The violent and troubled age we know as Postmodernism (1965-2015) in the United States is now over. We have all felt this change around us in many ways. A gentler, more introspective and cautious society seems to have arrived. And in the past decade alone, crime and drug rates have radically declined. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the data below for homicide rates. This violence and rebellion is the hallmark of the Postmodern Age that is now leaving American society quickly.
What is Postmodernism? It is simply a cultural movement that started in the 1960’s as a reaction against the Modernist movement that came before and was spawned after 1900 and the Industrial Age of the previous century. Modernism believed in the Hope of a modern world – an ideal of a Utopian modern world fueled by the embrace of a unified and loving society, unlimited economic progress, vast technological advances, and the belief that science would lead us there. Postmodern became the opposite – the deep doubt behind the modernist belief that it could provide for the needs of its citizens. It then became a violent and rebellious reaction against Modernism and all it stood for.
Postmodernism was about rebellion. It was the tearing down of all institutions, value systems, morality, hope, religions, progress, and technological advances. It was extreme doubt in government, in moral leadership, in the idea that jobs and careers and family could save us, and that that was all people needed to be happy. It was a battle against serving the greater good of society in sacrifice of oneself. And so Postmodernism took the antipodal belief in the opposite view to Modernism…a belief that destruction itself had value, defiance had value, and that decadence had value. It took a new direction, one where the individual driven purely by ego and needs apart from the State had the right to forge their own world apart from the Modern, which to Postmodernists seemed after World War II so uncertain. Two terrible wars proved it had failed. After 1945 the traps of Modernism were evident. And so Postmodern came from Modern.
It’s my theory that the Postmodern theme was in its infancy an “ideal” that had value. It was a Beatnik idea originally, something fueled by poetry and a return to gentler concepts off passive resistance and marches and intellectual ideals. But what came later perverted it. It soon became a movement completely tied to the Baby Boomer Generation – the kids born into the safe, secure post-World War II bubble of their parents between 1946 and 1964 – those who transformed it into something completely dark and perverse. These kids given so much at first were the ones that would later in the 1960’s spawn the massive rebellion against the Vietnam War, get sucked into the drug culture, reinvent rock and roll music, drive the sexual revolution, and stand for a new Spiritualism that would finally stand up bravely to defy the Authoritarianism that had been built around them in the Modern society their parents had created.
Postmodernism thus followed the Baby Boomers as they came of age starting in the 1960’s. It’s my belief that it was the assassination of Kennedy in 1963 that sparked the fire that began Postmodernism but which also set the tone for its slow descent into madness. For what came later – after the beatniks, the folk music, the marches, and the poetry of the hippies had died – really forged the beast that Postmodernism would truly become.
But the purpose of this article is not to talk just about history, but to talk about crime and Postmodernism. Crime was very low in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It peaked in the late 70’s and 80’s with the Baby Boom generation, then peaked again in the early 90’s before finally dying again. After 2010 crime died back to nearly 1970’s levels. And today it seems to have returned to what it was in 1965 right after Kennedy was killed – a tiny fragment of what it was when I grew up. Don’t believe me? Again, just look again at the data.
Why did it rise? What happened to the Boomers?
I was born in the heart of the 1960’s. When I was born in America in 1965, there was practically NO CRIME. Even though I was little, I remember in the late 60’s a very nurturing, kind society, where older people….strangers even….said hello to me on the streets, a time when everyone in the neighborhood knew my family, knew my name, and cared for children openly. I remember people left their doors open as late as 1971-1973, because I could walk down the street alone, ride my bike as a 6 year old at night, or sit on a corner as a small toddler and never feel threatened. All that fear of kidnapping and child serial killings came later after 1975.
But looking at these data charts of crime statistics in the Postmodern Age match perfectly what I sensed about society…..that the older generations prior to 1970 still cared about people in the broader society that was America. Crime was very low. And America had yet given up on the belief in a Modernist America filled with hope and belief in its children and the society that would nurture it. That fact that so many highways were built, bridges, colossal buildings, libraries, and government owned parks prior to 1970 speaks volumes about what the last gasps of Modernism really tried to do in America before the Postmodern generation started to dismantle it all.
What happened after 1975 tells a different story, however.
By the early 1970’s divorce, drugs, rape, murder, and property crimes had begun to steadily increase. It’s this expression of freedom and rebellion through the dismantling of morality and the adoption of rebellion that changed America forever. Again, you can see it clearly in the data.
Growing up in the late 1970’s I’ve always wondered why so many of my family and friends got into drugs and alcohol, why so many floated from partner to partner, participated in the debauchery of sex parties, drug parties, and decadence, why there was so much divorce, rejection of traditional religion, neglect and abuse of young children, so many unspeakable deaths, endless property crimes and robberies, brutal murders and endless serial killings in the news, and even sicker, darker things that seemed to fill the newspapers back then in the 1970’s. Much of this you just will never see today. Why?
Postmodernism brought all this into it after 1970. Extreme rebellion, fear, angst, doubt, and rage created it all. With the ripping away in America from the umbilical cord that had forever bound good Americans to its moral past, the Baby Boomers seemed to have destroyed the very country their parents built for them.
