How the Hippies Changed the World

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"People today are still living off the table scraps of the sixties. They are still being passed around- the music and the ideas" - Bob Dylan (1992)

From 1964 to 1968, there swelled a gigantic wave of cultural and political change that swept first the city of San Francisco, then the whole United States, and then the world.

The efforts of the pioneers in the Haight-Ashbury to create an enlightened community took about two years, from 1964-66, to reach the flashpoint, and during those years the music reached an artistic high point. But the Summer of Love in 1967 lasted only a few months, and by the end, overcrowding and the negative reaction of police and the city's government combined to make life in the Haight miserable for everyone. Still, the taste for enlightenment had left a lasting impression on the minds and hearts of those who participated in the "hippie scene".

The term hippie is derived from "hip" or "hipster" used by the beats to describe someone who was part of their scene. It literally means to know, so someone who's "hip" is wise. Hippies never adopted this term for themselves. They preferred to be called the "beautiful people". However the media played up "hippy" as the catch-all phrase to describe the masses of young people growing their hair long, listening to rock music, doing drugs, practising free love, going to various gatherings and concerts, demonstrating and rejecting the popular culture of the early 60's. Hippies were the adults of the baby boom post-World War II. They wanted to test and enjoy the limits of life adopting a motto of - "Being alive should be Ecstasy".

They were also associated with participation in peace movements, including peace marches such as the USA marches on Washington and civil rights marches, and anti-Vietnam war demonstrations including the 1968 Democratic Convention. A popular slogan of the time was "Make love not war".

Philosophically, hippie thought drew upon the earlier Beat generation. Hippies started the ecology movement. They combated racism. They liberated sexual stereotypes, encouraged change, individual pride, and self-confidence. They questioned robot materialism. In four years, they managed to stop the Vietnam War. They got marijuana decriminalised in fourteen states during the Carter Administration.

Hippie political expression often took the form of dropping out of society to implement the changes they sought. The back to the land movement, cooperative business enterprises, alternative energy, free press movement, and organic farming were all political in nature at their start.

The music of the time enveloped the movement. It was quite different to the music that came before it e.g. Bill Haley and the Comets, Buddy Holly etc. Bob Dylan wrote meaningful lyrics to his folk songs and later electrified rock sound, which made people take notice. The blues continued to be popular at this time and were championed by The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. The Doors music contained poetic and sexually-charged lyrics from Jim Morrison and was often inspired by the band's frequent use of LSD and it's true that we would not have Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - often deemed "the greatest pop album of all time", were it not for their use of psychedelic drugs.

Drug Culture

In the 1960s the hippies, undertook the largest uncontrolled experiment with drug use in the history of mankind. Drugs were portrayed as wonders of modern technology. We were led to believe that soon all diseases would be conquered by taking some drug. It was a time of unbridled optimism.

Many of today's technological wonders including the personal computer and the Internet are due to the inspiration and enlightenment of LSD and marijuana.

Timothy Leary - the high priest of LSD and a former Harvard University professor wrote numerous books about the mind-expanding potential of psychedelics.

Evidently, although many hippies used drugs like LSD and marijuana, there...
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