Electric Kool Aid Acid Test – Essay Example

Electric Kool Acid Acid Test and Cold War Paranoia The 1960s was characterized by political upheaval, including the rise of feminism and counterculturalism as a reaction to the conservatism of the 1950s and the Vietnam war. The economic competition and the propaganda warfare that characterized cold war that escalated in the 1950s reached its climax with the very real threat of nuclear war between world superpowers in the 1960s. The cold war was characterized by increasing feelings of helplessness and resultant paranoia in many individuals, particularly the nation’s youth, as demonstrated in the test The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test, where individual paranoia parallels that of society.
The 1960s were characterized by increasing tension between the police and anti-war protestors and demonstrators, eventually culminating in such violent events as the violent 1968 riot at the Democratic National Rally (Craats, 2001, p.8). Wolfe’s main character Kesey states “When you’re running, you’re playing their game”, depicting his increasing paranoia of being caught by law enforcement as merely a game (Wolfe, 1999, p.27). He goes on to describe how fear of being caught prevents him from helping an injured child, paralleling the larger picture in which nations carefully guard their secrets, doing harm to both nations and preventing technological progress through similar paranoia. An observer states “I am suddenly experiencing their feeling”, describing how the phenomenon of paranoia is contagious when exhibited by leaders, such as Kesey in the text, but also applicable to other world leaders of the time (Wolfe, 1999, p.27).
Nuclear threats by Khrushchev during the 1960s increased fear of Soviet nuclear capabilities, culminating in the Cuban Missile Crisis (Gaddis, 2005, p.70, p.82). This is paralleled by Kesey’s life as a fugitive in Mexico, where even though he is removed from the reach of law enforcement his paranoia continues to grow. As an observer states “Even when he was reeking with paranoia, he still seemed to have total confidence”, much like both the U.S. and Soviet Union, who allow cold war tensions to escalate while still attempting to present a front of total confidence to their citizens (Wolfe, 1999, p.299). This results in underlying feelings of helplessness and paranoia in citizens of both nations, a lack of control that is represented by such statements as being “Smothered under layers and layers of games [we] couldn’t control”, demonstrating that unchecked paranoia engenders dangerous feelings of helplessness and detachment from society that actually cause paranoia to escalate(Wolfe, 1999, p.299).
Wolfe, Tom. (1999). The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. New York, NY: Bantam Books.
Craats, Renay. (2001). History of the 1960s. Mankato, MN: Weigl Publishing.
Gaddis, John Lewis (2005). The Cold War: A New History. New York, NY: Penguin Press.