The so-called "Generation Gap" of the 1960s distinguished the new from the old not so much by ideological difference as by patterns of symbolic consumption, a polarization of taste by means of music, fashion, goods and services. What Thorstein Veblen identified at the end of the nineteenth century as "conspicuous consumption" had by the 1960s long permeated every aspect of American life, mass consumption playing an essential social and economic role in every dimension of the culture. It so happened there was a widespread presumption in the Sixties and Seventies that hippies wore patchouli oil to hide the smell of marijuana, based on the stereotype that all hippies smoked dope. It's true that hippies marked themselves as socially different through dramatic bodily display, but difference didn't consist only of the manipulation of hairstyle and clothing. Perfumes and aromatic oils are also forms of fashion, which is to say a means of symbolic consumption. Patchouli oil signified rebellion against social norms and class tastes: you couldn't buy it at Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue. It was alien and strange at least so far as most Americans were concerned, Eastern as opposed to European in origin, and was derived from a plant as opposed to an animal. Its use identified one as bohemian in taste and temperament (and artistic hobbies), in contrast, say, to Old Spice cologne, which at the time identified one as hopelessly middle-class in taste (or perhaps tastelessness) and class adherence. The disposition of the body did play a symbolic role in denoting ideological adherence, of course, through notions of masculinity and femininity (with hippies coded as "feminine," patriots as "masculine") and also through metaphors of filth and cleanliness. In October 1969, for instance, General Earle Wheeler, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, referred to Vietnam War protesters as "vocal youngsters, strangers alike to soap and reason," the implication being that one could determine ideological adherence through the chemical senses: if they smell funny, don't trust 'em. Perhaps it's well to remember Kant's observation that smell is "taste at a distance" and is the means by which filth induces nausea, which "is even more intimate than through the absorptive vessels of mouth or gullet."
60x50 is an experiment in invention and discovery, inspired by an observation made by William Stafford in Writing the Australian Crawl. The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate Stafford's insight that a writer "is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them." The date used in each blog entry is merely a prompt, a method used to open up a particular direction of research and discovery. I find this a more interesting and more amenable process than the use of newspaper "headlines" or "current events" that in effect would predetermine my subject for me.