Humanities Information

Sixties: The Decade of Rebellion

It is safe to say that in the sixties everything changed: society, fashion, music, art, media, everything was impacted. It was a time when everyone truly believed they could make a difference, when it seemed as if the world had limitless possibilities and a few people trying really hard, willing to sacrifice everything, could change the direction of everything.

And it proved the power of believing in yourself. Ordinary people did change things, extraordinary things like the attitude of society at large, like the way people viewed war and music and art. Student protests, often led by folk musicians, helped lead to the demise of the Vietnamese War, helped make social consciousness and equality for all a living fact, helped people really achieve the freedom that America and the West have always striven for. It was a remarkable time, and no wonder that many people look back to it as a time of dreams and passion.

Social Activism, Celebrities, and Music

Rock music became its own genre in the mid-1950s. Less than ten years later, the Beatles burst onto the music scene, the vanguard of a revolution in music. Parents hated them, sometimes even worse than they hated Elvis. But the kids loved them, and would buy anything with a picture of John, Paul, Ringo, or George. Their innovations paved the way for later artists, both British and American: the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Doors, The Mamas and the Papas - dozens of legendary bands have the Beatles to thank.

By the middle of the decade, the Beatles were writing songs about social issues, like war and loneliness. And other bands followed suit. There was a lot to write about; in the United States, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was leading American Blacks to unheard-of levels of social equality, and soon the British would put special military troops in Northern Ireland to quell the unrest there, leading to nearly-open guerilla warfare with the IRA. Women all over the world were following a movement to equal rights. And anti-war activists like Jane Fonda were making a name for themselves, both famous and infamous.

Food: Trends Good And Bad

Though founded much longer ago, McDonalds and other fast food restaurants grew into a major power in the food industry during the 60s, probably driven by the high energy of the time coupled with an increasing dependence on automobiles as a means of transportation. At the same time the stuff that's bad for you became popular, other people began to realize that you really are what you eat. Because of new age conservationist movements, those people began to eat healthier: whole grains, organic foods they grew themselves, and semi-vegetarianism, vegetarianism, and vegan lifestyles.

War: What Is It Good For?

You can't talk about the sixties, the decade of peace, without talking about war. Particularly, you have to look at the Vietnamese war. The US entered the country in Southeast Asia in the early 1960s at the request of the French - who subsequently abandoned the war. And America's presence in Vietnam grew, gradually forcing a draft of the very young men who were just discovering the dizzying freedom the sixties ushered in. The result? An impressive increase in the numbers of young people going to college, and an equally impressive increase in the number of young men moving to Canada.Ref:

But why was this war so different from Korea, only about ten years earlier? The simple answer: television. Reporters with cameras covered the bloodiest parts of the war, capturing the pain on both sides in film. And those films made their way to broadcast television, which for the first time could be found in half or more American homes. It was difficult to watch the images of war without being moved, and it was a real shock to teenagers and young adults who had never known the touch of violence before.

But there was another kind of war going on, a social war. Blacks in America were discovering their power, partly spurred by the thought of the draft and partly by the energy of the decade carrying them forward. Women throughout the world were discovering not only their political power, but the social freedom brought about by a little pill - the birth control pill. For better or worse, relations between the sexes would never be the same.

Sixties Fun, Games, and Fashion

Toys were undergoing change, too. Physical games, like Frisbees and Twister, became very popular indeed. Boys began collecting Matchbox cars, the latest rage; and the self-image of little girls everywhere was changed as Barbie dolls, Sindy dolls, and other anatomically correct dolls that weren't baby dolls entered their pink frilly rooms.

Older boys were finding they had much more to look at than ever before. Girls' skirts moved from the near-ankle-length full skirts of the fifties to the short - shorter - shortest skirts of the sixties. Short skirts and midriff-revealing hipster jeans also made it important that as little cellulite as possible showed - girls could no longer wear industrial-strength girdles. The most effective way of getting rid of cellulite? Be as thin as possible. The other problem with changing clothes was that if you used garters (or suspenders, if you're in Britain) they showed under the short tight skirts. The answer? Pantyhose, an invention of the devil.

Inventions and Innovations

Computers also moved from being a scientific curiosity to a genuine industrial innovation; punch cards and tape were the programming tools of the time - until the integrated circuit, the precursor to today's microchips. This innovation led to the development of the hand-held pocket calculator by Texas Instruments, though calculators did not come into general use until the early seventies. But the world didn't understand how much science and technology was really going to change their lives - until Neil Armstrong spoke to the world from the surface of the Moon in 1969. It was a fitting end to a remarkable decade.

Phil Edwards is a writer in London, a product of the 60's baby boom and author of and


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