The Times They Are A-Changin'
By: Faithless Juliet
By the mid 1950s American and world society was much the same way that it had been during the 40s and eras that came before that time. However, something was changing. A group of radical rebellious youths took root in the back streets of such major cities as San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. It was like an illusionist's dream for those who were sucked into this tight-nit community, giving teens and young adults the opportunity to live far away from the shadow of their older generations strict rules and stereotypes of what was appropriate for their sons and daughters in the upcoming epoch. It was this young group of extremists of the new age of change that when formed together with the fed-up teens of the 60s formed the 'Hippie.' "Coming off of the cusp of the confining 1950s, the average American teenager went in search of a new society that excluded social class; but by the end of the decade they had resulted in creating a social system that was much the same as the society that they had been trying so long to be free from."
"With the adjective of a new and classless society of sincerity and trust, some of these young people adapted the term 'Hip' from Beatnik slang and donned the flowery flamboyant posture of 'Hippies.'" (Miller)
The "Leave It To Beaver" approach to life that so many families had been trying to emulate for the last ten years was clearly over when midnight struck on the eve of 1959. We were
sent spiraling head long into a new world of change, filled with space exploration, and the assassination of President Kennedy; as well as the assassination of most of our innocence. Woman had the right to vote and hold property but most of them, in staggering numbers, were still staying at home with their children and tending to their husbands and families needs. It was many of the children who grew up under this yoke of abstract normalcy that would later stray from it, helping to spread one of the fastest moving 'cult' movements of our time.
The Hippie way of life spread like teenage wild fire, much the same way that a new clothing style or hair-do will be seen in high school and then in the coming days everyone will have it. The numbers held by the earlier Beatnik generation (the fathers of Hippiedom) were nothing compared to the numbers held by these new and strange creatures. They sprung up from the homes of normal families and could easily be recognized in public by their long hair, baggy clothes, and "Peace Brother!" attitude.
To the rest of the world, or the "Establishment," as most Hippies and Beatniks referred to them as, thought that the group of youths calling themselves Hippies were received with mixed reactions. Some believed that it was just a trend, or a new fad that would end in a few short weeks or months; this new unrestricted group was far too strange and different from what society viewed as appropriate behavior. Other people believed that it was the end of the world, (this group was mostly religious) and believed that the devil or some form of evil had infected these children and that this epidemic must be stopped quickly before it spreads. A newspaper in New York wrote: "The message received was that a bunch of longhaired youths with no respect for the establishment and norms were intent on self-destruction."
Some Hippies rather then entering the standard of living on the cusp of freedom and the opportunity to live in a heavily drug oriented world came into the lifestyle by being activists. Many youths protesting the war in Vietnam or the growing civil and moral injustice of the treatment of blacks in the south chose to become Hippies and openly disapprove of the government because in the early 1960s the government truly didn't care and wasn't getting involved in either of these issues.
Gregory Cross, a writer and poet of the Beatnik and Hippie generation summed up this period in time by saying: "[The 60s] the age of the coffee house where you could sit and listen to good and emotional poetry while getting stoned and no laws were broken!"
Both the Beatnik and the Hippie generations provided the world with amazing new literature and thoughts on this time frame. Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) was perhaps the most famous writer during this time. In 1957 he published the semi-autobiographical novel "On the Road!" which quickly became a handbook of the soulful years he spent living amongst these groups. Jack Kerouac was not the only writer that sought to reflect the emotions and new sensations of this time to the world. There was also Chandler Brossard, Kenneth Rexroth, and Allen Ginsberg; to name a few.
Films were also made to show and examine the strange new social phenomenon, the most popular and perhaps the most telling was "Pull my Daisy!" a radical underground film that was made by and starring the major movers and shakers of the time. Due to "On the Road," and "Pull my Daisy!" teenagers from across the globe were exposed to the Hippie way of life in staggering numbers, and these artistic mediums further helped to swell the numbers of this growing
Music, as in all generations and times, always has had an effect of the people that it calls to. This was the same in the 60s, while such soulful heavy weights as Bob Dylan described what he felt as a young adult during this decade and the feelings that other teens shared: "Come mother's and father's throughout the land, and don't criticize what you can't understand, your sons and your daughters are beyond your command. Your old road is rapidly aging, please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand, for the times they are a-changing." (Dylan)
Dylan's words chant like lyrical poetry on the cusp of an uncontrollable desire to understand himself and others while breaking free from the restricting yoke of black and white, love and hate, and right and wrong.
