Bring back the hippies!
The Vietnam War was undoubtedly one of the deadliest wars fought in the 20th century. The 1960s were a time when the war was at it’s peak. The period of the war was also a time when television had made it’s entry into the houses of people. The influx of television in the lives of people and the birth of war coverage and photojournalism had slowly started influencing people against the war. The blood and gore that people saw in their homes along with the reports of the loss of millions of lives from the war started an anti-Vietnam War protest in the United States. People came out on the streets in thousands and pressurized the American government to withdraw troops from Vietnam and stop the violence.
This was a time when a cult of youngsters following a subculture had started to form. These youngsters started moving out of the cities to live on their own. They were a cult that rebelled against society. They rebelled against societal restrictions, to ‘find new meaning in life’. This cult rebelled against consumerism. This cult rebelled against war. They rebelled against mainstream organized religion. While many of them discarded the idea of religion and continued their search for spirituality, some embraced Eastern religions. This cult believed in the idea of free love. They believed in the idea of communal living. The members of this slowly evolving cult dressed up way differently as compared to the rest of the society. They believed in bright colours, glaring contrasts, ornate lettering, symmetrical compositions, rubber-like distortions and psychedelic imagery. They believed in rock music. They renounced alcohol but endorsed drug use by believing that LSD and cannabis expand your consciousness and help you find consciousness and ecstasy from within. They believed in travelling across countries with little or no belongings. They questioned the social concepts of family, education, economic success and careers. They redefined sexual relations. They disregarded taboos like homosexuality and promiscuity. They offered a new ‘authentic’ lifestyle to all those who wanted to break away from all social norms. This was the hippie cult. Born in America in the 1960s, they slowly started spreading across the world.
This cult had it’s own political ideology. They believed that war is the worst thing ever. They longed to see the world in colour and peace. They believed that the Vietnam War was the hitherto failure of the American democracy. Many say that this kind of an attitude was the result of the trauma some of their families had gone through in the Vietnam War. The hippies went to all extents to show their longing for world peace. Music was a major form of expressing dissent for the hippies. The 1960s and the early 1970s was in fact a time America witnessed some of it’s best music in the form of Bono, The Beetles, Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin.
The hippies believed in an unusual sense of freedom, which to many who weren’t a part of the cult, seemed as though it was an effect of the drugs that these hippies endorsed. They believed in noon violence, honesty, joy, open relationships and mysticism.
To society, the hippies were a counter culture that indulged in crime and were low on morals. A significant characteristic in the physical appearance of the hippies was long, unkempt hair. On being questioned about the significance of this kind of a hairdo, a young man replied, “Growing my hair does not mean that I am or am not a homosexual. It does mean that I am willing to stand up for my rights as a human being and that includes my right to be harmless to all people. it also indicates my unwillingness to get on to the treadmill of killing for a vast machine-like government. If I am scorned and call dirty because I allow hair to grow on my face and my head, then so much the better, for by this I indicate the seriousness of my belief. I scorn the society that has created this monstrous robot like conformity that feeds the war machine Hitler found robots to feed his war machine.”
Sadly, this peace loving cult saw it’s dying down in the early 1970s. By the 1970s, much of the hippie culture had been passed on into the mainstream culture. As a result of this, the hippie fashion and the hippie drug culture was passed on but the ideology was lost. Also technology starting to make it’s way into the lives of people, it started getting impossible for those of the hippie cult to live with complete disconnect from society.
Even though the term hippie had a very derogatory connotation for the average American in the 60s and the 70s, the hippie cult managed to leave it’s influence on society. One of the positive influences of the hippies on America was that the Americans started to assist the poor and started treating all of society equally. As more and more people started following this culture, though the cult increased in number, a negative effect of this was that these neo hippies got attracted to this culture only for the glamour of it. The hippie style of dressing is very much alive today, but the idea of global peace lies lost.
However naïve one may find the hippie ideology of ‘free love’ and ‘make love, not war’, one must realize that the hippies were the outcome of the generation that had produced birth-control pills, a counterproductive war in Vietnam, the liberation and idealism of the civil rights movement, feminism, gay rights, FM radio, mass-produced LSD, a strong economy, and a huge number of baby-boom teenagers. The hippie movement could be considered as a serious attempt to attain utopian socialism. The hippies followed pacifism and participated in all kind of non violent methods of bringing about world peace.
Mystic or utopian, whatever it is perceived as, in today’s day and age with widespread violence, war, communal hatred, sexism, politics governed by vested interests and exploitation, bring back the hippies, I say!