Sixties-l is a great forum
Fri, 10 May 1996 11:20:01 -0400

I really do like and appreciate this group, even as I find myself quite
often in disagreement with the opinions and sentiments expressed in it.
While cyberspace is in general in a temporarily oversold mode, I think
that forums like this one have great value in terms of general interest as
well as pedagogically.

This morning brought three very interesting and quite different
perspectives on the sixties as viewed from the nineties (Elizabeth Gips on
the enduring relevance of Haight-Ashbury, drieux with a somewhat cynical
take on same and Candida Ellis on racism.) So different from each other
(and in some instances so different from my own perceptions) that it makes
you wonder how people living through the same times in the same world can
end up in such disparate places. And this very dissonance is healthy as
it causes one to reexamine one's own views, too.

Some comments on Elizabth Gips in her sustained argument in favor of
Haight-Ashbury culture in the latest "Stuck in the 60s without drugs": I
do not doubt the force of her vision, but find myself wondering how she
draws the conclusions she does from the events she describes, when I would
draw quite different ones. Elizabeth appears as a believer in the ongoing
positive effects of what started in the Haight on cultural life ("To
misunderstand the importance of sex, "drugs" and rock and role is to
totally misunderstand that thrust of the 60's that changed history. And
is still changing it.")

Yet examine the three pillars she holds up. The sexual "revolution"
described, by her own admission, failed. Polymorphous perversity does not
hold. In my own "puritanical" view, period, end of story. It don't work
and it don't make sense celebrating it as a cultural answer. I'm open to
an understanding of "how" or "why" it was "fun" and "liberating" given the
constraints of the fifties, but I think her story demonstrates that
radical anti-monogomy is no way to run a culture. (Indeed, IMHO such tales
underscore the validity Eide's placing Jonestown into a sixties framework,
despite the protestations of some in this forum that there should be no
linking. But it's sort of like Grover reminding people that communists
can't be stashed away, either--it's all part of the era.)

Then drugs. Elizabeth states "drugs are tobacco and alcohol and
crack-cocaine. How many of you use these? LSD, mushrooms, nitrous oxide,
DMT etc. were and are sacraments as holy as the wafers in the Catholic
Church." Maybe Elizabeth's associates disparage crack and alcohol, but I
don't know what to make of her question "how many of you use these?" How
many of whom? If drug use in our society were confined to sacramental use
of LSD by a tiny minority of people interested in religious insight, drugs
would not pose the social issues/problems that they do. It is precisely a
problem of non-sacramental substances.

Then rock and roll. Well, here I guess I just don't view it as a situation
in which "today's techno-beat tribe (is) learning to love through the
combination of MDMA, music and heavy flashing video." Most of grunge
seems to me an angry poke in the eye of Woodstockers. In my view, such
anger is in fact prompted by said Woodstockers' refusal to concede the
cultural space of "youth" to the truly young, preferring to hoard it into
post-post-post adolescence. Even Utne Reader features a series of
articles this month on whether the 60s generation has in some fundamental
way refused to grow up. . .

And I liked drieux's piece, too--as always fun to decode. But I guess I
wonder whether it is fair to characterize the era itself as one of the
"death of innocence". In some ways I take it to be the opposite. It
always seemed to me that it was precisely the innocence made possible by
suburban affluence (such suburban affluence in turn made possible by an
older generation in headlong flight from poverty, ethnicity and war) that
caused the big cognitive dissonances in the 60s. That is, it was
precisely youth's refusal to give up its innocence that imparted the
distinctive qualities of naivete, idealism and utopian dreaming that we
associate with the times. The kind of worldview summed up by Candida
Ellis when she concluded in her post that "in the end I believe it IS
better to do the wrong thing than to do nothing."

Jeff Apfel