Since I was born in 1947, I was not really aware of much in the 1940’s decade. Let’s just say the insanity of war, a second “World War,” filled half of the era that set the stage for the “Cold War,” the “Vietnam War” and the ongoing wars that have been the backdrop of my upbringing.
War, however, never took complete hold of most of our Baby Boomer lives. The majority of activities which people engaged in were peaceful, if competitive (Mad Men on Madison Avenue, etc.). The imaginations of book writers, Hollywood back lots, and Detroit inventors are what captured the hearts and minds of the growing American population of the 1950’s.
Golden Oldies — the successors of crooned melodies sung by the likes of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald with her jazz scats, Benny Goodman’s soaring clarinet and Ernest Tubb’s and Hank Williams’ “country and Western” — nee “folk” then “swing and blues” — singing lifted all of us to a new plateau of the Easy Life through the newest expressions of dance (Remember the Shimmy, the Mashed Potato and the Bristol Stomp? And The Name Game?). Other fads took us eventually to Rock ‘n Roll’s warm embrace.
War had retreated from the mainstream of our minds in favor of Levittown-style, expansion suburbs. It only came to mind when we huddled under our desks in classrooms in drills for what to do in case of an H-bomb attack, or when some of us re-stocked our underground shelters. The rest of the time we went outside and played in the yard or the street — likely with a hula hoop, a red rubber ball, stick bat or a Pogo Stick.
In summer, we gathered at local community-park pools and splashed away the heat and humidity as we watched the girls’ bathing suits change from one piece to two, getting smaller like the radio, featured on the covers of LIFE! and LOOK magazines.
Our favorite baseball players — we could follow them because most stayed with the same team in those days — performed in daytime World Series televised in black & white, eventually color. That is, when we weren’t glued to radio quiz shows aired on tubed radios, which got smaller and smaller as transistorized sets came into vogue.
What we didn’t see coming were the covert, C.I.A. lab experiments let loose on the streets: marijuana spread from the dank darkness of cigarette smoke-filled coffeehouses ringing with the rhythmic word-art of first Beat, then Drug poets; Lysergic acid diethylamide (L.S.D.) and its mind-bending hallucinations, and suicides, which tripped-out our musicians and their lyrics and altered forever the lives of at least two American generations.
The nation’s entire future really took a turn South once prescription drug ads were no longer outlawed from television. In the Sixties the Rolling Stones lamented “Mother’s little helpers,” but in following decades our medicine cabinets exploded with prescription drugs designed for a plethora of perceived ills, whether factual or not, and these have altered our minds, bodies, politics, outlooks, tolerance and culture. Certainly these changes are not for the better: a dumbed-down, drugged-out populace cannot vote analytically, cannot fathom the treasonous nature of our government today and does not have a proper, historical perspective on how our nation began, where our country’s been, why people have died for its principles and where we should all be going. (Rather, where we are heading in the direction we are going!)
True, most of us Baby Boomers survived the decade of Free Love and acid trips. We’re still alive today and learning to live on the Internet, communicate with text messages, tweets and emails on smartphones, while listening to itunes downloaded to our ipods and making sales presentations on ipads, at times in person; otherwise, halfway around the globe through Skype.
Still, Mankind likes to survive in diversity, and most of survival remains positive, heart-warming, marvelous to participate in and well worth watching. A man recently walked across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope! Another one free-fell from space as we watched him break the sound barrier without any aircraft around him! Is that cool, or what?!
Perhaps, though, one of the greatest triumph of our transitions from the 1940’s to our present time in 2013 has been that “bolt from the blue” researched by one man in the 1930’s and ’40’s and published about in 1950: L. Ron Hubbard’s discovery of the hidden influence found in the “Terra Incognita” between our ears, the reactive mind. Written for the layman by Mr. Hubbard, Dianetics The Modern Science of Mental Health is a perennial best-seller. With the contents of that one book, two people willing to help each other can sit down and explore in safety one of Man’s most enigmatic (at first), pioneer territories and within a few months dispel forever many of the detrimental impulses — think war, fear, inequality — that have plagued Man’s cultures for eons, not to mention unwanted emotions and unexplained illnesses.
Can “Peace on Earth” be far behind with that kind of solution lying around within reach of human hands? Will the Humanities win by taming the sciences to serve society’s two most useful purposes: to survive in harmony and to give each other a helping hand?
The embodiment of a convergence of the knowledge of Science and the sensitivity of the Humanities, Mr. Hubbard’s achievement towers over all else from the 1940’s to 2013, yet it springs from the same well-source we all share: LIFE’s constant urge to employ reason, understanding and control in its conquest of the environment. It also comes without ultimatum, but with choice only: to make use of it or not — a decision, ultimately, that is the right and choice of each individual human being.
The future for Baby Boomers and for the Millennium Generation, and beyond, may be brighter than we have thought, after all.