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Hugh Hefner’s Philosophy on the Modern Man, Sex, Style and Playboy: Part 2
  • November 13, 2013 : 13:11
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Actually, the spirit and attitude of the Upbeats is right out of the first part of this century—it's the same optimistic viewpoint and zest for living that made America great in the first place. In the Thirties and Forties we lost faith in ourselves, we hid our individual identities in groups, decisions were made by committees, companies were run by boards; today, a younger and less fearful generation seems willing to look the future straight in the face and spit in its eye.

Life calls it the "Take-Over Generation" and they devoted an entire issue to the subject last fall. "Coming hard over the horizon," Life wrote in its introduction to the issue, "just beginning to make his presence and his power felt, is a new breed of American. He is filled with purpose and he thinks on a scale that often scares his elders. He demands responsibility, not because he craves authority but because he can get the job done. He is, at this moment in history, starting to take over our destiny.

"...Younger men and women [are] pressing into authority: in government, in business, in science, in education and the arts. 'The guy you give the job to is 23. The guy who tells him what to do is 25,' says the 39-year-old boss of one of the biggest nuclear laboratories in the U.S. where all of the concepts as well as the people are brand-new. Even in older American establishments the take-over has started. In the big corporation, where the old desire for job security is giving way to a new insistence on job opportunity, the daring young idea man is finally starting to lay the Organization Man to rest."

Life noted that the new generation was moving so fast that of the 1200 freshmen entering Harvard last September, over 10 percent were well-enough prepared to be given the option of starting right off as sophomores. Life quotes young Dr. John Stuart Foster Jr., head of Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, as saying, "You can excel. You just can. There are very few things in this country that can't be figured out. Most people are just too prone to laziness." He has made his laboratory, located in Livermore, California, a place "where men have the ability to explore their own abilities."

"If I went by the book, I couldn't get a flight off the ground," says Lewis B. Maytag Jr., 36-year-old president of National Airlines, whom Life describes as having "monumental impatience with anything that stands in his way when he wants to get something done. He has always been equally impatient with himself.... He resents what he considers a too helpful, too protective society. 'Free enterprise,' he says, 'lets the cream top out. Suppress this, make everybody a common man, and society's in trouble.'

"Nothing moves fast enough for Richard L. Dorman, Los Angeles architect and designer," according to Life; Dick, winner of 10 national awards, is co-architect and designer (along with Arthur Davis of New Orleans) of the Hollywood and San Francisco Playboy Clubs. "I want to change everything," Life quotes him as saying, "my letterheads, my office, the decorations. I want to upgrade everything."

After 20 years of stultifying conformity, a new generation has awakened America's natural optimism, rebel spirit and belief in the importance of the individual. A certain enthusiasm, restless dissatisfaction with the status quo, a yearning to know more and experience more is typical of youth in any time, but America is unique as a country in having most successfully put this youthful vigor and attitude to work as a national dream. The dream got lost for a time—but the new generation, the Upbeat Generation, through it grew up through the Thirties and Forties, was relatively unaffected by the profound negativism of those two decades. Its members were too young to feel the hardship and humiliation of the Depression, and without the real fears and frustrations of the Thirties branded deep into their psyches, they were able to shake off the conformity of the War years and the threats of the Post-War period with relative ease.

The manner in which America finally rejected and struck down McCarthyism in the mid-Fifties should have proved the changing temper of the times. But there was other evidence of startling change available as early as the late Forties, for those who could read the signs: The new generation displayed the frisky and romantic side of its nature by starting a love affair with the Roaring Twenties—the decade it has come to most resemble in mood and attitude. It began with the resurrection of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the author most associated with the Jazz Age: Fitzgerald had not been popular since before the Depression and when he died in 1940 every one of his books was out of print, but suddenly he was one of the most widely read and talked about writers of the day and his popularity, far from proving a fad, has continued undiminished over the last dozen years. Our women began wearing fashions adapted from those of the Twenties (the Chemise, the Sack) and some of the most popular styles were almost exact copies. We sang their popular songs; acclaimed their 25-year-old slapstick comedies the funniest thing to be seen in movies in our own generation; kept a slight British musical titled, The Boy Friend, running month after month after month on Broadway because it was an enchanting parody of the romantic musicals of the Twenties; made a brief national fad of the Jazz Age's most famous piece of wearing apparel, the raccoon coat, a craze that was over almost as soon as it had begun, but not before Time was able to report that Macy's was unable to keep enough in stock to handle the orders (we remember our reaction to that story in Time: an image of a dozen industrious ladies down in Macy's basement—surrounded with piles of unsold Davy Crockett raccoon hats from stock—sewing them together into coats for the new fad). And some of us even tried to learn the Charleston, before the Twist got us by default. The Upbeat Generation clearly feels a strong kinship with the Roaring Twenties and the two periods share much in common in both spirit and point of view. The Upbeats can enjoy kicking up their heels, participating in the same sort of fun and frivolity for which the Twenties are most famous, but they are equally capable of knuckling down to a particular job and getting it done, as described by Life in its "Take-Over" issue. What some fail to realize (and this includes a number of Playboy's critics) is the extent to which the lighter side of life truly complements the serious side: Either without the other would result in only half a man. The fellow who spends all of his time in leisure activities never knows the intense satisfaction that is to be had through real accomplishment; but the man who knows nothing but his work is equally incomplete. And because activity actually begets activity, the man who works hard, and plays hard too, will soon find that he is accomplishing more of both than if he had tried to concentrate all or most of his efforts in only one direction.

