How the hippies changed the world Essay

This essay has a total of 1946 words and 12 pages.

How the hippies changed the world

"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 Friends of the Earth, and by 1970, the Ecology
Movement was in full swing. They were the first to promote biodegradable products, and the
use of natural ingredients in everything from fabrics to shampoo. They boycotted companies
whose products polluted the environment; used animals for testing; were pro-war or very
reactionary; or manufactured dangerous chemicals or weapons. The National Environmental
Policy Act was signed into law and on April 22, the first Earth Day was declared. This
landmark event, involving 20 million people, raised awareness about how humans were
treating the planet and ways to mitigate the impending dangers to the environment.
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