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The Hippie Culture

The Hippie Culture
Life in America has been molded by many factors including those of the hippie movement in the Sixties. With the development of new technology, a war against Communism, and an internal war against racial injustice, a change in America was sure to happen. As the children of the baby boom became young adults, they found far more discontent with the world around them. This lead to a subculture labeled as hippies, that as time went one merged into a mass society all its own. These people were upset about a war in Vietnam, skeptical of the present government and its associated authority, and searching for a place to free themselves from society’s current norms, bringing the style they are known for today. ?Eve of destruction; no satisfaction?and a third motif went rippling through the baby-boom culture: adhesive love? (Gitlin 200). The freedom they found came with the help of drugs.

Marijuana evolved from its ?black and Hispanic, jazz-minded enclaves to the outlying zones of the white middle class young? (Gitlin 200). This new drug allowed a person to open their mind to new understandings and philosophies. But it wasn’t just marijuana that opened the minds of the youth; a new drug known as LSD came into existence:
Depending on who was doing the talking, [LSD] is an intellectual tool to explore psychic ?inner space,’ a new source of kicks for thrill seekers, the sacramental substance of a far-out mystical movement- or the latest and most frightening addiction to the list of mind drugs now available in the pill society being fashioned by pharmacology (Clark 59).
With politicians and law enforcement officers looking on the drug as a danger to society, many expert chemists ?set up underground laboratories and fabricated potent and pure LSD?kept their prices down, gave out plenty of free samples, and fancied themselves dispensers of miracles at the service of a new age? (Gitlin 214).

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It wasn’t just the youth in America who was using these drugs. A statistic from 1967 states that ?more American troops in Vietnam were arrested for smoking marijuana than for any other major crime? (Steinbeck 97). The amazing statistic wasn’t the amount of soldiers smoking marijuana; it was the amount of soldiers America was sending over to fight a war that nobody understood. Between 1965 and 1967, troops ?doubled and redoubled and redoubled twice more? (Gitlin 261). In a letter to President Johnson sent by student leaders from 100 American colleges and universities and published in Time, this problem was addressed:
Significant and growing numbers of our contemporaries are deeply troubled about the posture of their Government in Viet Nam. Even more are torn-by reluctance to participate in a war whose toll keeps escalating, but about whose purpose and value to the U.S. they remain unclear.
With the fear of being sent to Vietnam, many potential draftees looked for a place to run. Some went to Mexico, some went to Europe, some went to Canada, and some just burnt their draft-cards to resist the draft. For those who went to Canada, they received assistance from the Committee to Aid American War Objectors. The committee helped the young immigrants with advice and aid on the Canadian immigration laws. For those who didn’t flee, life was full of harassment from the Government.

Popular music and literature help display this message of repression. Jimi Hendrix released a song titled ?If 6 was 9? that described his oppression: ?White collared conservative flashing down the street/Pointing their plastic finger at me/They’re hoping soon my kind will drop and die…Go on Mr. business man/You can’t dress like me.? During Woodstock, the music festival in ’69, Country Joe and the Fish sang lyrics that were both comical and intense: ?What are we fighting for?/Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn/Next stop is Vietnam…Whoopee we’re all gonna die.? Jerry Rubin illustrated his anger in the government, in the book he wrote while spending time in jail. We Are Everywhere describes Rubin’s hatred towards all authority admitting, ?heroin is the governments’ most powerful counter-revolutionary agent, a form of germ warfare. Since they can’t get us back into their system, they try to destroy us through heroin? (118). This repression of the elder generation sent the youth to accepting communities, particularly out west.

Most of the people leaving their homes came from working-class families whose parents and communities had driven them out for simply for supporting the civil rights movement. Being alienated from their towns and considered communists, they found it easy to side with the anti-war movement. It was also easy for them to discover drugs and the free-love idea that was already being spread.

The new culture identified themselves with the Native Americans and their unquestionable oppression, sacramental drugs, and true ties to America. The style that they developed was true to this philosophy. Described by Gitlin:
Dope, hair, beads, easy sex, all that might have started as symbols of teenage difference or deviance, were fast transformed into signs of cultural dissidence…Boys with long and unkempt hair, pony tails, beards, old-timey mustaches and sideburns; girls unpermed, without rollers, without curlers, stringy-haired, underarms and legs unshaven, free of makeup and bras…A beard could be understood as an attempt to leap into manhood…Clothes were a riot of costumes…India’s beads, Indians’ headbands , cowboy-style boots and hides, granny glasses, long dresses, working-class jeans and flannels; most tantalizingly, army jackets. (215)
There was a tour bus that ran through the Haight-Ashbury area in San Francisco called the Gray Line. The tours promotional brochure contained the statement: ?The only foreign tour within the continental limits of the United States? (qtd. in Sutton 36). The significant people in the city didn’t like the idea of a large hippie community growing in their city. The city didn’t contain any photographs on file, nor did they ?dig? the idea of journalists doing reports on the hippies. Ronald Reagan thought of the hippies as someone who ?dresses like Tarzan, has hair like Jane, and smells like Cheetah? (qtd. in Gitlin 217). But with or without such outside influences, the hippies continued to pursue their ?make love not war? and ?free love? attitudes.

No movement in our history defines a cultural change more accuratly than the hippie movement in the 60’s. They had their own laws, music, clothes, and writtings. The view of what a society should be was a common one to all hippies. Their ideas were big all throughout the late Sixties and early Seventies, and there is still a large hippie population in America today.

Works Cited
Clark, M. ?LSD and the Drugs of the Mind.? Newsweek 9 May 1966: 59-64.

Country Joe and the Fish. Woodstock. Saugerties, N.Y. June 1969.

Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.

Hendrix, Jimi. ?If 6 Was 9.? Axis: Bold As Love. MCA Records. 1987.

Rubin, Jerry. We Are Everywhere. New York: Harper and Row, 1971.

Steinbeck, John IV. Marihuana Reconsidered. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1971.

Sutton, H. ?Summer Days in Psychedelphia.? Saturday Review 19 Aug.

1967: 36+.

?Youth Question the War.? Time 6 Jan. 1967:22.

American History Essays


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