Causes of the Counter-Culture that was the Hippies
As the 1950’s rolled along and the 1960’s came into effect, the world was thrown into a topspin that would soon define every generation of youths. As the trends changed and the music got more complex a deeper metamorphosis was taking place inside every city and every person. To develop a counterculture in the 1960’s there had to be new ideas circulating that were counter-norm. These ideas were not developed right away for any one reason, though. Just like the times, the causes for this counter-culture were far more complex than anyone had seen before in the 20th century. Some could say it was because of a civil rights call or say it was because of the drugs, but I just don’t know if anyone could really pin it to one key cause.
World War II was happening as the 1950’s were happening and it soon drew to a close. This brought more men home from the army and thus led to the “Baby boom.” The baby boom was started as part of a security aspect for if there was another war there would still be a child to carry on the name. However, many men from the army just missed their wives and decided to have a few kids. This was a big impact on the 1960’s because those youths involved in the baby boom were starting to become adolescents and young adults as the 1960’s counterculture ideas started. Another aspect of this baby boom was that they didn’t really recognize the hard work that their father had to endure to provide them with a good life. They saw everything getting better, but never understood that things would fall apart if you let it get that way.
MacArtheism, an idea in the United States history when everyone was suspected to be a communist, sparked paranoia in everyone. World War II started the spark that led to an all out fire by the time Vietnam started. All things against the normal way of doing things in the United States was blamed on communists. Innocent people had their lives ruined by stereotypes and false accusations because of this time. Vietnam was a war that was said to stop more communism, however the children of the United States were so tired of hearing about Communism that they just wanted it all over.
Civil rights of any individual was also expounded on in the 1960’s. All ethnicities wanted equal rights for everyone because of discrimination and segregation that took place in the north as well as the south. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 allowed the Federal Government the right to investigate Civil Rights Violations which did nothing except bring it out for an example of what was to come for freedom. Schools were separated to white and black public schools. The white schools had far better facilities and even more in ways of academics and expectations than the black schools. The blacks schools were typically run down with unequipped teachers who cared, but couldn’t do anything about it. Few challenged the schools because of the one set standard of law set in place about segregation through Plessy vs. Ferguson. This was the standard until Brown vs. Board of Education where they said that separate was not equal and could never be. This showed the people that many things could be accomplished if it was a just cause. On May 6, 1960 President Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1960. A year later on February 1, 1961 four black students were arrested at a whites only lunch counter in Greensboro, South Carolina. These two incidents didn’t straighten out the civil rights issues, though. Martin Luther King began to lead through active non-violence saying that lightness begets lightness and darkness begets darkness. He proposed a Civil Rights Bill to John F. Kennedy which lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which stated that desegregation of any kind is against the law and morals, that all employers have to give an equal opportunity, and gave all total voting rights. This resulted in blacks taking one more step towards their freedom that they waited so long for.
A common ideal was slowly being formed in most youths’ minds that love and respect are the only things you need to make a community thrive. Youths started to grow their hair out, grow long facial hair, and they started wearing techni-colored clothing. Many people who participated in this counter culture were middle to upper class suburban kids who wanted to throw it all away and live it simple like the Beat generation poets had stated in their works at the time and like Bob Dylan’s lyrics. Some did actually strive to live the utopian lifestyle giving up everything to move to the country and live off of them selves. Many new religions and religious techniques were being used by the youth such as meditation, yoga, and Buddhism. Music and popular fashion and trends were starting to shape the nation and almost became symbolic of its’ changing ways.
Music helped define this era and youth movement because it was an indictment on the scene of what was conventional and what you could and couldn’t do in music. People and bands
were starting to experiment with new sounds which drew attention to the fact that they could do something new every time they played. Pink Floyd tested the waters (no pun intended) of early techno and trance music that is so popular today. Computers were being used to produce beats, rhythms, and new sounds that boggled the minds of this new generation. The Beatles started to act like the Grateful Dead experimenting with the psychedelic sound which also spawned he Haight-Ashbury district of California. Bob Dylan spoke as the voice of this new American generation with his folk style of guitar. Then there was protest music which was prevalent when Vietnam hit full force in such people like Joe Cocker.
Poetry was being incorporated into the music scene also with the help of some of the Beat generation like Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Neal Cassidy. Allen Ginsberg performed some nights with the Grateful Dead at some of the early acid tests with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Jack Kerouac’s book “On The Road” was also getting notoriety with new ideas starting to surface and it became known as Beatnik thoughts. These poets helped out the generation because they added to poetic scope to the society. It was almost like a puzzle that needed every piece to have its full effect. Their poems consisted of many things from homosexuality to taking peyote in the dessert. This interested their audience because it was very uncommon to hear or see a poet talking about such counter culture of things. Neal Cassidy was an intricate part also of the 1960’s generation.
Drug use increased more and more with this new subculture whether for fun or an escape. People were starting to smoke marijuana and realized that it wasn’t as bad as what “Reefer Madness” had shown it to be. So that increased in use along with a new drug that was developed and discovered by Dr. Albert Hoffman called LSD. This drug, which is said to be extremely dangerous, was being handed out at government buildings and colleges for them to do tests on the drug. Allen Ginsberg said he sent some acid to jazz great Dizzy Gilespie and Dizzy commented that he would like something stronger. Allen, himself, said it was the second most powerful drug he ever tried number one being peyote. The LSD that was used at the time was LSD 25 and was a lot more strong as what is going around the streets in the 21st century. Timothy Leary, an ex-Harvard professor, was a major spokesperson for the drug and he developed a new saying about the generation “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.” Timothy Leary also brought magic mushrooms to the publics attention when he smuggled some into the U.S. from South America. He gave it to some other Harvard professors and they started doing some more tests on it. Acid tests were these concerts where you were given an amount of acid and if you went crazy then you failed the acid test. A key slogan of the time was actually, “Can you pass the acid test?” These were done all over the U.S., but mostly California and were mostly at all Grateful Dead shows. The Grateful Dead introduced many things to music’s mystique. They started using eye pleasing lighting techniques and incorporated weird noises into their shows. Jimi Hendrix was another big advocate for LSD use and usually played while tripping. Once he cut his forehead and put a drop of acid in his cut and put a bandanna over the cut and played an amazing show. LSD seemed to open up people’s heads to new ideas and gave them a new outlook on life.
The Woodstock Music Festival has been deemed the culmination of the counterculture. As Wavy Gravy put it once, “If you weren’t a part of [this] culture before Woodstock then you definitely were after.” The bringing together of music’s brightest minds at the time and 500,000 people was the solidifier of this decade. By solidification I mean that everyone from this culture could actually experience love, peace, and community for three days. Despite the rain, lack of toiletries and toilets, and lack of food most of the youth at the festival stayed throughout the whole thing.
This along with many other things had opened up the youths’ eyes about a near perfect generation and about love. Each generation after the 1960’s has been compared to that generation. Most generations are trying to rekindle those feelings brought around by the 1960’s. Unluckily it has brought around a resurgence of those hard drugs that remain prevalent in the 21st century now. The music has also had a resurgence that has brought around the Grateful Dead and bands influenced by them like Phish, Moe, and Acoustic Hooka. All generations wish to strive to be more like that age when things seemed golden or was it a flashback?