Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The US in the Late 60's: can you tell a war protestor from a hippie?

Jimi Hendrix
Originally uploaded by littleredglass
Among the long haired people in the late 1960's were 2 divergent groups who looked alike and shared some ideas but who were otherwise different: the war protestors and the hippies.

Both groups tended to emphasize "free love," which was a newly-labeled form of sexual promiscuity. Females in the era were anxious to establish independence and some of them thought that being casually intimate would equal a new form of control over their lives. In truth, availability of the birth control pill was partly a factor in the free love equation.

Marihuana was a relatively new intoxicant in the 60's and youths who got their hands on the herbifumaceous material felt superior to the adults who were still enhancing their relaxation with beer, wine and martinis. In the 60's a poetic and romantic mystique accompanied the smoking of the herb. In the 1970's cannabis sativa lost its exclusivity and became simply another common intoxicant and business opportunity.

Communal living was in vogue in the 60's. Sharing the rent and food costs was the basic formula. A higher level was sharing the purchase of rural land, housing and farm implements. Both groups experimented with the fun and complications involved with communes.

The War protestor may have looked like a hippie, but he typically stayed in college, did a lot of reading - some of it inspired by Asian literature, such as Buddhist thought - and debating of issues. Protestors tended to write about the issues in a new group of independent publications, such as the Berkeley Barb.

Hippies wanted to drop out of materialistic and corrupt American society. Their goal was to go Back to the Land. Living in a teepee in the remote mountains of Arkansas or Colorado was the hippie dream.
Hippies were apolitical. Didn't care about the war or politics. Staying high while farming and crafting their own clothes and jewelry was another prevalent dream.

By the mid-70's long hair ceased to be a badge of rebellion. Common criminals and working class youths adopted long hair and wore army surplus clothing. The utopian dreams given to the world by artists and poets in San Francisco had been corrupted by excessive media attention and blunted by the marketplace.

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