Sat 6 May 2006
What have the beats taught us? This is a question that I wondered as I sat in the final meeting of Professors Kupetz’s Beat Generation class. I found myself sitting amongst a sea of similarity, short skirts, pastel polo shirts, and “Nantucket red,” which is pink, no matter how you put it. There is some great irony that the Beat Generation class is filled with what I am sure Mailer would have labeled as “square” kids. Now, do not get me wrong, it is a great class and it was largely engaging, but how does someone that spends their morning figuring out which pastels will fit in the best grasp what the beats were trying to do. The essence of the beats was moving out of the deeply entrenched socially conservative funk of the post war era, but we are now in a post war era. With Wal Mart and Target slowly sucking the life from every small town in the range of their shadow, the people in these suburban playgrounds are simply rocking with the ebb and flow of what corporate America says. So then are the Beats stuck within the limestone walls, their message marginalized into the poor grammar of ten page papers drilled out the previous night? I doubt it. I think that the people today are afraid to step outside the carefully marketed pastels that they so carefully plan themselves in, but I think that in everyone there is a touch of anti conformist. There has to be some prerequisite interest in the beats other than there reputation as the founders of cool in America. Perhaps there is a sense of learning about/ feeling rebellion from 9-10:45 every Tuesday and Thursday, and within these parameters they can see how far they are comfortable going with their rebellious feelings. I mean, I have a feeling there are very few people in that class would be willing to take off their canary shorts and popped collar polo shirt just because everyone else was wearing the same outfit in public, but maybe they fulfill their rebellious needs reading about the best of the anti conformists for class and not actually living it.