By Dave Hood
“The zeitgeist is ever-changing. If you try second guess what people want, you’ll miss it.” – Nick Frost
“Zeitgeist” refers to the “spirit of the times” or “spirit of the age.” It is the spiritual, cultural, intellectual, ethical, political climate, mood of a country for a particular era. It is the beliefs, values, fads, trends of a particular time in history.
The other day, I conducted a Google search for information on the zeitgeist of the Sixties. ” Google returned a myriad of fascinating articles. The PBS website was particularly illuminating, providing commentary on the major events and issues and people of this period in history —-“The Sixties: Years that Shaped a Generation.” I I read about the Viet Nam War, politics, pop culture, time lines. I viewed documents, such as Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech, watched videos and looked at photographs of the spirit of the sixties.
This research brought back long forgotten memories. I recall the symbols, themes, music, people of that bygone era. It was a turbulent time. A generation rebelled, protested, marched, lost its innocence in the name of peace and love.There was feminism, bra burning, the pill, hot pants, Gloria Stein’s “The Feminist Mystique.”
There was the pop culture of peace signs, love ins, peace marches, long hair, bell bottom blue jeans, pot smoking, reefer madness, psychedelic drugs, magic carpet rides, launch of the Apollo, moon walk, music–lots of rock, soul, r &b. I recall the new sounds, rhythm, beat, noise, lyrics on the radio. Four Tops, The Supremes, Bob Dylan singing, The Beatles singing “Help”, the Stones singing “Can’t Get Know Satisfaction”, rocking of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. It was the a kaleidoscope of different music–lots of rock, pop, rhythm & Blues. I especially recall Joni Mitchell’s idealist lyrics of Woodstock: “I dreamed I saw the bomber riding shotgun in the sky, and they were turning into butterflies above the nation.”
There was politics, the dominant theme, especially talk of revolution—”make love, not war.” Slogans like “Get Up, Stand Up;” civil rights movement, the Black Panthers, death of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Chappaquiddick, the assassination Kennedy brothers, threat of nuclear annihilation, Viet Nam War, desire for world peace.
There was so much hope, idealism, belief that the world could be changed, transformed, altered for the betterment of mankind.
There was also the counter-culture wanting to dismiss the conservative past, tradition, political authority, and embrace drugs, long hair, rebellion, sex, free love—new values, mores, and lifestyle.
The sixties were a decade in which a generation rebelled against authority, promoted social change, lost its innocence. It marked the birth of the feminist movement, civil rights movement, opposition to the Viet Nam War, and dawn of counter-culture—-rebellion to tradition.
Now, as I reflect, the” spirit of the sixties” has faded away, like a sunny day that becomes a rainy day.Hippies cut their hair, threw away their faded jeans, burned their peace signs,put away their beads in jewelry boxes, tossed out the sandals for Oxford’s three-piece suits and designer shoes, and fancy ties. They have morphed into DINKS, YUPPIES, urban professionals driving sports cars, living in gated communities, BABY BOOMERS as time past. Now the hippies are ZOOMERS, nearing retirement.
In 2011, the hope, dreams, expectations for social change, desire for world peace of the sixties are dead, like John Lennon, who would have been 70 last year. The feminist movement has not achieved what it intended. Civil rights of blacks are still violated, and many live as second-class citizens. Though the Viet Nam war and Cold War have ended, we still have war. It is now the “war on terrorism.”
A few years ago, I read somewhere, in a history textbook, by some well-known historian, who wrote: “History repeats itself.” Yet, I don’t believe we’ll see rebellion and social change of the sixties again.