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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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A man whose words changed the world

By the time the 1960s came around, a whole counterculture had come to light and “hippies,” as the world infamously came to know them, threw out the old Christian ideals in place for ones in which self expression, among other things, was openly accepted. Not many know this movement began a whole decade before.
Sometimes people don’t notice when literature is changing their world. They don’t realize the impact of free speech and art, and how the government defines the things they say they have given us. The hippies of the ’60s didn’t always know full and well that every freedom they were divulging in was merely a good story to tell for the observers with a pen, large vocabulary and talent for words.
Then again, they didn’t need to know because by the time hippies were being called hippies, instead of beatniks, so many battles had already been won.
According to a 2002 British Broadcasting Company article, the Beat Movement had, by then, so engrossed the American population that it took on other names and new ideas that no one ever paused to ponder on the origins. Despite any cultural amnesia, there are always those names that will forever live in infamy.
Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs single-handedly introduced America to bohemian hedonist ideas that eventually led to the renowned events and history of the 60s.
Kerouac, arguably the most famous of the three, was easily the least hedonist-like. While his counterparts were writing novels and poems so obscene that the U.S. court system had to redefine its XXX rating laws in relation to literature, Kerouac divulged himself and his readers in Zen Buddhism, according to Kerouac’s novel “On the Road.” Accompanied with drug assistance to help reach the most desired form of nothingness, Kerouac and his followers made marijuana the drug of choice and yabyum, a ritualistic sexual experience, one of the most participated in of Zen activities.
Burroughs, on the other hand, chose opium as his drug and exotic, less erotic, sex as his physical escape, according to his novel “Naked Lunch.” In turn, his novels went from linear narratives to mythological trilogies as the two vices exceeded in use. Common themes circulated around drugs, death and homosexuality, eventually helping the latter become a seemingly high-end, high-class commodity in terms of sexual participation.
Finally, Ginsberg poetically celebrated the success of both Kerouac and Burroughs, highlighting the ideas the two were upholding while blatantly undermining American suburbia for its materialism, conformity and complacency.
One could say these men’s ideas were merely side-note thoughts from drug over-use. After all, Kerouac and his marijuana, Burroughs and his opium and Ginsberg and his LSD were no laughing matter. From “Dharma Bums,” by Kerouac, to “Howl,” by Ginsberg, it’s no secret they praised their drugs of choice for their ability to take them to the next level.
Yet wherever their free spirit attitudes came from, the history still remains and their influence on American society is undeniable. Without them, without their novels and their poems, without their beatnik attitudes and their New York bohemian group that eventually spanned from Paris to Latin America, the 60s, as we know them, would of never occurred.
So, sometimes people don’t realize when literature is changing the society they live in. Sometimes, perhaps, because they don’t want to and because they don’t need to. But all the while, every decade has a beginning, and every legacy, every myth, every illegal activity bases itself in what once was and what will always be.
The Beat Generation took the best of the Lost Generation and brought a literary movement to the American home front, for arguably the first time ever. European moralistic freedoms became less appealing for the Beat Generation as they discovered the hidden bohemians across the Americas.
If nothing else, these authors gave Americans truly American novels. After all, what’s more American than complacent anti-complacency?

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