Hippie Counterculture of the 1960's and 1970's in America Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1527 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Music

Hippy is an establishment label for a profound, invisible, underground, evolutionary process. For every visible hippy, barefoot, beflowered, beaded, there are a thousand invisible members of the turned-on underground," (Leary, cited by Stone). Having what has arguably been the most profound impact on social consciousness in 20th century America, the hippy (also spelled hippie) movement has also been terribly misunderstood. As Leary suggests, the visible appearance and behaviors of hippies does not and should not define the movement. The term hippie more accurately encompasses a value system than drug use, tie-dyes, or Volkswagen vans. However, external emblems of hippie culture like long hair and baggy clothes usually symbolize one of the core tenets of the original hippie movement: anti-materialism. Historically, hippies have been associated with counter-culture values including pacifism, anti-materialism, and alternative spirituality.

The hippie movement emerged out of the Beat Generation, which first used the term "hip" to refer to a budding counterculture movement (Erowid). Dissatisfaction with American culture drove Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg to challenge the status quo, especially related to materialism and war. Beat Generation disenchantment with rampant commercialization and Cold War propaganda set the stage for the more passionate anti-war demonstrations the hippies would champion during the Vietnam War. Music, however, played a major role in the Beat Generation's social lifestyle and music would remain one of the most important facets of hippie culture.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Hippie Counterculture of the 1960's and 1970's in America Assignment

Jazz was the musical backbone of the Beat Generation, and jazz would influence musicians during the hippie era too. However, the blues and bluegrass would become even more important to hippie-era bands as they crafted new sounds from existing electric and acoustic instruments. During the early 1960s, bands like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead heralded the music scene on the West Coast of the United States, where the hippie movement would blossom in full during the mid to late 1960s. Popular rock and roll bands like the Beatles later incorporated hippie musical elements into their music by the late 1960s.

Drug use was also a part of the hippie lifestyle. Psychedelic drugs became more widely available, as did cannabis (marijuana and hash). The Beat Generation had experimented with marijuana but psychedelic drugs were far more significant for hippies than they were to their Beat predecessors. Psilocybin mushrooms, peyote, mescaline, and LSD were among the most common psychedelic drugs. Psychedelic drug usage was championed by many spokespeople of the hippie movement like Timothy Leary, who advocated their use expressly for "mind expansion." The word "psychedelic" actually refers to the mind-expanding powers of the drugs, which alter consciousness in such a way as to cause beatific visions and hallucinations. Drug use therefore inspired the imagery common in hippie art as well as the novel new sounds emerging from hippie music bands.

Beat generation author Ken Kesey became an icon during the early hippie movement, inspiring a relatively large-scale social experiment. Referring to themselves as the Merry Pranksters, the group traveled in a brightly painted bus and lived in communal settings. Moreover, the Merry Pranksters used LSD recreationally and semi-experimentally in what were known as "acid tests." The Merry Pranksters became the epitome of hippie culture: representing the counterculture lifestyle in almost all its respects: consciousness-expansion, anti-war, anti-materialism, and embracing creative expression.

The Merry Pranksters also embodied another facet of the hippie movement: free love. One of the most wholesale value changes to take place during the 1960s was the transformation in gender roles and sexuality. Homosexuality and multiple sexual partners became a hippie love ideal. Hippies generally eschewed the traditional social institution of marriage partly because of the restrictive gender roles the arrangement entailed. Marriage was occasionally viewed as an unnaturally restrictive expression of love, and affection. The dominant culture chastised the hippie movement largely because of free love values, which were viewed as an affront to traditional family values and American culture. Free love was also deemed an unhealthy environment for raising children, even though many hippies raised their children in a loving communal environment. Communal living fostered free love, encouraging multiple sexual partners as the norm. Moreover, communes symbolized the eradication of social hierarchy, which was a core tenet of the hippie movement (Stone). Communal living also entailed living on the land, in small-scale self-sustaining farming communities (CBC).

Love for humanity and even for all life forms was perhaps the most universal of all hippie values. Pacifism easily became a core political philosophy of the hippie generation, evident in hippie slogans like "Make Love, Not War," (Sayre). Just as the Beat generation denounced American involvement in the Korean War, the hippie generation derided the War in Vietnam which lingered throughout the late 1960s and into the early 1970s. Anti-war sentiments were not just sentimental pleas to spare human lives. The hippie anti-war movement was rooted in an intelligent academic discourse exposing the downside to globalization, colonialism, imperialism, and ethnocentrism (University of Virginia). Similarly, hippie culture espoused environmental ethics, which ranged from wilderness preservation to organic farming (Sayre). Greenpeace and other environmental organizations emerged in the late 1960s, after the peak of the hippie movement.

Anti-war protests were often large-scale, frequently taking place on college campuses. Draft dodging became like a hippie obligation. The abnegation of war testified to the spirit of love -- and not just free sex -- that characterized the hippie generation. Similarly, the hippie generation bore witness to the most widespread and intense Civil Rights demonstrations in the history of the United States. Civil Rights, for minority ethnic groups but also for gay and lesbian communities, became a major legacy of the hippie movement. By 1969 when the Stonewall incident occurred in New York City, the hippie movement was in full swing and ready to champion the rights of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities (Erowid).

Social protests and demonstrations drew significant media attention to the hippie movement and also led to a backlash against the values hippies represented. Social protests frequently resulted in police intervention and subsequent violence, rioting, and arrests such as the ones that occurred during the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Ironically, hippies were accused of shunning morals and family values when it was the breakdown of morals that hippies were protesting against. Binkley describes the perceived "moral bankruptcy that spawned war, environmental damage, racism, and sexual persecution" that the Beat and later the Hippies criticized. Hippie values countered traditional American social realities including sexism, racism, and materialism. Social protests were overtly peaceful: often called "love-ins" and "be-ins" to demonstrate their non-violent nature.

Although the hippie movement was mainly an American phenomenon, it infected the entire world's social and creative arts scenes. Hippie culture also borrowed heavily from Eastern cultures for imagery and ideology. Eastern philosophies including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism influenced the development of the open-minded and tolerant hippie worldview. Pop culture icons like the Beatles helped popularize Eastern philosophy and practices like meditation and yoga, which became relatively well-known during the hippie generation. In fact, the hippie generation spawned the widespread interest in New Age spirituality that emerged at least one decade later. Alongside interest in Eastern spirituality, hippies also cultivated appreciation for indigenous arts and crafts including those from Native American cultures.

The hippie generation had a tremendous impact on American culture and politics. Hallmarks of the hippie generation like Woodstock and the 1969 Summer of Love have become household terms. Much current liberal discourse since the 1960s owes tribute to the hippie generation. Appreciation for New Age spirituality, Eastern philosophy, meditation and yoga derives at least in part from the hippie generation. Similarly, the modern environmental movement derives from the hippie generation's concern for pollution and the earth.

Hippies represented a counterculture: a thoughtful challenge to outmoded social norms. The misunderstood movement has been derided for issues like drug use and disobeying authority. By the 1970s,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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