Essay on the Hippies: A 1960s History

Published: 2021-08-15
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Sewanee University of the South
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Book review
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When it comes to considering the sixties counterculture, the hippies come to mind as the contemporary critical players as their impact on various socio-cultural aspects in America is still being felt up to date. The 1960s in America is viewed as the most colorful decade considering that it was filled with antiwar protests, the Beatles, as well as the civil rights movements (Moretta, 37). A series of events that have gone down on history books as critical are quite immense especially during this decade, but the hippies stand out as distinct as their socio-cultural relevance is hard to dismiss. The attention that the hippies attracted from the media was so massive and despite many arguing that the emphasis was due to the colorful nature in which they dressed; the truth of the matter remains that the hippies exhibited traits and behaviors that were in most cases rebellious to their parents values and norms (Moretta 63). The hippies had a distinct dress code which comprised of bell-bottomed pants alongside shirts that were brightly colored (Miller, 11). Additionally, both men and women kept long hair which they left to grow loose.

Moreover, the hippies were known and recognized for their resilient drug use as well as a high preference for psychedelic music (Matusow 8). What was clear from the habits and behavior that was exhibited by the hippies in the 1960s is the fact that these group of persons had a strong sense of fashion and they were committed to living a different lifestyle as compared to the kind of life that their parents lived (Miller 21). What happened in this period was what can be referred to as a break away from traditional norms and beliefs. The hippies were more adventurous and willing to try out new trends which were unlike their parents and the then adult white men. What was also apparent from the actions and the lifestyle choices by the hippies was that the hippies indicated the extreme dissatisfaction with the American culture (Miller, 31). The hippies were thus out to advocate for a diverse counterculture that was all inclusive and recognizes all aspects of culture. Therefore it is essential to consider the aspects as mentioned earlier if we are to understand the peculiar cultural dissent of choices by the hippies.

On another front, the hippies were nonpolitical subgroup which takes away the likelihood of the group being politically aligned towards the needs and preferences of a particular political class. In fact, the hippies were made up of many young white adults from both sexes. Before and after the 1960s, there was the need to criticize the cultural development and social change that was somewhat constructive to the notion and the norms held by those who lived in America before the 1950s (Matusow, 27). Before the 1960s, the American political class paid little attention to the needs and the requirements of the ordinary people; the hippies thus felt there was the need to make those that were politically powerful to realize that the average people had their needs and wishes which were to be adhered to (Kaiser, 93).. Thus the hippies were able to force and influence political action from the poor people who formed the vast part of the American population back then.

Apart from advocating for social change and political involvement all Americans despite the differences in class, the hippies also played a considerable role in influencing a movement that opted to bring an end to the Vietnam War. They were against the war. Additionally, the hippies wanted the outlook that the Americans had towards civil rights and discrimination. The 1960s represented a period in which most parts of the country had white people who felt that they were better and they were not equaled when compared to the other citizens in the country. In other terms, the hippies gave a whole new outlook on racism (Kaiser, 67). The group was out to advocate for an all-inclusive society that was not discriminative of persons regarding sex, age or even race; especially race. Their efforts to bring an end to discrimination was majorly focused on ending racism relating to African Americans (McWilliams, 52). This group was able to ensure that in the late 1960s ended with most federal governments have been able to advocate for full civil rights from Native Americans and Hispanics as well.

Women empowerment was also among the objectives that the hippies had in their bid to fight discrimination and bring an end to an unfair and unjust society. All these setbacks were overcome by the hippies via protests, as well as different forms of direct action (Allen, 281). Moreover, the hippies were involved in a series of calls for legislation. The group leadership style was such that they had a section of individuals that were intellectuals and they understood the power that came with legislation. In so doing, the group was able to re-empower legislations as they fought for the observation of the law and advocate for the unconstitutional actions carried out by the principal political players. All in all, the hippies were determined to use all means within their power to express the high level of dissatisfaction that they had with the American culture.

When it comes to categorizing the players that influenced the mainstreaming of American values, the hippies become the third broad group of dissenters (Moretta, 33). Their continued criticism of the aspects and norms of society made them be referred to as underground at times. However, it is crucial to put in kind that when it came to advocating for the objectives, the hippies were selective not to use politics which they argued was the game of the adults (Allen, 279).

Some of the flaws that had an impact on causing the downfall of the hippies were their continued and open abuse of drugs. As much as they advocated for social change, the fact that they were openly seen abusing drugs did not serve to present an image that society wished to have (McWilliams, 22). This was one of the flaws that flawed the hip ideal (Kaiser, 77). Moreover, the fact the group started to see itself as a religious organization with religious motives flawed its models. This resulted in the team being viewed as a cult considering the beliefs and philosophical ideals that they held. The group allowing Charles Manson who was known as a psychopath tarnished the groups reputation and eventually resulted in the destruction of the hip ideal (McWilliams, 32). All in all, it is clear that the leadership structure of the team and lack of clear well-outlined objectives might have resulted in the fallout of the group (Allen, 286). Lastly, the ultimate backlash came about as a result of the loss of a sense of direction and lack of clear goals and objectives and also lack of a recruitment procedure that allowed new members to come in and flaw the whole system.

Works cited

Allen, Michael. "I just want to be a Cosmic Cowboy: Hippies, Cowboy Code, and the Culture of a Counterculture." Western Historical Quarterly 36.3 (2005): 275-299.

Kaiser, David. How the hippies saved physics: science, counterculture, and the quantum revival. WW Norton & Company, 2011.

Moretta, John Anthony. The Hippies: A 1960s History. McFarland, 2017.

Matusow, Allen J. The unraveling of America: A history of liberalism in the 1960s. University of Georgia Press, 2009.

McWilliams, John C. The 1960s cultural revolution. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000.

Miller, Timothy S. The hippies and American values. Univ. of Tennessee Press, 2012.

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