Hey, you're talking about 'my' era. I turned 20 in 1968 -- which was truly a year like no other has been since.
But the 60s weren't all one thing, it was a confluence of many different things. Not one 'cause' but many. The early Sixties were different from the mid and late Sixties, too. In many respects you had to be there to understand it because, in large measure, it was what was going on inside people's heads that mattered. It was how things LOOKED TO US. Looked at from the outside, from the point of view of what people were 'doing', especially from the vantage point of the present, it makes less sense. From our point of view it was a global upheaval.
One good place to start is to watch the documentary "Berkeley in the Sixties
" (part 1 of 12, so this is a time commitment). This docu is only focused on one geographic local (where I live) but it does a pretty good job of sketching out what was going on HERE.
To get a handle on "The 60s" you might also need to consider the role of electronic media in shaping human social and cultural experience. In 1964, Marshal McCluhan's "The Medium is the Massage
" (you can DL a PDF version from the link) played an important role. Note the book is mostly images.
McCluhan coined the phrase "the global village," and it expressed how many of us young people felt at the time. Electronic media were making us all aware of ourselves and one another in a way humanity had never been aware of itself before. We -- meaning those of us who were young -- were no longer only concerned with the 'goings on' of our family, our town, or our country. Information was coming to us from all around the world on an hourly basis.
This was new in human experience and we began to "see ourselves" as a "generation" unique from our predecessors. "We" had our own music, our own way of thinking and looking at the world. "We" were very optimistic and believed the world could be changed for the better
. Many of us felt the need to EMBODY the changes we wanted made. These included (but were not limited to) the need to end racial (and other forms of social) discrimination, the need to bring an end to war (at the time, the Vietnam war), and the need to expand human consciousness in general.
LSD played a very important role in all this as well. It is difficult to understand now but back in the early to mid 60s, LSD was not illegal. Its use was talked about openly in (among others) LOOK magazine. Those of us who experimented with it at the time began to understand that our social constructs are just that *constructs* and, as such, they can be deconstructed and reconstructed however we want. So, it begged the question, "What kind of world DO we want?"
I'll leave it at this. Feel free to ask questions in thread or to email me privately.
Almost forgot: No discussion of the 60s would be complete without bringing up The Whole Earth Catelog
Since there was no internet, no web sites, no FB etc., PRINT MEDIA was where it was happening. The WEC was a meeting place for counter-culture ideas, tools and 'know how'.
Underlying it was this "global village" idea... and it made use of the fact that for the first time in human history we SAW OURSELVES (through images taken and distributed by electronic media) as human beings all existing on a very small planet surrounded by the cold, black night of infinite deep space: