The Making of an Elder Culture

image by Mouse

image by Mouse

Forty years ago, pop sociologist Theodore Roszak tried to explain a dominant meme of the sixties with his book The Making of a Counter Culture. The tag “counter culture” was widely adopted in the media and served as a convenient label to bound a set of activities that went against the grain of the values imposed by the chrome and formica folks, the post world war two Americans that Tom Brokaw chauvinistically labeled The Greatest Generation. In the sixties, writers, organizers and such protean representatives of the mystical bourgeoisie as Alan Watts were happy to promote the concept of a counter culture, and so Roszak found fame as a sort of academic rock star.

Watts waxed effusive in a 1969 review in the San Francisco Chronicle:

If you want to know what is happening among your intelligent and mysteriously rebellious children, this is the book. The generation gap, the student uproar, the New Left, the beats and hippies, the psychedelic movement, rock music, the revival of occultism and mysticism, the protest against our involvement in Vietnam, and the seemingly odd reluctance of the young to buy the affluent technological society—all these matters are here discussed, with sympathy and constructive criticism, by a most articulate, wise, and humane historian.

Okay. Fine. But we the “mysteriously rebellious children” were more interested in the art of Victor Moscoso and Stanley Mouse than we were in academic navel gazing. Some of us were crafting a new diet comprising brown rice and veg, acid, and simple get-down rock and roll. Few of us bought the book, but we understood that we were indeed the people our parents had warned us about.

Roszak is back, reprising his role as monitor of the mutants with a new volume titled The Making of an Elder Culture. I think I’ll make time to read this one. There’s something sweet about shameless baby boomer boosterism in the form of pop sociology. Sweeter still is Roszak’s achievement of chronicling the arc of the boomer effect from American youth culture to gerontocracy without actually setting foot in Peoria, Iowa, or Mule Fart, Arkansas: all places where the boomer dynamic plays itself out in a subtly different way from what’s happening in Berkeley, California.

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  1. Dean Landsman
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 12:29 | Permalink

    For the past few years, as they show up and are not so overpriced, I’ve been collecting Victor Moscoso prints, posters, artwork. The 60s are long gone, but the art lives on.

    And on this day of all days, so do we note that you do, too, Frank. And that is a good thing.

  2. Don Harvey
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 8:40 | Permalink

    The people our parents had warned us about? Please, Frank. Pogo was right. We’ve met the enemy and he is us. We may have been the people they warned us about for fifteen minutes during the sixties and then we morphed into the people we warned our parents about. Look at us. Look at wall street. Look at the military. Look at the Congress. Feel the despair? I do.
    We’ve managed to accomplish so little as a generation that we’re left praying for the Obi-wan to lead us out of the wilderness that we ourselves created. Somehow Brokow doesn’t seem chauvinistic when he compares the WWII guys to us. We’ve set a pretty low bar.
    The way I look at it the best thing that could happen to the next few generations would be for us to quietly and quickly step out of the way. But we’ve got the numbers and won’t let go. We must still have a decade or two left to fuck things up.

    • Betty Jo
      Posted December 30, 2009 at 12:19 | Permalink

      Don Harvey,
      You say, “Look at us. … Feel the despair? I do. We’ve managed to accomplish so little as a generation that we’re left praying for the Obi-wan to lead us out of the wilderness that we ourselves created.”

      With all respect, WE were the ones who invented the personal computer and the Internet, who made it possible for millions to work and learn from home. We were the ones to invent desktop publishing and spread sheets, and databases to unleash the most radical productivity gains ever seen. We were the ones who, through creation of the Web, made it harder and harder for repressive regimes to keep their populations captive in ignorance.

      How quickly you forget, that when WE were teens, fair housing laws were unknown. Discrimination in workplace and school against people of color and women were rampant and allowed. Blue laws in Madison kept all but
      pharmacys closed on Sunday in deference to the dominant Christian culture. The Organic and healthy food movement was at best a ‘fringe’ concept, today it grows (despite best efforts by industrial ag) at over 20% a year. Today women who choose a career in the Military may actually choose a career in the military, serving as more than comfort women for male soldiers.

      Yea, and lets look at Congress. 2nd in line for succession behind the VP, is Ms Nancy Pelosi - who never ran for public office til she was 47 and had raised her 5 kids. Now she’s one of the most effective speakers of the house we’ve ever seen.

      Just cuz there were still a few frat boys in our generation is hardly reason for ignoring what our counter culture generation accomplished. And, despair is hardly the right attitude with which to support Obama who, without the social consciousness raising of our generation would never never ever have become Pres.

      You say “The way I look at it the best thing that could happen to the next few generations would be for us to quietly and quickly step out of the way.”

      I say, Hell no. Thar’s still some life yet in this Ragin’ Granny.

  3. Zo
    Posted December 28, 2009 at 10:35 | Permalink

    There are other places besides Berkeley?

    Where things happen?

  4. Don Harvey
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 10:27 | Permalink

    Well said Betty Jo? Frank, I feel it necessary to remind you there’s no crying in baseball and no taking sides on your own blog! That said, there’s something so strangely erotic in Betty Jo’s passionate response that I find myself put completely off my point. But I should warn her that I typed the entire post with my left hand only. And I’m not left handed.

  5. Posted December 31, 2009 at 7:02 | Permalink

    Sounds like you could use a box of Doctor Wanker’s Keyboard Wipes!

  6. Don Harvey
    Posted December 31, 2009 at 11:24 | Permalink

    I might have known you would only see the sexual angle whereas I was making a clean reference to the combatants in Princess Bride. I realize you and Betty Jo may not have seen this film classic being it was released after 1969. And I’m beginning to think you killed my father. Prepare to die!!!!

  7. Posted January 1, 2010 at 12:12 | Permalink

    Your name is not Inigo Montoya. I am however the buccaneer formerly known as Dread Pirate Roberts, now retired and living in Patagonia.