Ronald Reagan once said, “A Hippie is someone who looks like Tarzan, walks like Jane, and smells like cheetah” (Reagan). Sadly, today the word hippie has a negative connotation associated with it. While many believe that the 1960’s counterculture did nothing more than tune in, turn on, and drop out, the hippies had many ideas that today’s American society can learn and benefit from such as minimalism, peace, and questioning conventions.
According to the History Channel,
As the Hippies had grown up the beneficiaries of the greatest economic expansion in modern history; it can be hard to see what exactly the boomers were so dissatisfied with. After the allied victory in World War II, the U.S. with just 6% of the world’s population was producing nearly half of the world’s goods. But beneath the bright cheerful surface, problems were festering. Driving the expansion was a can-do military mindset that legions of American servicemen carried home with them from the battlefields of Europe and Asia. With a five star general in the white house and self-sacrifice and obedience on the duty roster, land of the free became home of bureaucracy, regimentation, and lock step conformity (Hippies).
This lock step conformity of the 1950’s led the young Americans to find an alternative way to live, one that allowed them to be happy, thus, the hippie movement was born.
One of the fueling factors of the hippie movement was the drug, LSD, which was made available to the public by Ken Kesey. After Ken Kesey participated in a 1959 CIA study of the effects of psychedelic drugs, he made it his mission to bestow the public with this hallucinogen. He accomplished this by traveling America, spreading acid through what he called “acid parties” that came with strobe lights, psychedelic music, and of course, acid (Freeman). LSD fueled the hippie culture enabled them to entertain endless possibilities. The possibility of a sexual revolution, the possibility of creating and experiencing new music, and the possibility to create a utopia of peace and love that was different from the conformity of 1950’s America.
One of these “Utopias” was the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. In the early stages of the hippie movement, the Haight-Ashbury district tried to accommodate the social pioneers. As many of them were barefoot and broke, free health clinics, free food, free crash pads, and free clothes were offered. What was a loving, peaceful hippie paradise soon became chaotic when media attention of Haight-Ashbury left teens all over America flocking to San Francisco (Stone). However, when the media would write articles or film the hippies, they only saw the drugs, sex, and music, but failed to see the ideas and the true culture of the people underneath (Hippies).
As the hippies were usually barefoot and broke by choice, having money and material possessions were not as important to them. If material possessions were, they would have joined conventional society and made plenty of money there. Hippies believed in living life in the moment, without the stress and unneeded material possessions that accompanied the materialistic society that they were leaving behind. Communal living allowed the hippies to live freely in nature and let them live their minimalist lives away from the American society that called for materialism. When Steven Gaskin returned to Haight-Ashbury after the media had been there, he found that it wasn’t the same environment. Therefore, he and 300 followers created a commune called The Farm ( Meunier). According to Racheal Meunier, a girl who grew up in The Farm:
The larger mission of The Farm was anti-materialism, not having any more than is needed in order for there to be enough to go around the world. According to the Farm philosophy it is wrong that some people own 5 million dollar houses while others don't have enough to eat. On the Farm we were committed to strict vegetarianism because we believed there would be more food to go around the world if people ate soybeans instead of cattle (Meunier).
This shows how minimalist these people were. They believed in making their own clothes, growing their own food, and sharing all the work equally among the members for the betterment of the group and the world. It also juxtaposes the common view that hippies are lazy. While some might say that there is a very fine line between a commune and a cult, they weren’t forced into this style of living. The Farm requires possible members to experience communal living before they commit to living there full time. Communes allowed the hippies to get back to the basics and focus on working in a group for a group instead of competing against everyone individually in a capitalistic society (Meunier).
Today, the average American spends 1,881 dollars on clothing, 2,698 dollars on entertainment, and 8,758 dollars on transportation. Compare this to the amount spent on education (945 dollars), personal care (588 dollars), or reading (118 dollars) (Visual Economics). Based on these statistics, Americans put more money into clothing and entertainment than they do their education.
Americans could benefit from reducing their materialistic tendencies and embracing what the hippies were all about: minimalism. While you do not have to join a commune or grow out your hair to become minimalistic, the simple fact is that when you want less, you need less, and you stress less. According to rodale.com, a website from the makers of Women’s Health and Men’s Health Magazines, American stress levels are two times higher than what scientists consider safe (Zerbe). The statistic on the amount spent on education versus entertainment sums it up. As Americans spend more on entertainment, they are more apt to be influenced by the media that tells them to spend money, instead of an education that could teach them to think independently and critically. This is part of the reason why the hippies are viewed so negatively in a capitalistic society; they didn’t buy in to the belief that you need possessions to be happy and therefore didn’t spend their money on what capitalism was selling. However, if Americans were to embrace minimalism, they would have more time for the aspects of life that truly matter to happiness: relationships, educating and bettering the self, and being involved in community service (Deiner).
