I must start with a note of gratitude for the overwhelming response I have been receiving from my readers over the past few days. Thank you for constantly motivating me to write and create content, and also for your insightful comments!
In accordance with the theme of this blog, culture and supremacy, today’s post will be focused on countercultures, a form of subculture. Subcultures are characterised by smaller groups or communities within the parent cultural group, who maintain certain distinct rituals, folkways and practices different from the mainstream or prevalent culture. Countercultures are essentially those subculture groups that oppose the status quo and prevailing norms to create a deviant, or non conformist identity for themselves. Often, they are considered rebellious, underground, anti-establishment, and hence looked down upon or regarded with distaste and fear. According to Keith A. Roberts, the term counterculture was first used by American Sociologist Talcott Parsons, but it wasn’t popularised until Milton Yinger described “contraculture” as a separate group with separate cultural identifications.
The most famous and evergreen example of counterculture is the era of 1960s in America. The United States was riddled at that time with the Civil rights movement, Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War and a multitude of political and sociological upheaval at both national and international levels. The tense atmosphere in the country gave way to a quest for liberation, a plea for humanity and free thinking individuals expressed their restlessness through poetry, music, choice of fashion and a brand new lifestyle altogether. Thus, the Beat Generation was popularised. Famous litterateurs like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, not only broke free from the conventional style of writing but also explored themes of homosexuality, spirituality, rejection of economic materialism, sexual liberation and everything else that was frowned upon. What started off as a student movement, gradually blended into the larger “hippie” sentiment. Followers of this culture preached universal love and peace- a feeling that was amiss at that time. They were often seen using psychedelic drugs for recreation, clad in colourful clothing with their hair in dreadlocks, engaging in rampant sexual activities. This behaviour was deeper than the seemingly superficial pleasure seeking tendencies. This was an expression of liberation- breaking free from religious taboo, especially pertaining to sexual practices or orientation, or material gain/ political power. Their art forms were a mockery of the traditional, rule bound art; jazz in music, free form writing and the likes were symbols of inclusivity, especially of women and black people, who were discriminated against in the mainstream society.
I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber, poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?Ginsberg, A Supermarket in California, 1956
The above examples were a patchwork, or an attempt of it, to help you visualise the movement, the chaos that surrounded it, and the ardent desire to counter what was “right”, “normal”, essentially, what was dominant. It’s interesting to note how the previous post on this blog spoke about acculturation of the smaller cultural groups in order to rise up in the status quo, and this is an example of the polar opposite, where communities are revolting through cultural symbols, in order to nullify supremacy. What do you think could be the motivation behind such desires? Do let me know in the comments. I’d also love to have a conversation with anyone who wants to add on to this, bringing examples and sharing perspectives.
The artwork of “The Eye” used here belongs to the author