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Essay/Term paper: The hippie movement that arose from vast political changes

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The Hippie Movement That Arose From Vast Political Changes

Massive black rebellions, constant strikes, gigantic anti-war demonstrations,
draft resistance, Cuba, Vietnam, Algeria, a cultural revolution of seven hundred
million Chinese, occupations, red power, the rising of women, disobedience and
sabotage, communes & marijuana: amongst this chaos, there was a generation of
youths looking to set their own standard - to fight against the establishment,
which was oppressing them, and leave their mark on history. These kids were
known as the hippies. There were many stereotypes concerning hippies; they were
thought of as being pot smoking, freeloading vagabonds, who were trying to save
the world. As this small pocket of teenage rebellion rose out of the suburbs,
inner cities, and countryside's, there was a general feeling that the hippies
were a product of drugs, and rock music; this generalization could have never
been more wrong. The hippie counterculture was more than just a product of drugs
and music, but a result of the change that was sweeping the entire western world.
These changes were brought about by various events in both the fifties and the
sixties, such as: the end of the "Golden Years" of the fifties, the changing
economical state from the fifties to the sixties, the Black Panther Party, women
moving into the work force, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and
John F. Kennedy Jr., the war in Vietnam, the Kent State protest, and finally the
Woodstock festival.

The electric subcurrent of the fifties was, above all, rock'n'roll, the live
wire that linked bedazzled teenagers around the nation, and quickly around the
world, into the common enterprise of being young. Rock was rough, raw, insistent,
especially by comparison with the music it replaced; it whooped and groaned,
shook, rattled, and rolled. Rock was clamor, the noise of youth submerged by
order and prosperity, now frantically clawing their way out.

The winds of change began to sweep across America in the late fifties. The
political unrest came with fear of thermo-nuclear war and the shadow that had
been cast by Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. The civil rights leaders were unhappy with
President Eisenhower's reluctance to use his powers for their cause, in spite of
the fact that the nation was becoming more receptive to civil rights reforms.
With black organizations becoming more militant, Eisenhower needed to
acknowledge the growing movement, and govern accordingly.

World politics were still dominated by the conflict between the capitalist
nations, led by the USA, and the Communist countries, led by the USSR. The bonds
that were keeping people loyal to their leaders were breaking down. In 1960
there was a major split between Russia and China. The Chinese decided that the
Russians were betraying Communism and set off on what they hoped would be the
world revolution against capitalism.

During the fifties, the economic situation was in a constant state of growth.
The United States were prospering and the government was clinging to the
"golden years." The rise of the giant corporations had a profound effect on
American life. A few hundred corporations controlled much of the nation's
industrial and commercial assets and enjoyed a near monopoly in some areas. The
mega corporations dominated the seats of economic and political power. They
employed millions of workers, a large percentage of whom populated the suburbs
that were growing across the country.

The changing American economy also experienced dramatic shifts in the
composition of the work force. Fewer workers went into traditional fields such
as manufacturing, agriculture, and mining, and more went into clerical,
managerial, professional, and service fields. In 1956, for the first time in the
nation's history, white collar workers outnumbered blue collar ones, "and by
the end of the decade blue collar workers constituted only 45 percent of the
work force." The sexual composition of the work force also changed as more and
more women entered the labor market. The influx of women into the work world
that had been accelerated by the Second World War continued in the postwar

The political groups, and the negative feelings that they harbored towards the
present administration, only kindled the flames of revolution. The previous
generation was clinging to the "good times" of the fifties, and the youth were
looking for a niche to call their own. With the drastic change in child
population after the Second World War, divorce became less taboo. As a result,
single mothers were forced into the labor market, and with these jobs came
independence. The 50's and all its political, and social change, was only the
breeding ground for the free thinking generation that was to follow.

In America, a group of militant blacks called the "Black Panther Party" had been
dubbed "American's Vietcong." They were tired with the roadblocks and
discrimination that were plaguing the civil rights leaders, like Dr. Martin
Luther King. They decided to get equality by whatever means necessary. Their
members had been involved in shoot-outs with the police, which were, by the
radical community, dress rehearsals for the coming Armageddon.

