The 60s and Freedom


Most of the time, when thinking back to the sixties, people remember
hearing about things such as sex, drugs, and racism. However, what they
often tend to overlook is the large emphasis "freedoms" had on the era.
This does not just refer to the freedoms already possessed by every
American of the time. This focuses on the youth\'s fight to gain freedom or
break away from the values and ideas left behind by the older generation.
While some authors when writing about the sixties give serious accounts of
the youths\' fights to obtain these freedoms, others tend to take a
different and more dramatic approach to showing the struggles involved in
these fights. Yet, all of the authors have the same basic values and
messages in mind. They all, more or less, aim to show the many freedoms
which their generation was fighting for. These fights were used to help
push for freedoms from areas such as society\'s rules and values,
competition, living for others first, and the older generation\'s beliefs as
a whole including the freedom to use drugs. The younger generation just
wanted a chance to express their own views rather than having to constantly
succumb to the values and rules left behind by the older generation.

The two different approaches used by authors to express these views
are often representative of the two main systems used by youths to help
gain their freedoms. The first approach, taken by the Port Huron Statement
and authors such as Gerzon, Reich, Revel and Gitlin, follows the ideals of
the New Left. The New Left represents youths striving for political change
through cultural means. People are encouraged to work for their ideals. In
contrast, the second approach, taken by Rubin and Didion, reflect the
ideals and mannerisms of the "Be-in" society. The "Be-ins" represent
another group of youths who attempt to gain freedoms through more radical
means. This group focuses on more idealistic goals. The members yearn for a
utopian society. However, both groups feel that the youth in society should
be able to express themselves and live their lives in their own way, not
some way left behind by the previous generation.

The way left behind by the older generations is greatly influenced by
events which occurred during that time. Unfortunately, because of many of
these events, Americans lost their sense of hopefulness in the American
society.

The reasons are various: the dreams of the older left were
perverted by stalinism and never recreated; the congressional
stalemate makes men narrow their view of the possible, the
specialization of human activity leaves little room for sweeping
thought; the horrors of the twentieth century, symbolized in the
gas-ovens and concentration camps and atom bombs, have blasted
hopefulness (Port Huron Statement 166)

Unfortunately, however, these feelings possessed by the previous
generation seemed to contribute to their views of man as "a thing to be
manipulated, and that he is inherently incapable of directing his own
affairs" (Port Huron 166). Supporters of the New Left disagree strongly
with these views. In fact, the Port Huron Statement makes a point of
cutting down these beliefs, claiming that the New Left will not support the
idea of human beings as things or objects. Then the document takes it one
step further in saying that the incompetence attributed to humans is, in
fact, caused by the society in which they live. They have been manipulated
into thinking they were incompetent by their surroundings (166). Reich even
goes as far as to say that "it is a crime to allow oneself to become an
instrumental being" (Reich 56).

The older society, by viewing man as incapable of controlling his own
life, has also led their generation to concentrate primarily on
institutions, public interest, and society as the basic reality. However,
the younger generation deals more with the self. One should be able to
create their own values, lifestyle, and culture (Reich 56). Rubin seems to
claim, in a more vocal manner, that the older generation has not left a
place in the world for the younger generation to live. The older society
has already done everything which can be done. Instead of helping the youth
in society to learn about being themselves, they seem insistent on
controlling the youth. They place them in schools to keep them off the
streets, they send them away to Vietnam. The older members of society are
only trying to keep the youth from spoiling what already exists. They are
intent on molding the youth into what they want them