Hippies had many mottos for life, such as "Make love not war," and "Peace Brother," and there was no greater influence for these such hopeful phrases as the influence of the Hippies new found religion which spanned from Zen Buddhism to Hinduism. These religions focused on meditation, thought, and prayer, rather then adherence to idea's and structures.
With their new and inhabited lifestyle, many Hippies and Beatnik's were drawn into scenarios and situations that they, on normal circumstances, would never consider being under. Sex became more and more a part of the teenage lifestyle than ever before and the teenage pregnancy rate went up a shocking 5% - shocking in those days. - It was this rise in sex and pregnancy that led to many children being born into the Hippie communities.
Children in these situations were raised in a highly unusual way. Children were encouraged to think and experiment like their parents were not able to do when they were that
age, and many were exposed to the darker side of this world: such as neglect and exposure to drugs. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. True, it is never right - under any circumstances - to hit, neglect, or hurt a child in any way, however, these children were raised in the kind of environment that allowed them to form their own uniquely creative conclusion to things, which is mostly the opposite for children who grow up under structured situations and attend regular public schools. When children go to school they are all taught to think and act the same way. They learn on the 2 + 2= 4 basis, that's all they learn and very few of them actually ask "why?"
Since they were shunned from most of society and branded outcasts, Hippie communities or enclaves, as many were branded by the mainstream public, sprang up all over the country from 1965 on. Some fled to low class neighborhoods while others went into the countryside; one of these places was the "Pig Farm." A small community in the countryside of Missouri that strangely enough was set up as a free place of social boundaries but was actually much the same way as the places that most of the inhabits were trying to flee from. Men worked outside, while women worked in the kitchen, tended gardens, or looked after the children who lived there. Ironic, for these women who fled into Hippiedom were trying to escape such choices for themselves.
In the second half of the decade, Hippies and Flower Children adopted the popular "Make love not war" slogan. It was originally meant to stand as a rallying call for love, peace, equality, and freedom of choice. But sadly, to most of the outside world and the rest of the Hippie population soon after the word love became conjoined with sex. Love became sex, sex became pleasure, pleasure became drugs, and the downfall of the "Peace Brother" outlook on life soon
became ancient history.
Hippies, Flower Children, and Beatniks alike favored the drug Marijuana for the relaxed and carefree state that it would put them in and because it allowed many of them to act the way that they truly wanted to. Under the influence of such drugs crimes were committed like vandalism and rape.
The downfall of Hippiedom was rapidly approaching. It had gone from a wonderful idea of peace, freedom, and love to a crazed kind of world filled with sex, drugs, and violence. Not only were they crumbling from the inside but they were also crumbling from the outside as well. The "Death of the Hippie" ceremonies were common after 1967, and Woodstock was the last great hurrah for most Hippies. The movement had died, shifting from its former shell into an unrecognizable husk of cruelty, betraying everything that it had once stood for. Perhaps that they didn't understand that free love was free until an unexpected child came along. Or perhaps they didn't get that the saying "Peace Brother" couldn't be upheld if you were stoned or wasted.
Mark Twain once said "History may not repeat itself but it rhymes" and that is so of the Hippie generation. They, the pioneers of a new society that was doomed long before it began. They, who were called outcasts, can be compared to the Ravers of the late 1990s. Both groups seeking freedom from the norm, both groups longing for the world that they wanted but always choosing destruction before its final phase was complete. Thirty years have passed since the turbulent time of the 1960s; thirty years since the birth and the destructive death of Hippiedom. Now, many Hippies of then are what we now call Baby Boomers today, and they have easily disemboweled their former revolution for a new computer and big screen TV.
The times, still are a-changin...