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Counter Culture In The 1950's Essay

1903 words - 8 pages

The 1950s saw a period of extensive contentment within postwar America. A majority of the population adapted to the modern suburban lifestyle that emerged within this time period. They bought houses, started families, got steady jobs, and watched the television while complacently submitting to the government. Although fairly monotonous, this sort of lifestyle was safe and secure – many Americans were ready to sacrifice individuality for a sense of comfort. There was a minority, however, that did not quite accept this conservative conformity that had swept across the nation; some of these people took the shape of artists and writers. During the 1950s, what became known as the "Beat Generation" inspired the challenging of and rebelling against conventional America.
The Beat Generation was a form of counter-culture inspired by discontent
with the current state of life in America. This minority consisted of average people looking for something more in their lives than the common American Dream of suburbia and satisfaction, and was centralized primarily in Greenwich Village, New York. "Beats" or "Beatniks", as they were called, became words that took on a near literal meaning. In Allen Ginsberg's Deliberate Prose, it is stated that "…the original street usage meant exhausted, at the bottom of the world, looking up or out, sleeplessness, wide-eyed, perceptive" (Ginsberg 237), or beat. It was the Beat philosophy to question and criticize life than merely be content with it. Allen Ginsberg once again expresses beautifully what it meant to be part of the 1950s counter-culture by saying "It's weird enough to be in this human form so temporarily, without huge gangs of people, whole societies, trying to pretend that their temporary bread and breasts are the be-all and end-all of the soul's fate, and enforcing this ridiculous opinion with big rules of thought and conduct, bureaucracies to control the soul, FBI's, televisions, wars, politics, boring religions" (135). He emphasized the general feelings of displeasure towards society that the Beat Generation shared.
The philosophies of the Beat Generation extended further than discontent
with American society. Many individuals taking part of 1950s counter-culture explored non-Christian based religions such as Buddhism. They rebelled against a negative perception towards marijuana and often used it recreationally. It was a common Beat claim that "Systematic propaganda linking marijuana with violence, killing, shame and tragedy ‘including murder and rape' was passed through media networks" (Parkinson 164), and was nothing more than a hoax. People of the Beat Generation also took on a stance of "free love" – that is to say, homosexuality and having multiple partners were things that were embraced by this minority.
The American response to the Beats was not a positive one. They were criticized as being lazy and reckless, and just average people trying to be the inverse of...

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