The struggle between generations is one of the most obvious constants.The 1960’s were not unique in this sense, but were unique in terms of radical dissent and cultural innovation; an extreme form of alienation transformed from the typical peripheral experience in the past in the life of the individual and the family into a major lever of radical social change that gave shape to something appeared as a saving vision to an endangered civilization; what Theodore Roszak called a hold against the final consolidation of a technocracy in which the individual would be ingeniously adapted to an existence wholly estranged from everything that made the life of the individual an interesting adventure.
By technocracy, Roszak meant the social form in which an industrial society reaches the peak of its organizational integration. The ideal people speak of about modernizing, rationalizing and planning. A meticulous systematization that gives us a human organization that matches the precision of our mechanistic organization. Social engineering which orchestrates the total human context that surrounds the techno-complex. Roszak saw politics, education, leisure, entertainment, culture as a whole, the unconscious drives, even protest against the technocracy itself as becoming subjects of purely technical scrutiny and of purely technical manipulation.
The critique of Roszak was that our lifestyles and education; rigid adventures in sophistication, are essentially subversive and visiously so. They allow us to throw off flurries of intellectual sparks , but short-circuit any deeper level of the personality. They teach us appreciative gestures, but avoid the white hot experience of authentic vision that might transform our lives and in so doing, set us at warlike odds with the dominant culture. The counter culture was really seeking to ground democracy safely beyond the culture of expertise; a strange brand of radicalism that turned to prehistoric precedent for its inspiration.
Roszak said that the capacity of our emerging “technocratic paradise” to denature the imagination by appropriating to itself the whole meaning of Reason, Reality, Progress and Knowledge will render it impossible for people to give any name to their bothersomely unfulfilled potentialities but that of madness. An for such madness, humanitarian therapies would be generously provided. In other words, there would be a cunningly soothing of the neurotic hurt; ” the thoroughly sensible, thoroughly well intentioned but nevertheless reductive humanism with which the technocracy surrounds itself, without seeming to speak a dead and discredited language.
The youth in the American 60’s counterculture deliberately discarded the roles they were expected to play in this first post-war generation, in the hope of creating a new one. They tried on an modeled the values and mores of other fringe groups like a rented wardrobe from a costume shop. The disguise that seemed to fit best was that of the Beats. The Beats did not attack the structure of mainstream society, but instead ignored it by dropping out. Some of them were raised to icon status, like Allen Ginsberg, and adopted as adult leaders of the counterculture.
“Owsley “Bear” Stanley, the hippie LSD purveyor who bankrolled the early Grateful Dead and revolutionized its psychedelic sound, died on March 13th. He was seventy-six. Although mainly known for his skill in producing and distributing the LSD that contributed to the San Francisco cultural revolution of the 1960s, Owsley played a major role in the Grateful Dead’s development through the creation of the Dead’s “Wall of Sound” concert audio system as well as co-designing the human skull-lightning bolt logo for the group.
Bruce Eisner interview (1998):B: Well, you could get lysergic acid monohydrate in those days.
Owsley: True, you could if you had connections. It wasn’t all that easy to get. I was able to obtain some — sixty grams from a well-known chemical firm — and then I found a better connection, who was ordering it from Farmitalia. He was changing the bottle so I wouldn’t know where it came from. I bought 400 grams from him. He was actually pretending he made it! I guess he took mr a fool, or something, but he did sell me the material, and it was the genuine article.
B: So the earliest acid you got was mixed — some of it was good and some of it wasn’t good?