Playboy, of course, is primarily concerned with the lighter side of life, but we have always tried to view man and his world as the sum of all their parts and we believe that properly balanced all of the parts should fit together and complement one another.

One editorial emphasis is on entertainment and leisure-time activity rather than on the ways in which a man earns his daily bread and yet the articles, on the creature comforts and the infinite variety of man's more elegant, leisure-time possessions, clearly stress that these are the prizes available in our society in return for honest endeavor and hard work. Thus Playboy exists, in part, as a motivation for men to expend greater effort in their work, develop their capabilities further and climb higher on the ladder of success. This is obviously desirable in our competitive, free enterprise system, for only by each individual striving to do his best does the country itself progress and prosper. The fact that a man is motivated by material possessions and comforts does not mean that he has no other interests and that he is not also motivated by other nonmaterial considerations. The acquisition of property—and in the Sixties property may mean a handsome bachelor pad, elaborate hi-fi rig and the latest sports car—is the cornerstone of our American economic system. And a publication that helps motivate a part of our society to work harder, to accomplish more, to earn more, in order to enjoy more of the material benefits described—to that extent, the publication is contributing to the economic growth and strength of the nation.

Religion and Free Enterprise

Americans actually suffer from a slight case of schizophrenia where money is concerned. Most of us would like to have a goodly supply of it on hand (preferably tax free), but we also refer to it as filthy lucre and the root of all evil. We believe in American free enterprise, but its natural benefits sometimes make us feel guilty. These mixed emotions are a reflection of a schism between our religious and our political, sociological and economic beliefs.

On the religious side, it is argued: Because we spend a relatively few years in this world and an eternity in the next, none of the things of this world really matter very much. Whatever we achieve and acquire on this earth is meaningless for, as some sage has observed: You can't take it with you, not even by Air Express. The body of a man is soon dead and gone, but the soul lives on forever, so it would seem only right and natural to give the bodily comforts, desires and needs relatively short shrift. From this point of view, it's easy to understand why Playboy's editorial interest in fine food and drink, male fashion, cars, hi-fi, apartment design, and such would seem superficial and our concern with sex nothing short of sinful. (We plan on exploring the matter of sex in some detail, but prefer to tackle it separately a bit further on.)

Unitarian minister John A. Crane criticized this so-called superficiality in a sermon on the magazine: "Playboy teaches polished consumership for older children," he said. And also: "The magazine presents, implicitly, a new image of the ideal man for its readers, the kind of man every modern, liberated, intelligent, red-blooded American boy may aspire to be. The ideal man is, above all, a skilled consumer of the bountiful flow of goods and services produced by our economy of abundance. He is a man of discriminating taste, style and polish. He knows how to spend money with flair."

Harvey Cox had this commercial aspect of Playboy in mind when he called us "dictatorial taste-makers" in an article on the magazine in Christianity and Crisis and Reverend Roy Larson wrote, in Lowdown on the Upbeats for the Methodist publication Motive: "Playboy's readers...need never make the mistake of serving YMCA-type foods, for the magazine has a food editor whose knowledge of foods is matched only by his knowledge of the psychology of the young urban male. My favorite food article appeared in one of the early issues under the title The Sophisticated Cheese. After extolling the virtues of what he called 'certain urbane bacteria,' the author went on to suggest that one can measure the degree of one's maturity by one's choice in cheese.

