You don't need a destination to run away. All you have to know is what you are leaving behind. In the 1960's, young men and women in the United States, especially on the west coast, made a mad dash away from almost two centuries of American tradition. They ran to so many different places that it would be impossible to generalize about their aims and philosophies. What they had in common was the running itself.
America was drowning in materialism. In "A Coney Island of the Mind," Lawrence Ferlinghetti characterized the land of the free and the home of the brave as
"a concrete continent
spaced with bland billboards
illustrating imbecile illusions of happiness" (New American Poetry, ed. Allen, p131).
John Sinclair criticized a country that needed "Eighty-seven different brands of toothpaste" and "Millions of junky automobiles" (Takin' it to the Streets, ed. Bloom, p303). After the novelty of cars and other products wore off, some Americans began to feel that the emphasis on production was changing the character of the country. Economic prosperity had gone to America's head, and in the scramble for profit idealism had been left behind. Kafka is quoted by Richard Brautigan in his novel Trout Fishing in America as having said that "I like the Americans because they are healthy and optimistic." (Takin' it to the Streets, p280) The new generation of Americans, however, was nowhere near optimistic about the future of their country. They saw the land of the free and the home of the brave degenerating into a production line of television sets and plastic gizmos.
The loss of individuality was what many feared. In ...
... middle of paper ...
...ad all the enthusiasm and all the rebelliousness. They were the ones who, according to Ginsberg, "howled on their knees in the subway and were dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts" (p185). However, all their manuscripts said different things. Mainstream America had two hundred years of tradition behind them, and in addition to that they had force of habit and a leader in the form of the United States government. The new generation had only their conviction that a change must take place. But their passion and their flamboyance made people listen up.
Allen, Donald, ed. The New American Poetry. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999.
Bloom, Alexander and Breines, Wini. Takin' it to the Streets. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Kerouac, Jack. The Dharma Bums. New York, NY: Penguin Books, 1986.
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