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The American Hippie

.. became the guidebooks for passage through a successful trip. (Westhues 40-41) Through his writing, he spread the hippie motto of “Turn on, Tune in, Drop Out”. Ken Kesey’s acid tests and his adventures with the Pranksters drew further attention to the acid movement, as it came to be known. In The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, an account of his adventures, he metaphorically states, “There are going to be times, when we can’t wait for somebody.

Now, you’re either on the bus or off the bus. If you’re on the bus, and you get left behind, then you’ll find it again. If you’re off the bus in the first place- then it won’t make a damn. You’re either on the bus .. or off the bus” (Wolfe 74).

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The hippies believed that LSD had the power to raise them to a higher consciousness, it helped you get “on the bus.” Hippies used acid limitlessly, tightening the bonds with each other and widening the gap between themselves and society. Americans could reluctantly tolerate marijuana usage, but after seeing the creative and frightening effects of LSD, would not accept the chemical in society. Individuality and identity are two very important ideals to the hippies. They feel that the establishment tries to control people through routine methods like organized work and leisure. “The idea of anything organized would instantly evoke boredom and restraint in the mind of the hippie.” (Cavan 162-163) Many of these young people devoted tremendous amounts of time to “doing their own thing”. This could have been anything, ranging from creative endeavors like painting and poetry to merely sitting on the grass meditating. Doing one’s “own thing” brought the person a unique sense of identity.

This gave them a different approach to finding careers than their parents tried to teach them “If you get a job or something, you’re even more conforming to the system, and if you don’t agree with it, where do you turn? So you see you kind of invent your own lifestyle” (Mills 79). The dehumanizing effect of joining the American workforce was met with the hippies’ decision to exclude themselves from it, avoiding its negative effects. This placed them outside of the economy, separating them from the rest of society. Of course, they were further misunderstood and even despised for their refusal to work. Some hippies looked for solutions to the social problems plaguing the U.S.

during the sixties. They staged massive demonstrations to draw attention and try to bring about change. Student activism reached a peak during the 1960s as bright, affluent college students fought against unfair legislation, abuse of human rights, racial discrimination, and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. These protestors were more than just hippies, they were the children of the upper middle class. The social status of these students ensured that their message was heard by the public and captured by the media.

(Westby 254) Images of angry hippies burning draft cards and giving speeches to huge audiences spread across the country. During the mid 1960s, anti-war demonstrations flooded the nation’s capital. Led by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), some protests drew massive crowds of twenty-five thousand protestors or more. (Young 150-151) The commitment to a common was a unifying force among the hippies, surpassing any individual differences. The protests were very important because they were nationally televised, placing the hippie at the center of the American home, in the living room.

Another group of hippies thought the answer was merely to “drop out” of society completely. They chose to live together communally, generally in rural areas, and attempted to become self-sufficient. On these communes, they participated in food and clothing production, child rearing as well as devoting plenty of time to “do their own thing.” (Cavan 155) These hippies quickly learned that survival was very difficult without the aid of civilization. A commune could not function without a great deal of effort on behalf of the members. As they soon found out, organization was necessary to keep these communities running smoothly. Because most hippies came to the communes escaping the establishment, organization was not easy to impose upon them. (Westhues 194-195) The most famous hippie community was not a farm, it was the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco.

People flocked from around the country to experience the phenomenon of merely being there, of “being in” (Perry 29-30). The brotherhood and kindness present in the community was hidden from the American public by the appearance and lifestyle of the inhabitants. Tour buses carried visitors through the neighborhood providing them with a superficial and confused view of the community: We are now entering the largest hippie colony in the world and the very heart and fountainhead of the hippie subculture. We are now passing through the ‘Bearded Curtain’ and will journey down Haight Street, the very nerve center of a city within a city .. Marijuana, of course is a household staple here, enjoyed by the natives to stimulate their senses ..

Among the favorite pastimes of the hippies, besides taking drugs, are parading and demonstrating, seminars, malingering, and the ever-present preoccupation with the soul, reality, and self-expression such as strumming guitars, piping flutes and banging on bongos. (Yablonsky 200). The creation of hippie communities gave them a foundation in American society. Whether the public liked it or not, the hippies became a permanent part of our culture. The controversial messages of the hippies and their socially unacceptable lifestyle made them targets of very much negative publicity.

They were all portrayed as drug pushers, prostitutes, and thieves by the media. (Mills 76-77) The belief that their subversive ideas could destroy society’s structure and values caused people to fear them. Following the 1960s, as many of these hippies grew older, the returned to normal society. They eventually bought into the establishment they once fought against, by getting married, moving into suburban homes and buying family cars. Some stubborn individuals never lost their hippie appearance and lifestyle.

Many of these interesting individuals can still be seen in San Francisco and the East Village in New York. A large number of these hippies are even conveniently located in beautiful Ithaca. Their appearance is still the same, but now hippie gear is mass-produced for the department stores. Regardless of how their lives had changed, the impression that hippies left will last forever. They demonstrated the power of America’s youth as they fought to bring about change.

The hippies taught people to appreciate nature and the beauty of the human body. Most importantly, hippies broke social boundaries, setting an example that others would follow. Bibliography References Cavan, Sherri. Hippies of the Haight. New Critics Press. St.

Louis, 1972 Kornbluth, Jesse. Notes from the New Underground. The Viking Press. New York, 1968 Mills, Richard. Young Outsiders, a study of Alternative Communities. Pantheon Books. New York, 1973 Neville, Richard.

Play Power: Exploring the International Underground. Random House. New York, 1970 Newsweek. “Case of the Hypnotic Hippie”. December 15, 1969. p.

30-32 Perry, Helen. The Human Be-In. Basic Books Inc. New York, 1970 Westby, David “Class and Politics in the Family Backgrounds Student Political Activists”. American Sociological Review.

Vol. 31, Oct 1966 Westhues, Kenneth. Society’s Shadow: Studies in the Sociology of Countercultures. McGraw-Hill. New York, 1972 Wolf, Leonard.

Voices from the Love Generation. Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 1968 Wolfe, Tom. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Bantam Books, New York, 1967 Yablonsky, Lewis. The Hippie Trip. Pegasus Books.

New York, 1968 Young Social Issues.


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