I’ve often wondered if maybe I was just imagining it all? Some people I know say the 1970’s was a “wonderful time of freedom”. But I don’t think so. Freedom for who? The violence in this data seems to say something much darker, much more evil. Was it drugs, sex, and perversion in this generation that captified their cause and the struggle with their own Modern identity? Where did all this rage come from?
The 1970’s-1990’s on some level was a really nasty time for families and children in America, too. The data shows it was different in its ferocity against family, because today divorce, child abuse, crime, and murder rates are nothing like what they were in the 1970’s.
Some claim it was drugs that fueled it all. Before 1965 there were no drugs beyond the sedatives like Miltown given to housewives of the 50’s to calm their nerves. In 1965 Timothy Leary was doing LSD on campus and distributing its recipes. Weed was on the rise. And psychedelics and narcotics of every type was flooding the streets.
And so seeing all this as a child of that time, I’ve come to realize that we all basically grew up in a violent drug-infested age after the 1960’s. I feel vindicated about my views back then, views a growing number of people are finally willing to acknowledge as mistakes, as immoral, as a form of decadence and evil that in some way sidelined the purer and nobler cause of the Postmodern Beatniks of the 1950’s.
My instincts were right as a child. I felt fear and I sensed something wasn’t healthy after 1970 in my town and in the wider culture. At 10 years old seeing so many in my own family doing drugs, drinking, sleeping around, abandoning children, doing LSD, divorcing, I came to finally see I was right to feel fear. I remember the cigarette butts covering every grassy space at parks, the beer tabs inches deep at concerts, seeing the trash filling up on the highways, seeing the half naked hippies, the pot, seeing the sexual violence in movies, viewing the blood, gore, and rape in film over and over on our primitive 1972 tv’s, seeing the faces of murdered children on all our milk cartons or candy wrappers after 1975, hearing about missing people, murdered mothers and baby sitters in their homes, hearing friends describe the wild variety of pills and drugs available, the shirtless drug-addicted hippies roaming our Texas streets at night, the LSD communes on Swiss Avenue, the endless unsolved crimes on tv, strange cop killings, serial killings, etc etc.
I felt sad for America after 1975 as a child….it was a strange feeling, a sadness from a young boy who was seeing his family dissolve before his eyes, his parents take up endless sex partners, the horrible rape of a family member, the murder of another by a lover, the alcoholic parties, and the death of my family as I grew quickly into the moral human being and man I was still fighting to become.
But I was smart enough to avoid many of the traps and temptations of the Postmodern generation. I avoided the traps the rest of my family and many of my friends got sucked into.
Yet, it was the violence of that age that was and still is disturbing to me. I’ve said to my sister, wow…..we are basically lucky to be alive if you look at the numbers of people that went missing, and the volumes of kids kidnapped or killed back then. Something culturally changed the safe society our parents knew in the 50’s and 60’s into something else. Yet the violence of the 70’s and 80’s is all gone now. Its that disappearing act of crime and drugs today that’s awakened in me a new view of my past.
I see now that time was but a blip on a screen….yet an unhealthy time that was not properly recognized for what it truly was…..unnatural, an abomination.
America is now back to what it was in the 1950’s in terms of crime. Yet it is still sad such crime levels had gone up and then down. Why did it have to be? What happened? Why was that generation of people that spawned it so troubled, I still ask?
It all had to happen, it turns out. It was simply about the Postmodern Age – a time when the generation in front of us doubted the promises of Modernism of the early 20th century. The Baby Boomers reacted with violence, drugs, sex, and rebellion against it. They were simply “caught up in it” like sheep and did not know on some level why they followed its immoral leaders. Many just blindly followed the parties, drugs, and sex without a care. And so the Beast of Postmodernism bred its unholy children as it was meant to do. It wasn’t some mythological Satan or demon or anti-Christ that forged it secretly as some had claimed back then. It had to be. World War II, the Kennedy assassination and culture rebellion against Modernism created it.
Yet I’ve come to realize, as innocent kids, we the Generation X “grunge kids” experienced the worst of that Postmodern reaction in the late 1970’s and into the 80’s as it devolved, though we thought it was normal. It turns out it was not normal at all. Seeing these charts and the data online has helped me to understand why our childhood seemed so happy at first in the late 1960’s as the last gasp of Modernistic mature loving adults faded away into the dust bins of history in 1975 and the new more violent age of young people began.
It wasn’t anything we did, or our Christian families did. We were innocent. It was the Postmodern culture and generation around us that created that dark America in 1970, the people that reacted against the post-World War II 1950’s promise of a brighter future that they could never ever see, value, or ever care to create.
In essence, Postmodernism is a cultural movement that swept us all into it. It was a flood, a river that washed us into its icy current and drove us all over its cliff. All the people murdered back then were its victims…its innocent victims I’m sad to say. And that’s very much the tragedy of the Postmodern 1970’s.
