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Permanent Impact of the Counter-Culture on Today's American Society

Essay by   •  February 6, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,918 Words (8 Pages)  •  4,468 Views

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"What is not illusionary is the reality of a new culture of opposition. It grows out of the disintegration of the old forms, vinyl and aerosol institutions that carry all the inane and destructive values of privatism; competition, commercialism, profitability and elitism...It's not a "youth thing" by now but a generational event; chronological age is the only current phase". The previous quote was written by Andrew Kopkind in Rolling Stone on the Woodstock festival observing that a new culture was immersing from the roots of the adult American life (1960's 198). Words such as "counter-culture", "establishment", "non-violence", "free-love" and "Woodstock" were not even in the American vocabulary until the war against North Vietnam started in 1965 (Bexte). The counter-culture was a social movement between the late 1960's and early 1970's including generally young people who were opposed to the mainstream values of traditional American culture and life. The people who participated or started this whole movement were called "hippies" who were mainly white, middle-class families' children under 25 years old (1960's 193). Hippies gathered mostly in the Haight Ashbury district in San Francisco (Our Century 5). They were mostly college students or graduates and usually, hippies were the ones who opposed the old American values, culture, politics, the Vietnam War, racism and were concerned about civil and student rights. They wanted to change the things that they did not agree with and also create a new generation, expressing their individuality. Moreover, by moving away from the society, they felt free about using drugs, creating new trends and music (1960's 195). It was not just about hippies, drugs, new trends and rock music, but it was the anti-war movement and the social change. From the 1950's traditional 'get a job and a family' concept and narrow mind, in the 1960's younger people started considering what happened outside their doors; becoming interested in politics, war and cultural values. The development of the counter-culture in the 1960's actually did have a lasting effect on American society in certain ways such as, alteration in family or society values, a considerable increase in using drugs, alcohol in earlier ages, more free casual sex, politics and opposition to the war even though today that has decreased throughout the nation.

The whole conservative American society and family ideas of the 1950's were changed by the hippies with the growth of the counter-culture. Although the adults of 1960's were mostly conventional, moderate, concerned about money, the hippies did not worry about any of those values. Many of them did not care about working, religion or saving their virginities until they were married. They were all laid-back, carefree about all these things their families wanted. They thought that there was more out there than getting a job and a family. The majority of the hippies left their families and homes and yet they all had different reasons. Most of them did not agree with their families' ideas, some just wanted to get away and some were outsiders anyway so they just fit in with the hippie generation (Hollis). They escaped from the society and its values and wanted to create a new one. As a hipster wrote in 1969, "We are in America, but we are no longer a part of it" (1960's 196). Life was monotonous to them and they wanted to be free and to act and talk however they wanted without thinking what others thought. In older generations, young people were taught strictly about how to behave in public, use an appropriate language etc. But in the sixties, the hippies' behaviors appealed some parents and the society began to change in a less strict but more permissive society (Grey 26). Today in America, families still care about their children but they too feel free and act like that about their children's lives. The American families and the society are now mostly nonjudgmental and relaxed about their children's manners and are less concerned about what others think. The development of a counter-culture in the sixties did have an impact on American society with the changes in family and traditional values.

Another way that changed or become popular with the exposure of a counter culture in the sixties and had shaped the American society was the growth of the rock music, increase of drug, alcohol abuse and freedom about sex. Hippies were basically blithe about a lot of things that they did not like. These were signs to get noticed about how they wished to get away from the American culture. One of their slogans was, "Get every creature so stoned they can't stand the plastic shit of American culture" (1960's 200). A history professor, Terry H. Anderson wrote, "Hippies commonly took drugs to expand their consciousness, to rebel against the establishment and to enhance their own sense of being different" (200). They were mainly dissenters who liked experimenting. New drugs came out continuously but the most popular ones were LSD, marijuana, certain hallucinogens, heroin and alcohol. Surveys from the sixties show that in early sixties only 4 percent of people from ages 18 to 25 had tried marijuana and twelve years after, it was 50 percent in the nation as a whole and 60 percent for college students and even higher in some universities. (201). 1960's became a drug culture during that era. The rise in drugs and alcohol usage during the sixties is a cause of the considerable drug and alcohol abuse in the United States. Today in the U.S. there are approximately 11.5 million current users of marijuana and at least one-third of the U.S. population has tried or used it in their lives (U.S. Drug).

Drugs and alcohol were one escape for the hippies and another was music, but definitely not an ordinary kind of music. Many hippies were mostly musicians themselves. Music was influential for them. Rock and Roll from the fifties changed a lot during the sixties. It was just 'fun music' before and during the sixties, the lyrics started to talk freely about all the things hippies wanted such as alteration in the society, or about drugs, free sex etc (Hollis). In 1969, almost 400,000 young people, many of them being hippies gathered in a small town in New York to listen to rock and blues music, sing, talk, drink, smoke marijuana and have casual sex and to show everyone that they are all together like a union. This music festival was later named Woodstock (Hollis). Rock songs' lyrics sometimes could be political as well. Rock music has developed and changed with the hippies. Rock music shows a whole generation on American culture. Many of the sixties' rock

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