The hippie movement was new in the early 60's, the men only beginning to grow
their hair long and some of them still wearing suits, the women as yet uncertain
about fitting in. The introduction of the television in the 50's brought a new
information medium to the general public. With television, people became more
informed, and developed individual opinions, instead of the bias opinions that
were "spoon fed" to them by newspapers, radio etc.. The youth began to break
free of the shackles that were the fifties. They considered their parents
conformists , and they wanted a way to break free of the molds cast for them.

As a reaction to the growing violence of the 1960's, many people turned to the
ideals of peace and love. Ironically, many of those who were seen to be in favor
of peace - including President John Kennedy, his brother Bobby, the black civil
rights leader Martin Luther King, and many unarmed civil rights workers - were
themselves murdered. The horrors of the war in Vietnam dramatized what many saw
as drift towards destruction, and their reaction was to seek a genuinely
peaceful way of life. Across the world, youth took up the slogan "Make Love not
War", and the Love Generation emerged. Many of these were hippies - people who
dropped out of conventional society to take up a lifestyle based on peace,
loving relationships and often mystical religions. Many more who were not fully
hippies were influenced by their ideas and fashions, especially using the soft
drug cannabis and the hallucinogenic drug LSD.

"The New Era" referred to Kennedy promising vigorous attempt to manage a world
whose old stabilities had broken down. Kennedy received credit for recognizing
that international and domestic crises required an active response, even if that
response was "mediating, rationalizing, and managerial," a policy of "aggressive
tokenism." Abroad, the new frontier had the virtue of working towards "political
stabilization" with the Russians; it was deeply committed to avoiding nuclear
war - although Kennedy showed no interested in general disarmament.

Meanwhile Black Americans took President Kennedy at his word and pressed for
civil rights against racial discrimination. On 20 May, 1963 , "400 federal
marshals (government policemen) had to be sent to Montgomery, Alabama, after a
peaceful demonstration by black people had been attacked by a mob of 1500
whites." Local police had refused to act, even though this was the third attack
on blacks in a week. "On 21 May, 1963, 100 whites attacked the church where the
black leader, Martin Luther King, was preaching. The demonstrators continued
despite this when black Freedom Riders, calling for civil rights for blacks,
marched through Alabama and Mississippi to New Orleans. 27 Black freedom Riders
were arrested when they arrived in Jackson Mississippi."

On 12 June 1964, the President Kennedy sent a Civil Rights Bill to Congress,
which, if passed, would make equality a legal right. "On 28 August, 1964,
between 100,000 and 200,000 black people, led by Martin Luther King," marched in
Washington in support of the Civil Rights Bill. But the violence still did not
stop. In September, 1964, a black man was shot dead in Alabama, four blacks were
killed when a church in Birmingham, Alabama, was bombed, Medger Evers of the
Advancement of Colored People was murdered, and six black children were killed
when a house was burnt down.

Kennedy had been a controversial President. Many Americans opposed his support
for black people, while others were angry at his failure to kick the Communists
out of Cuba. The extreme right wing had threatened to kill him, but no one took
these threats seriously. Kennedy had been warned it was a dangerous to drive
through the streets of Dallas in an open car. The President felt that he should
be able to drive openly anywhere in the country, and few people expected trouble.

On 22 November, 1963 as Kennedy drove slowly through crowd-lined streets of
Dallas in an open car, together with his wife, Jackie, and Governor Connally of
Texas, three or more shots were fired at the car. Kennedy was shot through the
throat and head, and Governor Connally was also hit. The President's driver
immediately raced for the Parkland Hospital, with Jackie Kennedy covered in her
husbands blood cradling her husband's head. With those fatal shots, came the end
of "Camelot" as his administration was referred to as.

On April 4 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis. That night,
eighty riots broke out. Federal troops were dispatched into Baltimore, Chicago,
Washington, and Wilmington. "Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, ordered police to
shoot to kill arsonists and the main looters." The actions by Richard J. Daley,
were a sign of respect of King. Ironically, a year before, Daley was against
having King speak in the city of Chicago.

