March 5th, 2015
The Beat Generation cannot be adequately characterized by a single theme or philosophy. Their influences came from a wide array of personalized experiences immersed in historical and political revolutions and communicated through individual creativity. The literary work of Beat writers inspired a generation of “hipsters” to attempt elusion of a “square” lifestyle fixated on conformity and conventionalism, for which, in the Beat’s opinion, was ultimately contributing to the destruction of the ideals of freedom, liberty and creativity. A Beat lifestyle, can be explained by first briefly examining the historical and political context surrounding the Beat era, and then next illustrating how the culture created by that historical and political context, led the Beat writers to distrust society and its current social order, and thus, inspiring a shift in their philosophical inquiries and outlooks.
The members of the Beat Generation were primarily born in the mid to late 1920’s and grew up experiencing the cost and tribulations of a major economic depression, WWI, WWII and The Cold War. As John Clellon Holmes described his Generation of Beat thinkers as, “… the first generation for whom genocide, brainwashing, cybernetics, motivational research – and the resultant limitation of the concept of human volition which is inherent in them – have been as familiar as its own face. It is also the first generation that has grown up since the possibility of the nuclear destruction of the world has become the final answer to all questions.” This depiction of the historical context illustrates the depravity of individual choice, and valueless culture of society during the Beat era. To the Beats, individualism is critical in the realm of ideas and creativity. In order to truly be beat, one must step to one’s own rhythm. While Beat thinkers believe existence precedes essence, it is still vital for the Beat thinker to determine one’s own essence...
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