Because the hippies weren’t materialistic, they didn’t have to spend money on material possessions that didn’t matter to them. Instead, they could use the time they had to do more important activities like practicing and promoting peace and love. While there may have been some hippies that were violent, most of them were not. One of the greatest demonstrations of the hippies’ peacefulness was the Woodstock festival in 1969 that took place in Bethel, New York. The entrepreneurs that came up with Woodstock had only expected a crowd of 50,000 while it is estimated that almost 500,000 people showed up (Rosenberg).According to Psychology Today:
What made this event was the rain, the togetherness, the spirit of giving - the management opening the gates and letting the concert become free; the staff throwing beers from the stage; the sense that you would share your food and your vibes and whatever else you had. The blurring of where "I" ended and "you" began. Giving it all away because, the feeling was, we don't got much anyway except for each other. Giving because there is no "them" at all, but only us here (Wininger).
While hippies have been ostracized for their sex, drugs, and rock n roll, their message of peace and love was really captured with Woodstock. Woodstock was diplomacy for the hippies. With 500,000 people, the rain, and the mud, only 2 people were injured at Woodstock. One injury was due to a heroin overdose and one was due to an accident in a nearby field that involved a tractor (Woodstock). It was a way of showing all the people who believed that hippies didn’t contribute to society that peace was possible, even in unlikely conditions.
Today Americans have many terms to describe Generation Y: lazy, entitled, etc. Every kid has heard their grandparents talk about when they were kids and how they would go outside and no one would ask where they were; or how they would walk six blocks to school when today’s generation doesn’t. However, there is a certain truth to what this older generation has been saying. Kid’s today don’t go outside and they definitely don’t walk six blocks to school. While there could be a number of reasons for this, the media has definitely played a role. Our generation has grown up with a TV on 24/7 with constant news featuring abductions and other horrific crimes. No wonder parents do not allow their kids to walk to school, it is too dangerous. While it is definitely a good idea to be cautious, American society is different today than it was during the hippie movement. Hippies would hitchhike, travel, and meet many friends along the way; there was a certain element of trust and peace that isn’t seen today.
America could benefit from becoming more trusting, open-minded, and peaceful about people in general. In America we could create differences between us by calling ourselves Idahoans and Californians; however, we conclude that we are all American and that is what matters. This same concept can be implemented world wide. Some people may be American and some may be Iraq but we are all people living in the world. If everyone could learn to see the similarities, or not even care about the differences, as hippies did, the world would be closer to having world peace. Even though some might say peace isn’t probable, by attempting to create world peace, the world becomes more peaceful, even if it won’t ever be in complete peace.
The Hippie movement became present in America because the hippies were tired of conforming to standards. In many ways, hippies pushed past the boundaries set by society in that time period. According to a 1967 Times article:
The hippies hope to generate an entirely new society, one rich in spiritual grace that will revive the old virtues of agape and reverence. They reveal, says University of Chicago Theologian Dr. Martin E. Marty, ‘the exhaustion of a tradition: Western, production-directed, problem-solving, goal-oriented and compulsive in its way of thinking.’ Marty refuses to put the hippies down as just another wave of "creative misfits," sees them rather as spiritually motivated crusaders striking at the values of straight society where it is most vulnerable: its lack of soul (Time).
Although the hippies did change fashion, art, and music, it wasn’t only these that they changed. By pushing the social limits as hard as they could with the sex, drugs, and rock n roll, they changed America by making it possible for future individuals to challenge conventions. In this way, the hippies were motivated crusaders, because they were changing the rules of society that said, “You can’t be different”. They challenged this idea in a number of ways. Their motto was, “If it feels good, do it” (Stone). Hippies grew their hair long, used drugs, practiced sit ins to promote peace, practiced experimented with different religions and believed in free love. Free love meant that they could have sex whenever, wherever, and with whomever (Hippies). All of this radical change was a complete backlash to their parents and their conformity of the 1950’s. They grew their hair long because their parents cut theirs short, they practiced sit ins for peace, because their parents supported war, they experimented with religion because their parents were Catholic, and they believed in free love, because it wasn’t talked about by their parents.
The effects of this change in thought from conformity to individualism can still be seen today. For example, in the 1950’s what was seen as appropriate and inappropriate was very different from what it is today. In the 1950’s women seldom wore jeans or anything that hinted at sexuality. However now women can wear mini skirts and it is more accepted than it would have been in the 50’s (Gray).
