Tuesday, June 08, 2010

The Beat Generation

Their writings haven't resonated with me at all. This feels wrong somehow. I have Sun in Aquarius, I'm supposed to be a rebel, they were rebels, of a sort. The Beats are often described as the forerunners of hippies - just because both rebelled against the status quo. I could relate to the hippies, even though, back in Yorkshire, hippiedom didn't really catch on, it was an American phenomenon. We sang along... "If you're going to San Francisco wear some flowers in you hair...." and felt fuzzy warm inside - but that's as far as it went.

I could never relate to the Beats. If I look to relate easily to anti-establishmentarianism it means going back as far as Friederich Engels and, shock horror....Karl Marx, those are men I can admire.

Perhaps astrology can throw some light on The Beat Generation. Before looking into that, a bit of Googling threw up something that made sense to me, something that explained what I had sensed without being able to define it. From a piece by Frank Pulaski (HERE)

I didn’t realize then but what was being dramatized was a Beat Generation mentality, a very negative, dystopian frame of mind, a mentality at complete odds with anything that ever came out of the Woodstock generation. Comparing utopian hippies with dystopian Beats is a cultural distortion, a media lie. Beats were basically disenfranchised working-class guys, World War ll and Korean War veterans, guys who enjoyed smacking hippies upside the head. In fact, Beat Generation icons Neal Cassady and Jack Kerouac are on record for holding hippies in contempt. Media distorted what Beats were about through caricature, casting them as beatniks, linking them, again, to hippies, real “cool man” hipster types rather than guys that were into the cult of down, down like in “I’m beat, man, beat,” a phrase I heard my father and his friends repeat many times. The New Yorker writer Louis Menand, in an article, “Drive, He Wrote: What the Beats Were About,” likened them more to Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack than to any hippie culture. Most interpretations of the Beat Generation miss the mark; nothing ever written has ever captured its malcontent and illogical soul. But what it meant to be Beat was best captured in the words of a Peggy Lee song: “Is That All There Is?”

However strange, a Beat Generation mentality could never move beyond, what was for them, one very sad fact: That all the world ever had to offer them, could ever offer them, “was a stinking fucking job.” The idea that mankind had marched through six thousand years of civilization and yet could not advance beyond the concept of Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief really beat them down. Thus the song: “Is That All There Is?”

(Lyrics to that song HERE).

Most, though not all, of those at the heart of the Beat brigade were born when Uranus transited Pisces in the 1920s. That is an astrological common factor, along with Pluto in Cancer and Neptune in Leo. These people were not old enough to make make themselves heard until the 1950s, and at that time we find Uranus in Cancer - in Watery harmony with their natal Uranus.

Uranus is always the rebel against the status quo. Uranus in Water signs, Pisces and Cancer, mutable and cardinal respectively, translates as rebelling emotionally rather than in a physically "man the barricades" revolutionary fashion. There's a definite whine factor among the Beats, a feeling of being badly done to. That's astrologically Watery. Instead of getting out there and fighting the establishment they wrote books, spawned a cult of similarly whine-prone individuals. I think this what I despise about the Beat Generation. They didn't DO anything to help change things for people. They were passive, they wallowed - Watery!

I've been hard on the Beats. Too hard? Some would think so. For balance, I admit to liking some of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's poetry. He was "one of them". Born 24 March 1919, just before Uranus moved into Pisces from Aquarius. His natal Uranus is at 29 Aquarius - maybe this is why I (Sun in Aquarius) can relate to his writing more easily.

The poem below was written some 10 years ago, I think - though even more apt now. Some of his more recent poems can be read at the City Lights website. City Lights is the bookseller/publishing company of which he is co-founder.

Bird With Two Right Wings

And now our government
a bird with two right wings
flies on from zone to zone
while we go on having our little fun & games
at each election
as if it really mattered who the pilot is
of Air Force One
(They're interchangeable, stupid!)
While this bird with two right wings
flies right on with its corporate flight crew
And this year its the Great Movie Cowboy in the cockpit
And next year its the great Bush pilot
And now its the Chameleon Kid
and he keeps changing the logo on his captains cap
and now its a donkey and now an elephant
and now some kind of donkephant
And now we recognize two of the crew
who took out a contract on America
and one is a certain gringo wretch
who's busy monkeywrenching
crucial parts of the engine
and its life-support systems
and they got a big fat hose
to siphon off the fuel to privatized tanks
And all the while we just sit there
in the passenger seats
without parachutes
listening to all the news that's fit to air
over the one-way PA system
about how the contract on America
is really good for us etcetera
As all the while the plane lumbers on
into its postmodern
manifest destiny

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti


Melanie said...

I like the beat generation- much more counter-culture and intellectual than hippies

anyjazz said...

I have lived long enough to say that I was an adult through all of that. My impression of the Beats was that it was a negative attitude about everything: politics, culture, humanity; but they offered little alternative except the threat to keep complaining. Their fringe lurked in the cartoon panels in dark backrooms making bombs and cursing the establishment. Beat Generation is a misnomer because it implies the whole generation was that way. They weren’t.

The Hippies however, were more positive and up beat. They weren’t a generation; they were more of an attitude. They promoted a cultural revolution and peacefully opposed war and violence. The art of the world changed, especially music. Psychedelic color and design has become part of the world art. The hippies were often associated with the drug culture too, but certainly less so than today’s society.

Hippies and beats were both broke and out of work. They were both feared by the establishment. They both exist today.

But perhaps it took both attitudes to achieve a balanced approach to the list of evils they perceived in common. Unfortunately they are remembered for their efforts not their solutions.

Twilight said...

Melanie~~ hi there! I guess you could say that - though I suspect some hippies were quite intellectual. It's hard to generalise. ;-)

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~ Yes, I hesitated to call it "Generation" myself, but it sounded snazzy so I went ahead.
I do agree though that they seem to have comprised a narrow fringe of a generation, not the whole by any means.

Agreed about the hippies and their influence.

Do both exist today though? I don't think the establishment fears much at all today. It's about time they DID have some group or movement to fear.

Someone needs to man those barricades before it's too late.

Anon said...

You admire Karl Marx... In America this is quite to be blasphemous... Am joking but not completely...

Many considerations are true though I admire Beat Generation too...

And yes: Someone needs to man those barricades before it’s too late.

If it’s not too late still...

Wisewebwoman said...

I think the Beats gave us much to mull and ponder, the Hippies gave us freedom to be who we were and foreshadowed feminism along with the contraceptive pill.
And I look at the current G20 Summit in Toronto at a cost of 1 billion dollars (spent mainly to keep the protesting riff-raff away) and I wonder did/do we ever have democracy? Only as much as we're allowed.

Twilight said...

Anon ~~~LOL! Maybe I should start a new blog called "Blasphemies R Us" ;-) See you at the barricades?

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Yep - it does make one wonder! In spite of protests and work done over decades and decades....we're definitely not there yet.