In the 1960’s there was the culture of acquiring material comforts and endless consumption of goods. The societal norms were working towards owning a home and maintaining a comfortable life that was guaranteed through buying the many consumer goods that were readily available from the expanding American factories. In the 1960’s family dinners that previously helped in building the family, relationships had been replaced by the culture of watching TV. Every white middle-class home had attached much value to the TV compared to all other pieces of furniture in their home and most of the dinner time was spent watching TV rather than interacting and having talks with the family members. To most members of the white middle class, sustaining their consumption and maintaining a sense of security was the most crucial things in their lives and therefore were devoted to meeting the goals. At the time there was the substitution of individualism with conformism as the main determinant of success. The hippies were opposed to the environment that they perceived not to be real because people were obsessed with owning homes and other material things and therefore turning them into shallow people that were controlled by external factors like the desire to own material things and losing their identity in the process. The war in Vietnam also played a major role in making the youth more rebellious and not having the belief in authority. The Vietnam War also played a central role in propagating the Hippie counterculture. The hippies not only hated the war but also the draft that kept it alive (Moretta, Chapter 4, Pg. 52)
There were no defined requirements for joining the hippie movement. The subculture founded on a basic philosophy of an individual his or her best lifestyle and one that did not conform to what other people who had mainstream practiced. The subculture entailed an individual exercising his or her freedom to live the best life even if in other parts of America it would be perceived odd or even condemned. The subculture to a greater extent encouraged rebelling against the norms that had been set by most of the middle-class Suburban population in America during the 1960’s. The culture was about each being able to define what they want to do with their life and then doing it without having to worry of whether it was acceptable by the majority of the people in the society at the time. It is, however, paramount to note that hippies did not support violence as being part of their movement.
The hippies encouraged the use of mind-altering drugs as a way of experiencing the happiness that they had longed but believed could not be achieved in the mainstream society. The hippies became drug users and were associated with hallucinogens. It is crucial to note that the people that subscribed to the hippie way of life had their classification of drugs. They viewed the drugs as both good and bad depending on how drug produced the effects. The hippies were strongly opposed to alcohol mainly because it was not only addictive according to them but also made the users more unwise as opposed to building on the consciousness. Alcohol also could not gain favor from the hippies because it was already the favorite thing that got the middle-class population high and the hippie counterculture was opposed to almost every mainstream thing. Marijuana, on the other hand, was much adored by the hippies because they believed that it helped the individuals to be free from the standards set by the society and being able to do whatever they felt was good for their happiness without any restrictions (Moretta, Chapter 3 Pg. 8).
The other defining characteristic for the hippies was their deep love for Rock and Roll music (Moretta Chapter 4 Pg. 1). Rock music played a critical role in communicating the ideologies of the hippie counterculture. The message that can be found in the Rock lyrics on drugs, being rebellious and having sex are the evidence that the music was instrumental in influencing young people to do whatever they felt would make them feel good regardless of what the society thought of them. Rock music encouraged people to shout, scream and dance as it would make everything alright. The Rock festivals formed one of the best moments for the Hippies. The hippies would dance, drink and have sex without restrictions. Gay people would also indulge in their pleasure without caring about what the mainstream society thought about them
Apart from the Rock and Roll music that was being used as a medium of expressing the Hippie culture underground press was also used as a means to sell the hippie ideas to the world (Moretta, Chapter 7, Pg. 7). Peter Werbe is a notable editor for the Fifth Estate that was an underground newspaper and was popular among the Hip community in Detroit. The underground press was one of the key mediums that the Hippies were relying on to pass their messages and stories out to the masses and in turn grow their culture by turning them against the mainstream. The Hippies also wanted to use the mainstream media as a tool to fight the administration and taint it as a failure through their antics as the media had given them free coverage, and they saw it as a chance to destroy the authorities by making the majority of the youth buy their narrative (Moretta, Chapter 11, Pg. 10).
Most of the individuals that had formed the hippie subculture had grown up in suburbs that were inhabited by the middle class, but the subculture required them to live a life of deprivation from material comforts (Moretta Pg. 39). The hip culture was supposed to be different from the order that had been created by the capitalism in America by avoiding material wealth, but the fact that most of the individuals had grown up in a life of comfort made it hard to adapt to the life of scarcity as their counterculture required. The hippie culture also came with some irresistible profits to the hip businessmen that mainly dealt with the sale of apparel other products that were associated with the hippie movement. Most of the entrepreneurs that were hippies were making huge profits by selling the hip products, and because of the huge sums of money, they were accumulating it was hard for them to live a life of deprivation in opposition to the capitalism. The fact that even major companies in America started investing in products that were being consumed in large amounts by hippies and making profits meant that instead of completely fighting capitalism and the corporates the hippie movement might have played a role in helping the corporates grow by consuming their products( Moretta, Pg. 41).
Another reason why the counterculture could not be sustained was that sustaining the Rock and Roll involved commercialization and the counterculture was opposed to placing much value on material things (Moretta, Chapter 4, Pg. 13). The rapid growth of Rock and Roll had a contribution of the middle class, and therefore it was hard to separate it from the mainstream lifestyle. The youth had the purchasing power to purchase the Rock records leading to the commercial growth of the industry contrary to what the hippies believed. A serious weakness of the hippie movement was the failure to completely dissociate from the mainstream culture especially in the consumption of products that were encouraged in the movement. For example, LSD was one of their favorite products but although it was produced at a low cost, it could not be immune to the market forces that affected other products and the product advocates were seen to be applying double standards as by buying the product, the people still needed to work hard and raise money and yet the counterculture was supposed to avoid the same (Moretta, Chapter 6 Pg.11)
The other reason why the hippie movement could not last was that the founders would not sustain the supply of free dope as they had initially tried. (Moretta, Chapter 9, pg.30). Initial dope would be in constant supply in dancehall when the community had events like being in but when the composition of the population of Haight of was altered during Summer of Love, an environment for drug dealing and making money was created contrary to the Hippie aspirations. The rise of communes also played a major role in the decline of suburban Hippies because even the mainstream media moved its focus to the rural communes. Most of the rural communes were created by dissatisfied urban hippies that had moved to rural areas and believed that the American society could not be radically changed and therefore were seeking total alienation (Moretta, Chapter 10, pg.9)
The hippie movement full destruction started when Criminals like Charles Manson used the movement to conceal their illegal activities (Moretta, Chapter 13). When the 1960’s were ending the movement had changed and was to a larger extent seen as a refuge for all manner of criminals who used it to disguise their evil deeds. The violence such as the one witnessed at Altamont when the Rock fans were mishandled by the Angels further made it hard to convince people that the counterculture had nothing to do with violence. The hippie movement was not meant to last for long as the majority of Straight people had already predicted that with the members being heavy drug users, they could not last long before starting engaging in violence and violence and it did eventually happen.
Moretta, John Anthony. The Hippies: A 1960s History. McFarland, 2017.