When one 15-year-old girl becomes angry with her parents she might slam the door to her room. The cause of the argument remains private and is quickly forgotten by all involved. It is a different thing when tens of millions of adolescents begin to “question authority” en masse. The ordinary crucible of adolescence, “Why can’t I go?! I hate you! I hate you! Everyone will be there!” is transformed into a highly public and culture-changing phenomenon. The private becomes public. While a single teenager might sneak a cigarette behind the barn, a massive generation of young people can create an entire counter culture laced with sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Ultimately, no one is surprised when tens of thousands of them band together and attempt to levitate the Pentagon.
The Post War generation stands out among all American generations because of its size, its density and its position within the arc of world history. This generation has been so size, power and self obsessed it has endowed itself with the capacity to bend American culture to its needs. Or distort the culture around in the sense it’s something like Einsteins neutron star that can actually bend a light beam. It has possesed the almost unbeleivable capacity to magnify the life-stage inhabited by its members.
For over a half a century this has been the Post War generation’s world– and we just live in it. In the 1950s, it was as if American culture had discovered childhood for the very first time. They’re abundant examples from the magazines and books of the era focusing on the tremendous interest American culture had on childhood when the postwar generation inhabited that phase of life. As noted in the previous chapter, Dr. Spock published a book that purported to explain childhood to our generation of parents at work new to the concept. It was during the 1960s and 70s however that this magnification set off the generation’s First Crucible.