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How The Hippies Changed The World

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Autor:   •  December 3, 2010  •  1,887 Words (8 Pages)  •  573 Views

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"People today are still living off the table scraps of the sixties. They are still being passed around- the music and the ideas" - Bob Dylan (1992)

From 1964 to 1968, there swelled a gigantic wave of cultural and political change that swept first the city of San Francisco, then the whole United States, and then the world.

The efforts of the pioneers in the Haight-Ashbury to create an enlightened community took about two years, from 1964-66, to reach the flashpoint, and during those years the music reached an artistic high point. But the Summer of Love in 1967 lasted only a few months, and by the end, overcrowding and the negative reaction of police and the city's government combined to make life in the Haight miserable for everyone. Still, the taste for enlightenment had left a lasting impression on the minds and hearts of those who participated in the "hippie scene".

The term hippie is derived from "hip" or "hipster" used by the beats to describe someone who was part of their scene. It literally means to know, so someone who's "hip" is wise. Hippies never adopted this term for themselves. They preferred to be called the "beautiful people". However the media played up "hippy" as the catch-all phrase to describe the masses of young people growing their hair long, listening to rock music, doing drugs, practising free love, going to various gatherings and concerts, demonstrating and rejecting the popular culture of the early 60's. Hippies were the adults of the baby boom post-World War II. They wanted to test and enjoy the limits of life adopting a motto of - "Being alive should be Ecstasy".

They were also associated with participation in peace movements, including peace marches such as the USA marches on Washington and civil rights marches, and anti-Vietnam war demonstrations including the 1968 Democratic Convention. A popular slogan of the time was "Make love not war".

Philosophically, hippie thought drew upon the earlier Beat generation. Hippies started the ecology movement. They combated racism. They liberated sexual stereotypes, encouraged change, individual pride, and self-confidence. They questioned robot materialism. In four years, they managed to stop the Vietnam War. They got marijuana decriminalised in fourteen states during the Carter Administration.

Hippie political expression often took the form of dropping out of society to implement the changes they sought. The back to the land movement, cooperative business enterprises, alternative energy, free press movement, and organic farming were all political in nature at their start.

The music of the time enveloped the movement. It was quite different to the music that came before it e.g. Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Holly etc. Bob Dylan wrote meaningful lyrics to his folk songs and later electrified rock sound, which made people take notice. The blues continued to be popular at this time and were championed by The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. The Doors music contained poetic and sexually-charged lyrics from Jim Morrison and was often inspired by the band's frequent use of LSD and it's true that we would not have Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - often deemed "the greatest pop album of all time", were it not for their use of psychedelic drugs.

Drug Culture

In the 1960s the hippies, undertook the largest uncontrolled experiment with drug use in the history of mankind. Drugs were portrayed as wonders of modern technology. We were led to believe that soon all diseases would be conquered by taking some drug. It was a time of unbridled optimism.

Many of today's technological wonders including the personal computer and the Internet are due to the inspiration and enlightenment of LSD and marijuana.

Timothy Leary - the high priest of LSD and a former Harvard University professor wrote numerous books about the mind-expanding potential of psychedelics.

Evidently, although many hippies used drugs like LSD and marijuana, there were hippies that were against the use of recreational drugs. This group of hippies tends to be overshadowed by the image of drug-using hippies.

The Sexual Revolution

Many people accuse hippies of being promiscuous, having wild sex orgies, seducing innocent teenagers and every manner of sexual perversion. There's no denying that many hippies were involved in temporary sexual relationships and sexual experimentation unlike any generation before them, yet this huge experiment with Free Love was an actual sexual revolution that liberated millions of Americans from the prevailing puritan sexual attitudes and hang-ups of the 1950's.

As kids growing up in the '50s and early '60s, sex was rarely discussed. This lack of communication between adults and children helped create the generation gap. Kids were taught that proper sex was reserved for those who loved each other, got married, and had children. Thus sex, love, marriage and children were sold as a complete package that couldn't be seperated.

The concept of Free Love as expressed by hippies encouraged spontaneous sexual activity and experimentation. Group sex, public sex, sex with minors, homosexuality, all the taboos went out the window. "If it feels good, do it". The open relationship became an accepted part of the hippy lifestyle. Janis Joplin is remembered for her wild sex antics. She outraged many by saying no to convention in refusing to wear make-up, comb her hair and dress pretty at a time when it was expected that a woman should always maintain a pretty appearance.

America's willingness to discuss sex today is a result of the profound Sexual Revolution. Sex was everywhere, and the media played it up. The fashion industry took its cue and raised hemlines drastically, creating the mini-skirt and see through blouses.

The Sexual Revolution also resulted in the free flow of information about sex, an expansion of women's and gay rights, and society's keen interest in the health issues surrounding sex.

Hippies and the Environment

The hippies wanted an entire relationship with the earth. They walked barefoot, wore flowers in their hair, lived at communes where they grew their own food. Hippies were frustrated with the lack of government initiative towards cleaning up the environment and leniency with corporate polluters. They organised, protested and contributed to environmental groups such as Greenpeace and


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