King's following had fallen off in the years leading up to his death. His moment
had passed. Since the triumph of his Slema campaign, which climaxed in the 1965
Voting Rights Act, he had turned to the urban poor, but his strategy of
nonviolence, national publicity, and coalition-building seemed unavailing. Just
a week before his death, his hopes for a non violence march in Memphis, in
support of striking garbage workers, had been dashed by the window-smashing of a
few dozen black teenagers. King had become a hero without a strategy, but a hero
he undeniably was at a moment when the larger movement craved heroes and
disowned them with equal passion. For liberals, even for many black militants
and radicals, he was the last black hope. When he was murdered, it seemed that
nonviolence went to the grave with him, and the movement was "free at last" from

There are times when an entire culture takes the shape of a single event, like
rows of iron fillings lined up by the force of a magnet. What is assassination,
after all, if not the ultimate reminder of the citizen's helplessness - or even
repressed murderousness? Instantly the killing creates an abrupt contest between
Good and Evil, albeit with a wrong ending. With the enlightened establishment's
great men gunned down, a self-proclaimed black revolutionary gunned down, there
was an eerie feeling among the common people, a democracy of sudden death. The
southern civil rights movement had been deeply bloodied, of course. Dozens of
blacks were killed in the urban riots of the North from 1964 on, and, as we have
already seen, the riots of the North inspired the white radicals to start a
movement of their own. These radicals would take the form of the "Hippy."

In 1954 Vietnam had been divided into the Communist North, under Ho Chi Minh,
and capitalist South, under Ngo Dinh Diem, after the Communists had forced the
French to abandon Vietnam. Since 1954 a guerrilla force, the National Liberation
Front (know as the Vietcong), backed by the North, had been gradually gaining
strength. The United States had been sending arms to Diem since 1954, and in
1960 President Kennedy decided to send American military advisors to South
Vietnam to train Diem's army.

Just as the black movement was fighting for equality and civil rights, the
hippie movement took on the fight against the drafting of young men to Vietnam.
Many protests were staged throughout the 60's to end the war, especially the
"March to End the War in Vietnam" held at the Independence memorial in
Washington, 1965.

During 1965, the Vietnam War intensified. The USA put more and more effort into
it, and the South Vietnamese government's lack of control became apparent. In
August it was estimated that the Vietcong controlled a quarter of the country,
the government about half and the rest was not controlled by anyone. In the
Vietcong area, the Communists had taken land from the few rich landowners and
given it to the many poor peasants. This obviously made them more popular with
the peasants. The south Vietnamese army was now too weak to fight the Communists,
and the US decided it would take over the fighting leaving the Vietnamese to
defend the land they controlled.

The war in Vietnam increased trouble in America. Blacks pointed out that black
soldiers in Vietnam suffered unfairly: "10% of the population of the United
States was Black, 12.5% of the American army was black, 14.6% of the battle dead
was black. On 23 April 1967, Muhammad Ali called the war "a race war. Black men
are being cut up by white men." On 28 April 1967, Muhammad refused the call-up
to the US army. The World Boxing Association stripped him of his world title,
and on 21 June 1967, he was found guilty of avoiding the draft. Muhammad Ali was
given a five year jail sentence, and appealed. By the first of August 1967, so
many black uprisings had taken place during the "Long Hot Summer' that a map had
to be produced to show where they had taken place.

1967 had been the year of the hippies, peace and love. 1968 was a year dominated
by violence and ideas of revolution and change. It was the year of New Left -
socialists who rejected both capitalism and communism - whose ideas inspired
students revolt throughout the world. The New Left argued that violence was
caused by capitalism, and the continuing, escalating war in Vietnam, where the
most powerful capitalist force was waging war on a small Asian country. As the
Students moved to the Left, and the youth movement grew, so did the idea of
fighting back against the State. The idea of a single world revolution, grew. On
April 30, 1970, President Nixon ordered the "incursion" of Cambodia, with this
announcement the students went into action. By May 4, 1970, a hundred student
strikes were in progress across the country. At Kent State University in Ohio,
students burned down the ROTC building. On the same day, National Guardsman at
Kent State responded to taunts and a few rocks by firing their M-1 rifles into a
crowd of students, killing four, wounding nine others. Kent State was a
heartland school, far from elite, the very type of campus where Nixons "silent
majority" was supposed to be training.