Because the hippie era was so unique, one has to ask, “Where have all the hippies gone?” While there is still political activism against war, the hippies all rallied against social convention together. However, now you don’t see the youth rallying together collectively and fighting societal problems like world peace or even fighting societal norms (Eklof). One possible reason for this may be that college campuses now fund and allow student activism. According to prospect.org, a website that contained the article, ‘The Problem With Youth Activism’, “As great as it might seem that colleges and universities are supporting student causes, I actually believe that it has tamed the critical energy necessary to be young, outraged, and active” (Martin). Maybe the promotion of student activism is the reason that the youth aren’t as a culture involved because generally when something is accepted, it’s not fun anymore. Also, according to the book Generation Me, because of the prevalent use of technology, kids today are far more isolated and depressed than they were before (Twenge).
However, Americans could benefit from changing anything collectively. If America’s youth could rally together to fix something, they might be far less isolated and depressed. They feel the need to be successful and independent because that is what society tells them. However, relationships and community service, changing the world, are what make people happy. According to Inaki Lete, “Today’s Generation feels entitled to what they want” (Lete). If today’s generation could band together, going after their high ambitions would be easier than going it solo. However, we have grown up with everyone telling us, “you can do it”, “You can be anything you want to be”, and “You don’t need to depend on anyone to make you happy”. Sadly, because of this, You and I aren’t as blurred as in Woodstock. People use “I” far more than “we”. “I” is capitalized no matter where it is in the sentence, whereas “we” is not.
While it is impossible to know how today’s world would be without the hippies, an unknown person once said, “If there hadn’t been hippies, rock n roll would have been illegal”. While some believe the hippies only practiced sex, drugs, and rock n roll, what these people fail to see is that they also practiced minimalism, peace, and the art of questioning social conventions. These are ideas that America today can learn from. However, as to the question: Where have all the hippies gone? “Hippies are like Jeans, they never disappear, they only fade”
Lete, Inaki. "Interview about Hippies and Today's Generation." Personal interview. 16 Dec. 2010.
This was an interview that I did with my dad. I used his interview mainly to find out how today’s generation is viewed.
Diener, Ed, and Robert Biswas-Diener. Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2008. Print.
I used this book on psychological wealth, to understand what makes people happy in order to show that the hippies new what made them happy.
Eklof, Todd F. Where Did All The Hippies Go? 15 Nov. 2009. A PDF article.
This source discussed different theories about why the hippie movement died and why the hippies have not resurfaced.
Freeman, Shanna. "Discovery Health "History of LSD"" Discovery Health "Health Guides" 2010. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
I used this source to show the effects of LSD on the counterculture movement and the history of LSD.
Gray, Jo. "What We Wore During The 50's." Rewind The Fifties. Rewind The Fifties, 1997-2007. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
I used this source to find out what was viewed as appropriate vs not appropriate.
Hippies. Dir. History Channel. 2010.
Martin, Courtney E. "The Problem With Youth Activism." The American Prospect. The American Prospect, 19 Nov. 2007. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
This source was an article about student activism in college and whether it was effective in creating change.
Meunier, Racheal. "Hippie Communes-Past Present and Future." 60s & Further A Spiritual Garden That Rock's. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
This was a website that talked about communes. It talked about one girl’s experience in a commune as well as the good, the bad, and the ugly, when it comes to communes.
Reagan, Ronald. Ronald Reagan Quote.
I used this to start my introductory paragraph.
Rosenberg, Jennifer. "The Woodstock Festival of 1969." About.com. About.com, 2010. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
This was a website that talked about the Woodstock Festival and the history of it.
Stone, Skip. "The Hippies From A to Z." Hip Inc., 1999. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
This website had different categories and just covered different aspects of hippie culture from the fashions, to the social activism, etc.
Time. "Youth: The Hippies." Time Magazine 07 July 1967. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
This is a 1967 times article I found about the hippies and how they were viewed. I used this in my paper to show how the hippies challenged conventions.
Twenge, Jean M. Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable than Ever before. New York: Free, 2006. Print.
This book was about today’s generation and how we are different from our predecessors.
Visual Economics. Where Does The Money Go? Digital image. Visual Economics. Visual Economics, 2010. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
This Graph showed how people today spend their money. I used this to show that American’s spend more money on their clothing and cars than they do their education.
Wininger, Charley. "Hippies: What We Can Learn From Them Now." Weblog post. Psychology Today. Psychology Today, 19 May 2010. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
This is an article about the Hippies and what we can learn from them now in regards to trusting others and not being as judgmental about people.
Woodstock. Dir. Michael Wadleigh and Martin Scorsese. By Michael Wadleigh, Michael Wadleigh, Martin Scorsese, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Joe Cocker. Prod. Bob Maurice. Warner Bros., 1970.
This documentary was a history of Woodstock. I used this source just to show how many people came to Woodstock and how many people were injured.
Zerbe, Leah. "Americans' Stress Level Prompts Public Health Warning." Rodale.com. Rodale, 2009-2019. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. .
This is a website from the makers of Women’s Health and Men’s Health magazine. I used this source to show that Americans stress too much.