Prompt: In what senses was the world a dangerous place in the 1960s and 1970s?
In 1947 the power struggle between Russia’s overbearing communism and America’s overzealous capitalism resulted in the Cold War. Both countries spread their power and overthrew many civilizations in their goal of global domination. While America and Russia never physically battled one another their spying and threats of nuclear destruction put both countries civilians in a constant mood of paranoia. To combat these nuclear threats the countries created a mutual destruction policy, stating that if one power were to fire a nuclear weapon the other power would instantaneously fire back.
In 1955 the clash of these titans resulted in the Vietnamese War. Russia and America fought brutally to implement their own dictators, and the Vietnamese people were stuck in the middle of the violence. Nearly two million civilians were eliminated during this conflict, and the forests and villages of Vietnam were irreversibly tainted by America’s agent orange. Many Americans were disgusted by these horrors; their protests and riots overtook lots of peoples daily lives. Colleges especially were ripe for riot, and many students ceased their studies to protest the war.
In 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated, panic and outrage ensued. The Warren Commission investigating this assassination was obviously biased, and people began realizing that the US government may not be telling the whole truth. Hippies began emerging in this era, rebelling against the system and experimenting with drugs and sexuality in previously unexplored ways.
In the panic caused by Kennedy’s assassination Vice-President Johnson manipulated the people and implemented the welfare state. He swore that it was Kennedy’s idea, and rode on peoples trust in the late president. It can be argued today that Kennedy was not planning on creating a welfare state, and that Johnson simply took advantage of peoples emotional insecurity. The welfare state was meant to provide for the poor, but in reality it just dampened peoples incentive to work. The poor began depending solely on the government, as Thomas Sowell puts it: “Welfare has not helped the poor, but it has created a permanent underclass in the U.S.” Ironically this failed attempt at lifting the poor ultimately costed four times as much as it would have taken to simply redistribute the wealth of the one percent, and a dramatic rise in poverty has continued to this day.
War, paranoia about nuclear attack, moral panic, peoples newfound distrust in the government, and a permanent welfare state are some of the dangers of the sixties and seventies. Although many of the issues have been sorted out over the years the damage caused by this era wont soon be forgotten.