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1960s Counterculture Essay

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Counterculture of the 1960s There were several protests and movements that took place during the 1960s which challenged the principles and values of their society. These protests ultimately gave rise to the thought that the West was not as moral or concerned with the matters of social justice as it claimed to be. Those who were involved with these movements and protests ultimately sparked the development of a new perspective on human nature, and a new model of social justice.

This can be seen in Martin Luther Kings, Letter from Birmingham Jail, which was written during The Civil Rights Movement, Frantz Fanons, The Wretched of the Earth, which analyses the nature of Colonialism, and Simone de Beauvoirs, The Second Sex. These three texts challenge the values of the West during the 1960s, eventually resulting in a major shift in the Western society, which once insisted that it valued matters of social justice when in fact, it attempted to diminish them.

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The Civil Rights Movement was undeniably one of the most significant movements that took place in the 1960s in which black men and women pressed for their independence and equal rights in the United States. Mainly through non violent protests and boycotts, these coloured Americans confronted the conventional Western belief that all men were equal, and drew attention to the immoral and unjust dominant ideologies of Western society. In the Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King indicates that unjust laws exist within the American society, displaying their lack of importance for social justice.

To challenge the laws of segregation which separated the black men and women from the white, Martin Luther King refers to St Augustines statement that “an unjust law is no law at all” and that “any law that degrades human personality is unjust” (Haberman, 36). Due to these laws that were supported by the legal system of the United States, the Negro community was forced to undergo a great amount of injustice from the American society, as they were denied all forms of respect and had to face difficulties regarding their jobs, the right to vote, education and even transportation.

The dominant ideologies of the American society were shaped by the laws of segregation in which everyone lived by the slogan, ‘separate, but equal’ which contributed to the legalized act of racial discrimination. In his letter, Martin Luther King declares that the laws of segregation are unjust laws, as they humiliated and degraded the Negro community, “All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality…hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically astound, it is morally wrong and sinful” (Haberman, 36).

Regardless of the fact that the West was constantly taking part in racial discrimination, and that the fact that the Negro community was deprived of their right to vote, the American society strongly believed and insisted that they were living in an equal, democratic society, which confirms the idea that the West was not as moral or concerned with social justices as it claimed to be.

Martin Luther King played a significant role in The Civil Rights Movement, as this influential clergyman helped develop a new view of human nature and a new model of social justice, in which all black men and women were desegregated, and were eventually treated equally among the white. The era of colonialism was a complicated period for Asia and Africa. Being oppressed by the Europeans, the colonies struggled to gain their independence during the 1960s. Frantz Fanon indignantly challenges the dominant ideologies of White, Western authority, demanding for revolutionary action in his work The Wretched of the Earth.

In this piece of writing, Fanon emphasizes that the White authorities did not give any value to dignity of the natives, and behaved unethically towards them, which displays that the West was scarcely concerned with the matters of social justice. This can also be seen when Fanon states, “But this dignity has nothing to do with the dignity of the human individual…All that the native has seen in this country is that they can freely arrest him, beat him, starve him: and no professor of ethics, no priest has ever come to be beaten in this place, nor to share bread with him” (Haberman, 37).

He continues by arguing, “For centuries the capitalists have behaved in the underdeveloped world like nothing more than war criminals. Deportations, massacres, forced labor, and slavery have been the main methods used by capitalism to increase its wealth, its gold or diamond reserves and to establish its power” (Haberman, 38). Fanon reveals that the extreme desire of the West to increase its wealth and power, led them to disregard the dignity of the natives to oppress them. This goes to show that the West did not hold much concern or importance for the matters of social justice, and the colonies ultimately chieved their independence through revolutionary challenges, such as the written work by Frantz Fanon. The revolutionary Feminist Movement transformed the lives of all women in Western society, as women demanded for political and social reform. The feminists of the 1960s brought light to the injustice that the women of the Western society were forced to face with for years, displaying that the Western society at the time was not as involved in social justice as it alleged to be. Simone de Beauvoirs, The Second Sex, proclaims that the women in the West were not given an equal status to men due to their sexual differences.

She states, “I have already noted how hostile the street is to her, with eyes and hands lying in wait everywhere; if she wanders carelessly, her mind is drifting, if she lights a cigarette in front of a cafe, if she goes alone to the movies, a disagreeable incident is soon bound to happen” (Haberman, 48), which reveals the negative perceptions of the Western society towards women; the women who only aspired for their own sense of being, without having to be socially restricted by the rigid expectations and assumptions of the male dominant society.

The dominant ideology of males in Western society supported the statement that “women do not have ‘creative genius’”, which Beauvoir challenges in her work by asking, “How could women ever have had a genius when they were denied all possibility of accomplishing a work of genius – or just a work? ” ( Haberman, 49). Males had only been privileged with the title of being a ‘genius’, as women were under no circumstances, given the same opportunities as them. These various cases clearly demonstrate that the Western society had little regard for social justice during the 1960s.

In her work, Beauvoir urges the Western society to accept the differences between both sexes and states, “To emancipate women is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her; let her have independent existence” (Haberman, 50). This movement unchained women from their confinements, creating a new model of social justice in Western society. The various protests and movements that were put forth during the 1960s had a great impact on Western society.

The movements such as, The Civil Rights Movement, the protests against Colonialism and The Feminist Movement, challenged the dominant ideologies of the West in which it was proven that the West was not as moral or as concerned with social justice as it alleged to be. These many movements were successful in generating a new perception of human nature and a new model of social justice.

Works Cited Haberman, Arthur The Modern Age: Ideas in Western Civilization. 1987. The making of the modern age. Toronto Ontario Canada: Gage Educational Publishing Company, pp. 440 449, 462-496. Print.

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