Materialism And Nonconformism

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An atomic blast ended World War II and ushered in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. As the fear of communism spread and Joseph McCarthy stepped into the role of “Grand Inquisitor” for the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Americans wanted to take up life where it had left off before the war years when they had job security and happy marriages. Young people were expected to receive a successful education, begin work, live principled lives, marry, and have children, then take the torch of a prepackaged-life from their parents and pass it on for posterity. Conformity was a safe option and remained as society’s prerequisite for being a good citizen. However, some felt that security and safety were a facade that could be destroyed at any moment. Most Americans tried not to think of their vulnerability even though the world was still reeling from the aftershocks of World War II (“Beat Movement”). Out of this silent “escapist” society rose a group of nonconformists who rejected what they felt were unauthentic, standardized lives. These nonconformists sought spiritual meaning in life instead of going along with America’s newfound affluence and quest for materialism. Their lifestyle was considered scandalous to conservatives who called them radical and dangerous. Many of those in the older generation who had lived through the Depression could not understand why young people opposed work, especially when there were plenty of good-paying jobs

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