We were led along by cleaver people. They manipulated the way we groomed, the way we dressed, the way we talked, and so on. We have to admit we were just a part of and led along by a herd mentality.
We grew up. True, some tried to hold onto the past. Eventually we cut our hair, shaved our beards, got rid of our rose-colored glasses, bought real cloths, and got a real job.
At Least Twenty Million (20,000,000) Were at Woodstock
If everyone who said they were at Woodstock were at Woodstock there might have been twenty million people there. Not everyone was tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. When I talk to somebody my age it is common for them to say, ‘Oh yeah, the sixties, Woodstock and everything. I was actually there.” I like to say, “No you weren’t. I don’t remember you.” Just to set the record straight, I was one of the dozen or so who weren’t there.
The Only Real Life Altering Event is Death
If we grew up in the sixties, it was an awkward time. It was an awkward time because all teenage years are awkward. Sure, I know the dramatic events that impacted history. A President, a presidential candidate, and a civil rights leader were assassinated. Do those things really impact us personally? Do they mold and change our thinking? Are those people the influence on us many claim they are?
Perhaps there is something in us that likes to point to a moment our lives took new direction. I’m not convinced that epic events do. I think it is a series of small events and what changes us is what happens to us personally, not something hundreds of miles away to a person we have no personal relationship with.
Is it the media and the historians that look for that sort of seminal life altering moment. If they can identify or mark a point that things change it gives them credence and relevance. Certainly there are general moods or trends in a society that make changes possible, but it comes down to the individual and how he or she responds to the environment around them.