The counterculture, labeled “The Hippie Movement”, radically shaped the world we have today and made everyday life more colorful, diverse, open and accepting. Hippies embraced change faster than society could integrate, which caused many tensions and much conflict.
The Hippie Culture began in the 1960s as the Baby Boom Generation was maturing into their teens. Often those who became a Hippie came from ‘well off’ families, but were tired of the oppressive restrictions put on them by society and their conservative parents. They were tired of conforming and began to express themselves in radical ways. They expressed disillusionment with the growing commercialism and by a world being poisoned with chemicals and obsessed with consuming. They often even rejected wearing shoes preferring the freedom of bare feet and the connectedness to the earth this bought. Hippies didn’t care much about money and worked for the ‘establishment’ as little as possible. Instead, many of them shared what they had and lived together in groups, while others just lived naturally & frugally by choice.
Hippies sought to free themselves and find new meaning in life. In their quest for the most natural way of living they tended to reject manufactured food, clothing and products, preferring healthier, more natural alternatives. Hippies believed the dominant mainstream culture was corrupt and inherently flawed and sought to replace it with a Utopian society.
The culture of Hippies was unlike anything people had seen before. They focused their lives around the ideas of peace, love, freedom, and living life to the fullest. To heighten their experiences spiritually and physically, many hippies used hallucinogenic drugs and sex.
There can be no discussion about the Hippie movement without a mention of drugs and free sex. Drug use and illicit or ‘free sex’ were common behind closed doors prior to the Hippie Movement, the Hippies didn’t invent them, they just bought them out of hiding and secrecy, and into the open.
They lived peaceful lives and believed that living together in harmony was possible and necessary. Because of this, they strongly opposed violence, and in particular, the Vietnam War; opposing the lack of freedom to choose to go to war or not.
Hippies experimented with living in new ways together. The idea was to live a simple, more natural life. Not because you had to, but because you wanted to. They used candles, saved water, played music, experimented with many art forms, grew their own food and sold or shared their resources. Hippies did not want to be in a job they hated for 40 years to pay off a mortgage or to keep up appearances.
It was a time for questioning the status quo, and questioning the way our culture was being guided to go – not something that was greeted with open arms by a conforming conservative culture. They believed that the government was at the root of this and many other evils in society at the time. Due to this belief in particular, many officials and authorities felt threatened by the presence and radical ideas expressed by the Hippie culture and saw them as a danger to society as they wanted it. Many authorities felt threatened by their presence, so spent a lot of time and effort publicly discrediting them and squashing them as soon as possible. The ‘straight’ culture saw them as a freak of society, and reacted strongly to this defiance of the status quo as well.
By the 1980’s the Hippie culture was all but reduced to a few. The pull of conformity, commercialism and dependence over all seemed to have won the day.
But many aspects of the Hippie Culture were assimilated into the mainstream culture. The Hippie movement did change the way many people viewed life, even if they decided against wearing flowers in their hair, going bare foot and handing flowers out as symbols of peace. The Hippie Movement morphed into the peoples personal ‘Green Movement’, environmentalism, sustainability, nonviolence and social justice concerns.
People’s memory and experience of that time may differ, but we can’t deny the good that came from it. I for one loved it. I have fond memories of the colour, the music and free spiritedness. I loved the vibrancy and the acceptance of life as a whole. I didn’t feel the need to experiment with drugs but did enjoy the feelings of hope and the freedom to express an inner aliveness.