After these and many other violent incidents at protests, the intensity of the
movement began to dwindle. The great changes that they were fighting for were
not coming about. The protests were not getting any sympathy or support, and
greater numbers of hippies left the protests and adopted a "peace and love" side
of things. The climax of the hippie movement was in Woodstock, 1969. It was
where all of the violence and aggression of protesting was laid aside and the
true ambiance of the 60's was expressed.

Woodstock, in June, had been the long-deferred Festival of Life. So said not
only Time and Newsweek but world-weary friends who had navigated the traffic-
blocked thruway and felt the new society emerging, half a million strong, stoned
and happy on that muddy farm north of New York City.

Both critics and fans concede that Woodstock has become part of the mythology of
the 1960s, even if the actual event did not necessarily represent the musical or
political taste of most young Americans at the time. Some say it symbolized the
freedom and idealism of the 1960s. Critics argue that Woodstock represented much
of what was wrong with the 60's: a glorification of drugs, a loosening of sexual
morality and a socially corrosive disrespect for authority.

Whether one is a supporter or a critic, it is undeniable that Woodstock was one
of the major climaxes of the hippie movement: a culmination of all of the peace
and love ideals in one place. After Woodstock, the movement was on the downswing.
One could argue that Woodstock was the grand finale, with the seventies arriving
soon after it and there was a general "been there, done that"(interview)
mentality which created the seventies, a decade of disco, and doom, never quite
living up to the intensity of the sixties.

The 1960's, then, did more than just "swing". Many of the values and conventions
of the immediate post- war world were called into question, and although many of
the questions had not been satisfactorily answered by the end of the decade,
society would never be the same again.
In conclusion, the hippy culture arose as a result of vast political
changes occurring in North America and beyond and not as a result of drugs and
music. The drugs and music were a by-product of the hippy culture, but by no
means a reason for it's occurrence. The previous pages cite the more relevant
political and social milestones, which, I believe were directly responsible for
the evolution of the hippy culture. These milestones affected everyone, one way
or another, either directly or indirectly. They changed the way people thought.
You would be hard pressed to find someone over the age of about forty-five who,
to this day, cannot remember what they were doing the day Kennedy was shot, and
how they were affected by it. The sixties simply evolved; a microcosm of
numerous political and social change that swept the then current generation. The
hippies were simply reacting to changes in society and, in reacting to these
changes, left an indelible mark on the history books of our time.


Archer, Jales. The Incredible Sixties. Orlando: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987.

Benson, Kathleen, and Haskins, James. The Sixties Reader. New York: Viking
Kestrel, 1988.

Collier, Peter, Horowitz, David. Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About
the'60s. New York: Summit, 1989.

Dickstein, Morris. Gates of Eden: American Culture in the Sixties. New York:
Basic Books, 1977.

Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage. New York: Bantam, 1987.

Ingham, John. Sex'N'Drugs'N'Rock'N'Roll. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press, 1988.

Kostash, Myrna. Long Way From Home:The Story of the Sixties Generation in Canada.
Toronto: James Lorimer & Company, 1980.

Martin, Elizabeth. 57 Edgemore Dr., Etobicoke, Ontario. Interview, 12 February

Oakley, Ronald. God's Country: America in the Fifties. New York: Red Dembner,

Rosen, Obst. The Sixties: The Decade Remembered Now, by the People Who Lived
Them. Toronto: Random House Publisher, 1977.

Roy, Andy. Great Assassinations. New York: Independent Publishing, 1994.

Stern, Jane, and Micheal. Sixties People. New York: Knopf, 1990.

Tucker, Ken, and Stokes, Geoffrey, and Ward, Ed. Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone
History of Rock and Roll. New York: Rolling Stone Press, 1986.

Weiss, Bill. King And His Struggles. New York: Penny Publishing, 1987.

Yinger, Milton. Countercultures: The Promise and Peril of a world Turned Upside
Down. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1982.



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