O: Most of it was terrible. It would make you high, but it was so full of impurities and other things that it was a totally rough trip. …
Theodore Roszak noted that the unifying experience that arose out of drug experimentation, LSD or peyote, was a healthy assault on the ego, a storming of the fortress. “This is what the counter culture undertakes when, by way of its mystical tendencies or the drug experience, it assaults the reality of the ego as an isolable, purely cerebral unit of identity.” It comes back to a flight from the cold scientific reason based on the technocracy not being simply a power structure that wields vast material influence. It is rather, the expression of a grand cultural imperative, a mystique that is deeply endorsed by the populace; a sponge able to soak up prodigious quantities of discontent and agitation, often long before they resemble anything but amusing eccentricities or un-called for aberrations. But the technocracy had its supporters:
Roger Kimball:We will begin in the 1950s with the emergence of the Beats, focusing particularly on such representative figures as the poet Allen Ginsberg and the novelist William Burroughs. The Beats are crucial to an understanding of America’s cultural revolution not least because in their lives, their proclamations, and (for lack of a more accurate term) their “work” they anticipated so many of the pathologies of the Sixties and Seventies. Their programmatic anti-American-ism, their avid celebration of drug abuse, their squalid, promiscuous sex lives, their pseudo-spirituality, their attack on rationality and their degradation of intellectual standards, their aggressive narcissism and juvenile political posturing: in all this and more, the Beats were every bit as “advanced” as any Sixties radical.Read More: http://www.consumers.narod.ru/book/counterculture.html
Was the phenomenon in fact so extraordinary as contemporaries supposed? Was it as unprecedented, as profoundly subversive and world-changing as they thought? What was its true significance, its real nature, and what were the permanent effects of this strange and terrifying revolution? What exactly did it destroy, and what did it create?
–Alexis de Tocqueville, L’Ancien Regime…The effect of liberty to individual is, that they may do what they please: We ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risque congratulations, which may be soon turned into complaints.
–Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
Roger Kimball:In a subtle essay called “Countercultures,” first published in 1994, the political commentator Irving Kristol noted that the counterculture of the 1960s was in part a reaction against a society that had become increasingly secular, routinized, and crassly materialistic. In this respect, too, the counterculture can be understood as part of our Romantic inheritance, a pica for freedom and transcendence in a society increasingly dominated by the secular forces of Enlightenment rationality. Indeed, revolts of this tenor have been a staple of Romanticism since the nineteenth century: Dos-toyevsky’s “underground man,” who seeks refuge from the imperatives of reason in willful arbitrariness, is only one example (a rather grim one) among countless others. Read More:http://www.consumers.narod.ru/book/counterculture.html
Bruce Eisner interview 1998:
Owsley: You think so? I don’t know. I’m not out on the street anymore. But I did come across a very interesting program on television recently,. I just tuned into the middle of it. It was about techno. Basically it was about the acid scene, the modern scene: the music, acid, ecstasy, etc. It was an in-depth. Some techno is very good, some of it’s uninteresting to me, but some of it is so good, it’s amazing. It’s modern, complex, electronic music, and it’s usually done in real time by musicians. So it’s sort of like performances that resemble in some ways John Cage, Berlioz and Sobotnik. Real cutting edge, heavy duty. I’ve been thinking of trying to contact Phil Lesh about this, I was really impressed. It started in Goa.
B: With Goa Gil.
O: Yeah, it started in Goa, this whole thing.
B: That’s what Goa Gil claims.
O: I don’t doubt it. Some of the strangest parties I’ve been to here, and we’re talking 13 years ago, I went to a party that people who had come from Goa were running, and it was full of the strangest, heaviest, most psychedelic music. I was stoned myself, so I tried to find out later what records they used. They showed me this box full of records. I said what did you play, he said man I don’t know, whatever I thought was good at the time! There was a lot of African stuff, techno stuff, an amazing mix, and all of it was good. I didn’t connect the thing at all in those days. Until I saw the show the other night, I wasn’t really that aware of the depth of the scene. It looked like early Grateful Dead, looked like the Acid Test. Images of parties and people dancing, and freaking to music. It’s the same kind of stuff. It’s Acid Test stuff. So if somebody tells me: “You were doing this then, but they’re not doing that now”, I’d just tell them, you might not be in contact with the scene, but that scene is very much alive.Read More: http://www.bruceeisner.com/writings/2004/08/interview_with__2.html
Theodore Roszak: “Of the technocracy in its grand procession through history is indeed pursuing to the satisfaction of so many . . . universally ratified values as The Quest for Truth, The Conquest of Nature, The Abundant Society, The Creative Leisure, The Well-Adjusted Life, why not settle back and enjoy the trip? The answer is, I guess, that I find myself unable to see anything at the end of the road we are following with such self-assured momentum but Samuel Beckett’s two sad tramps forever waiting under that wilted tree for their lives to begin. Except that I think the tree isn’t even going to be real, but a plastic counterfeit. In fact, even the tramps may turn out to be [robots] . . . though of course there will be great, programmed grins on their faces: (Roszak: xiv, 1969).Read More: http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=19702068973&topic=4858