The Role Of The Hippie In American Culture American society and culture experienced an awakening during the 1960s as a result of the diverse civil rights, economic, and political issues it was faced with. At the center of this revolution was the American hippie, the most peculiar and highly influential figure of the time period. Hippies were vital to the American counterculture, fueling a movement to expand awareness and stretch accepted values. The hippies solutions to the problems of institutionalized American society were to either participate in mass protests or drop out of society completely. The government and the older generations could not understand their way of life. Hippies were often portrayed as criminals, subversive to the morals and best interest of the public.
Although misunderstood, the hippie had a great impact throughout the country, still surviving today in American culture. The term hippie itself became a universal term in the late sixties. It originated in a 1967 article in Ramparts, entitled The Social History of the Hippies. Afterward, the name was captured by the mass media as a label for the people of the new movement. (Yablonsky 28) Even before this, the word hip described someone who was in and down, wise to what was going on around him.
By the 1960s, some of Americas youth created a gap between themselves and their parents. They grew their hair long because it was natural and therefore considered beautiful. At first, the idea of men with long hair was absurd and society considered it a sign of homosexuality. When it became clear that the establishment felt so strongly about hair, the attitudes of young rebels changed. One young man responded after being questioned about his unkempt appearance: Growing hair does not mean that I am or am not a homosexual.
It does mean that I am willing to stand up for my rights as a human being an that includes my right to be harmless to all people. It also indicates my unwillingness to get on the treadmill of killing for a vast machine-like government. If I am scorned and called dirty because I allow hair to grow on my face and my head, then so much the better, for by this I indicate the seriousness of my belief. I scorn the society that has created this monstrous robot-like conformity that feeds the war machine as Hitler found robots to feed his war machine. (Perry 188) In contrast to the short crew-cut style that every young man adhered to during the fifties, the hippie popularized a diversity of hairstyles with no single ideal image to fit.
The clothes worn by hippies were also chosen to express anti-establishment sentiments to the public. They tried to stay away from store-bought, expensive clothes. Their pants, shirts and dresses were made of comfortable, natural fibers like cotton and denim. Many articles of clothing were hand-crafted, such as belts, shoes, necklaces, and headbands. As poverty spread, the hippie wardrobe grew increasingly shabby.
They shopped at thrift shops and places like the Diggers Free Store. Gray, dingy, torn clothes and broken shoes became the characteristic style of the hippies. (Wolf 18) Spawned out of necessity rather than style, these clothes were another symbol of their retaliation against the system. The hippies approach toward life was much more relaxed and open-minded than the rest of society. They all agreed on the importance of brotherhood among people of all races and ethnicity. Preaching a motto of love and kindness, hippies tried to spread their beliefs into society.
By handing out flowers, singing songs, and making orations, these young people tried to make America hear its message of love. (Kornbluth 250-253) People would share resources amongst each other, making sure everyone got a portion of the food, drink, clothes that the group managed to get. This was completely opposite to the government policies favoring sharp economic inequality, allowing starvation and poverty to continue. The Diggers of San Francisco attempted to do their part, organizing free meals and handouts. (Wolf 11) This charitable display demonstrated the kindness and gentleness of the hippies to the American public. They hoped that the rest of the population would follow in their example and help the indigent, unfortunately, they did not.
The hippies, did however, gain respect in the eyes of the public as champions of the poor. Sex was a major issue associated with the hippie culture of the sixties. Society had built up barriers against intimate contact between the sexes for decades. Throughout American history, pre-marital sex was offensive and unacceptable to society. The hippies challenged these limits by practicing sexual activities spontaneously an openly. Their promiscuity left the nation in disbelief: having multiple partners and engaging in casual sex with little emotional engagement. (Mills 112-113) The females sensuality was actually realized and flaunted.
These girls did not dress in conservative, concealing clothes to hide themselves. Hippies realized the beauty of the human body, as a result they found no need to hide it. One hippies remark about the women he associated with was quite noteworthy, See the girls in the miniskirts? See the beautiful legs. Yes they lead to the ! & these girls do not tease they *censored*. Can you take it? (Kornbluth 206). Of course, society strongly disagreed with this behavior. The deviation from the nuclear family ideal imposed upon them was a vital step for the hippies.
Through this gesture, they abolished the possessiveness and materialism associated with marriage. (Westhues 41-42) Illegitimate children and unrestricted sex created a negative stigma, but it brought the hippies even more attention from the American public. Although many people did not approve of the hippie lifestyle and some turned their heads, they made a lasting impression on social boundaries. The possibilities of sexual freedom they presented to the straights took root and eventually widened their boundaries as well. The hippies openly advocated the use of drugs to enhance the monotony of daily life and to raise awareness. Marijuana and LSD were their most prevalent drugs of choice because of their psychedelic properties.
Grass had been illegal since 1937, so dealing with it was a criminal offense. The hippies used marijuana for numerous purposes, unable to find the negative effects that the government had been spreading for decades. David Solomon, editor of The Marijuana Papers stated comically in regard to weed: Like Spearmint, it aids concentration and helps you do almost anything a little bit better. It grows hair on the palm of your hands, introduces you to a nice type of black man, overcomes impotence, improves appetite, banishes excess bat, constipation, and headaches, relieves rheumatism. In short, its a miracle drug. A pot nation is a powerful nation. Possible side effects: a feeling of dreamy nonchalance, heightened sense of awareness, bursts of introspection, mellowing attitude towards ones fellow man, especially if hes stoned beside you.
(Neville 127) The continued use of marijuana, despite legislation and parental guidelines was another powerful means of rebellion. Many people were turned on to the hip scene by marijuana. (Yablonsky 242) Smoking grass soon spread into the suburbs and the rest of sheltered America. The popularization of LSD can easily be attributed to the hippies and the self-proclaimed leaders of the acid movement. Remaining legal until 1966, LSD gained great publicity from them and drew notoriety after it was criminalized. Timothy Learys studies were published and widely read, almost like bibles.
His book The Psychedelic Experience, and a translated version of The Tibetan Book of the Dead s …