It is what the drug-era of the 1970’s felt like to many of us. The violence, drugs, and sex of that age were the side result of it, not the cause of it, as I had first thought. Postmodern rebellion had to be it true driver. Yet strangely, the false promise of the Modern Age created it. I’ve seen the truth of that now. And it has healed by soul. I’ve come to realize I was just unlucky to have been born in its midst as it took down so many in my family around me, sadly.
President Donald Trump appears to be the last gasp of that Baby Boomer Postmodern rebellious defiant generation. He is truly the poster-child of the Baby Boomers. That’s why we have Trump. He represents the Postmodern reality of the older people that voted for him, a lifestyle and view they lived and still believe in. He is a rebel, their rebel angel. And as such he represents the irrational, the arrogant, the rebelliousness, and the uncompromising ego of the rugged individualist and Postmodern practitioner aligned against the world. He is the challenger, the defiant one, the Hell’s Angel, the physically and emotionally fueled defiler of the Shrine of Modernism. But he is also its last Great Warrior. When he goes I predict Postmodernism’s value systems will go with him.
That is exactly what Trump represents to the Baby Boomers – profits and winning at all cost, no morality to stop him, no regrets following a means to an end, just the animal instinct that desires to use the Modern World as their whipping boy.
He is the polar opposite of the “hopeful elite” of the World War II veterans. They were believers in good government, the Great Society of LBJ’s, the Civil Rights leader of Martin Luther King, the Pope Francis, Roosevelt, or John F. Kennedy that sought to believe in government as a tool and an ally to Man. These were Modernist men that didn’t use scams, or bigotry, or violence, or power, or wealth to solve the world’s problems. They were humble men that loved America and believed in what it might become. They were Modernists, believers in good government and the goodness of Mankind.
Trump sees government as the enemy just as the hippies saw Vietnam and their government as the enemy (and still do). They are anti-Modernists, pure and simple. Is Trump wrong?……it is not for me to say because he is the quintessential Postmodernist man. And that’s exactly what he represents to the older Baby Boomers that voted for him, by and large.
The decadence of 1970’s has passed. All that rebellion and violence is over now and seemed to have died in society for some strange reason. We don’t see or feel the violence, the fear, or the rebellion in the younger kids today.
The Postmodernism that started after Kennedy’s death in 1963 has officially died just in the last few years, despite Trump and his anti-government cronies. The age of the hippies, drugs, murders, mass cop killings, sexual revolutions, serial killings, cocaine, anti-Vietnam, anti-government rhetoric, etc…..it is all officially over. Finally.
But Postmodernism is over because it killed itself. Its own hollow value system and failed morality killed it. Yet it strangely served its purpose in dismantling the unfulfilled Modernist views of their grandparents – beliefs that through authority asked we remain in unhappy marriages, women not work or divorce, that we follow some 19th century religious dogma, that minorities have less rights, that war can be noble, and that our arts and music limit themselves to politically correct ones that nurture the society only (sound familiar?). That’s what the 1950’s stood for and why the Baby Boomers rebelled so strongly against it.
But did they take it too far? Maybe so, because the drugs and violence of that age were truly devastating. But was some of Postmodern’s evils justified?
Postmodernism has officially died if you look at these data charts. We can see that it’s died because the violence and crime and drug use has died. We can see it’s died because the Baby Boomers are now in their twilight years and dying off quickly at younger ages from their years of debauchery. Yet it feels oddly like we still have the Boomers in old age marking their Postmodern flag politically one last time upon some hill with Trump.
But does it matter if Postmodernism has finally died? The crimes of that era have died, that is true. The troubled value systems of the Baby Boomers – their egotism, hatred of government, and failed morality – has all died so society seems to be grasping for something old that used to be great and good in people 50 years ago. And the ten-headed monster of Postmodernism has slithered out the door and failed to close the door behind it as it disappears into the shadows of history.
Yet the violence it left behind remains to remind us of what went wrong – the stark horrors that Humanity can summon up even in a supposedly civilized, educated, and moral society.
But the fleeting light that I witnessed in Humanity before 1975, a candle that was quickly snuffed out turning quickly to darkness in the hearts of so many people, still haunts me…..the taking of the beauty of hopeful Modernism and seeing it replaced with the ruinous waste created by the Postmodern Age haunts many of us still today. Why did it have to be so dark, so damaging, so evil?
What’s coming today in 2017 is a peaceful return to Humanism, less drugs and violence, and a new paradigm you can read about if you Google “Metamodernism”. It’s coming despite Trump. And you feel it in the young people today. They aren’t the rebels we remember. And so I have hope in my heart that something fresh and new, less violent and drug-obsessed, is coming in the younger generations now changing the society around us slowly here in this new America.
My heart feels good about it. I feel like I can finally walk among people I can relate to, connect to, and trust. I feel that Humanity and the Goodness of America is starting to return after so many fearful, darker years. A new brighter world after Postmodernism now beckons us all towards something hopeful and humane. And those of us that survived the Postmodern and Baby Boomer Age welcome the new generation with joy, an odd familiarity, and a new hope in something beautiful and noble we saw briefly in 1970 before it faded away into the shadows of our own sad history 50 years ago.