When we talk about counter culture, most people assume that we mean the social, political, and cultural movements that began in the United States in the 1960s. Those were eventful years, marked by intense political activism, unprecedented social changes, and sweeping artistic developments. Grouped under the counter culture banner, these were reactions against the mainstream culture in the country. And that is, in fact, what counter culture is. It is an opposition to the established way of life.
It is not a new concept, although the media often tries to package it as such. People didn’t wake up one day and decide they needed a counter culture. Changes have always been afoot throughout human history. There has always been resistance against traditional ways and a desire for something better. People get tired of conservative attitudes and want to try something new. Over time, many aspects of the counter culture get absorbed in the mainstream culture, and then we see a new push against it as well. Keeping this in mind, let’s see how counter culture has changed and affected our social fabric.
How has the counter culture changed over the last 60 years?
The power of the media
The media has steadily become more powerful and influential over the last 60 years. It controls what appears on television, radio, and cable, as well as in newspapers, magazines, and books. And it has been shaping public perception of things through news, programs, films, music, and advertising. As a result, it can influence the way people think, can dictate norms and trends, and decide what the prevailing culture will be in society. The alternative media that arose in reaction to the mainstream one is not so different. It also has the power to influence and control the masses of people.
The emergence of the internet
The emergence of the internet caused enormous disruption in traditional media. From being passive consumers of canned news and entertainment, the public went to being invested in participating in content production. They began looking up the information they wanted using search engines and forming their own independent opinions. They were no longer interested in just following trends, but also in creating trends.
More and more people are now producing, contributing, disseminating, and sharing content. On the internet, the distinction between mainstream culture and counter culture is no longer as clear cut as it used to be. It has opened far too many social, political, and cultural doors.
The development of artistic movements
Art is often regarded as a barometer to gauge the cultural aspirations of a society. It reflects the changes taking place and also plays a crucial role in influencing these changes. People rebel against accepted notions of aesthetics and try to explore concepts offering different perspectives on the world. The diverse artistic movements in Europe and America, for instance—Romanticism, Impressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism, Pop Art, and so on—went hand in hand with sweeping social changes that altered the way people thought about things.
So, as you see, the counter culture had brought about many changes over the last 60 years and will continue to do so in the future. Sometimes counter culture movements succeed, and sometimes they don’t. They are an integral facet of society, though, and essential for its continued survival. Without constant changes taking place in all aspects of our lives, it would be difficult for us to evolve and advance.
We need to be vigilant, however, about not allowing ourselves to be manipulated by groups with vested interests. There have been many counter culture movements that began as genuine reactions against social injustices and ended up becoming hijacked to fulfill the political goals of certain parties. It has become especially hard in the present age to discern what is genuine and what is manufactured.
Powerful factions can control traditional as well as online media and have a say in what is shown to the public and what is not. They will not just create fake news and promote half-truths, but also actively prevent real information from even reaching people. That won’t deter counter cultures, but give rise to skewed ones that may not bring about the positive changes we want.