"More specifically, he said: 'The best kinds of cheese are never eaten by youngsters. A growing boy will gobble down a Swiss cheese on rye at the corner drugstore, but he will consistently drown all the cheese flavor with a double-rich malted milk. After his graduation from college he'll learn to appreciate a Welsh Rabbit, but he'll not be able to tell the difference between French and Canadian Trappist until he reaches his late 30s.'"

If you are now weighing the full implications in this criticism of Playboy's "polished consumership," along with the church doctrine that lies behind it, you are about to make the rather disturbing discovery (or perhaps you'd already made it) that U.S. religion and free enterprise are, in certain respects, incompatible. The really basic beliefs in our religious life are intimately and inseparably entwined in our dream of a free democratic society, but certain of the old traditions and taboos, conceived in another world and another age, then passed down as a part of organized religion through the centuries, are as much in conflict with our present-day ideals in America as the Mormon belief in multiple wives was a few short years ago.

Perhaps the notions that poverty is holier than wealth, and the poor are more certain to receive eternal salvation than the rich, made some sense as religious preachment many centuries ago, when almost all men were paupers and certain to remain that way; they make very little sense in America today, however, where every man has an opportunity to better himself. Perhaps the solemn claim that the meek shall inherit the earth suited a time and place where nearly all men were slaves; but free men in a democracy have a right to be heard, have a right to disagree, have a right to be different and take pride in their differences.

If what many of us profess to believe religiously were actually applied to American social, political and economic life, we would have a system more nearly socialist than capitalist. Much of the dogma still remaining in today's organized religion tends to de-emphasize competition and the importance of the individual; a sort of selfless interest in helping others, without doing anything to help oneself is stressed, with more attention often given to man's inherent weaknesses than his strengths; accomplishments in this world are of relatively minor importance and physical comforts and pleasures are often frowned upon and sometimes thought to be sinful.

We're applying 16th century religion to a 20th century world; a more sophisticated time requires a more sophisticated faith. There's no logic in the belief that a man's body, mind and soul are in conflict rather than harmony with one another, and the idea that man was placed upon this world, but not expected to accomplish anything while here, seems especially inane. In man's success, and in his struggling for success, others benefit as well as he, himself; and civilization—and sometimes truth or beauty, as well—gets advanced another notch. If it were not for this, if man were not allowed to struggle and dream and accomplish wondrous things on his little planet, there would be no point to his existence here at all, and it would require a very strange and calloused God to play so pointless and cruel a joke on all mankind.

To some of us capitalism is almost a dirty word. It shouldn't be. It's time Americans stopped being embarrassed and almost ashamed of their form of government and their economy. It's the best two-horse parlay in the world and perhaps if we were more fully sold on it ourselves, we could do a better job of selling it to other countries. It is certainly essential for us to clean out any areas of confusion in our thinking—like the free enterprise and religion conflict—so that we fully understand what it is we do believe in. Whole countries are often won to one side or the other with ideas these days. This is not a time to be vague or uncertain.

Maurice Stans, president of the nation's largest bank holding corporation, and author of a nationally syndicated newspaper column on business and government, recently wrote: "What we have in American free enterprise is an almost perfect blending of the forces that motivate people. It combines equality of opportunity and freedom of choice with our dominant individual traits of acquisitiveness and competitiveness."

If we were looking for additional evidence of the merits of the free enterprise system, we couldn't ask for much more dramatic proof than East and West Berlin today. The contrast between the two halves of that once whole city—one rebuilding under a democratic free economy and the other under Communist socialism—says more than any business or financial expert ever could. And so do the East Berliners scrambling to escape over and under the hated wall that separates the two sectors.

There's another bit of negative evidence here in the U.S. that deserves a comment, too. During the Depression of the Thirties, this country came as close to socialism as it ever has, with the government creating hundreds of thousands of jobs for the unemployed. During that period, the optimism, initiative and competitive spirit that supply a unique spark to our free enterprise system disappeared. As a result, this country literally stood still for ten long years and dragged its heels for another ten—not just economically, but in almost every area of activity. We're feeling the effect of it now in the race for space. Russia used that generation to pull ahead of us in missile research and to shorten the gap between the two countries in many other areas. Where socialism has failed her—as it has in many areas—Russia has introduced various capitalistlike incentives. But one thing Russia has been unable to supply to its program is the spark that only a free society has. It can make the difference.

For today, in America, a new generation is taking over—with all the upbeat spirit, questing impatience and rebel derring-do that are needed to put the United States back in the position of unquestioned world leadership.

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