The counter culture movement of the 1960s

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The counter culture movement of the 1960s was a cultural revolution that changed the once conservative American mind into an extreme, liberal mind that now supported radical ideas such as protests, dropping out of school, drugs, sex, and new kinds of artistic gestures that introduced these new ideas to their audiences.

The counter culture movement was developed by people who had an anti-establishment attitude, wanted to widen social boundaries, and fought to challenge the authority that currently existed in the United States (Anderson 129). These people, most commonly known as hippies, preached love and sought bliss (McWilliams 65). The old ideas of religion, philosophy, competition, materialism, and education were out the window, for new and more simple ideas such as peace, love, altruism, and honesty were the central concerns of the hippies. No longer believing in the ideas of the Christian church, the hippies became more interested and familiar with the study of astrology.

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Their philosophy on life was to live freely and in harmony in nature, without the ordinary materials and concerns most people had for they believed that society was much too conformed. Competition was not found inside a hippie because they did not believe in fighting for much of anything, although some did choose to protest against the Vietnam War. The hippies that supported the anti-war movement were called peaceniks (McWilliams 65). Materialistic possessions were not important for they wanted to live a simple life without greed or selfishness, which supported their idea of altruism (McWilliams 66).

As stated before, education was not a primary concern for the rebellious individuals of the counter culture movement. The main subjects studied in school (math, English, history, and science) were irrelevant to the minds of the hippies for they were more interested in studying subjects such as astrology, mythology, and philosophy. These new subject areas interested many young people and influenced them to drop out of school and break out of the mold society created that enforced a parental authority and a demanding education. By 1967, it was said that an average of 20,000 kids were dropping out of school each year (Anderson 130). This had a startling impact on parents who no longer were able to control their own children. Their children began to think more critically and question figures of authority, including their parents (Cavallo 6).

The followers of the counter culture movement did not show interest in having a job or a financially stable future. A job would demand a structured, daily schedule: something they did not want to have, and the purpose of having a job was to collect money: something they did not wish to have. They wished to have a simple, antimaterialistic lifestyle (Anderson 142). As the movement became larger and brought in more followers, the more this became a problem for the country, due to the large population of people living on the streets without jobs, having babies, and still demanding necessities such as food, water, and clothing.

The counter culture movement strongly supported the act of experimentation. The idea of using experimental drugs freely and commonly was accepted and used throughout the people. Marijuana was one of the most common drugs used by the hippies because it was cheap, easy to get, and gave the person a desired high. Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) was another drug that was used commonly among the hippies for the drug came in pill form that changed the person’s thought, mood, and perception for a good eight to twelve hours (McWilliams 67).

The hippies were not a goal-orientated group of people. Since they didn’t believe in worrying about the events the future would bestow on them, they didn’t need to set goals. They lived in the present and chose to act peacefully and inactive at that time. They believed in doing their own thing, which was the basic idea of the movement, and they did not choose to have appointed leadership among themselves, for they were all equal and not one individual was going to rise above the rest.

“Their unwritten golden rule was, ‘Be nice to others, even when provoked, and they will be nice to you’ (McWilliams 66).

This idea of “living in the now” and not getting ahead in life was not ideal for the common American who wanted to strive for greatness and success. The new ideas for the counter culture movement surprised and frightened American society.

Imagine, by John Lennon is a song that illustrates the ideas and values of the counter culture movement. His free and dreamy words were believed to be true by any hippie. The relaxed attitude, nonviolent protests, and yearning for peace and love were all things the counter culture movement believed in, John Lennon included, which he demonstrates in his lyrics.

“Imagine there’s no heaven/ It’s easy if you try/ No hell below us/ Above us only sky/ Imagine all the people/ Living for today…” (Lennon).

The beginning of the lyrics illustrates the counter culture movement’s idea of throwing out the idea of heaven and hell, focusing more on the study of astrology. Lennon images people living in the now, ignoring thoughts of the future. It gives the reader a sense of peace and comfort for it eliminates the idea of a higher power, meaning either God or the devil, and abolishes the fear of this higher power people may feel inside themselves. Now the people can live for themselves for they would no longer have someone to answer to.

“Imagine there’s no countries/ It isn’t hard to do/ Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion too/ Imagine all the people/ Living life in peace…” (Lennon).

The second part of the lyrics describe the importance of not becoming a conformist that lives the life the government wants them to do. It takes you to a place where young men no longer have to go to war and die for a country that chooses to make war over peace. It again mentions the idea of a non-religion society. The lyrics produce images of freedom inside the listener’s head.

“You may say I’m a dreamer/ But I’m not the only one/ I hope someday you’ll join us/ And the world will be as one” (Lennon).

This collection is urging the listeners to come and join the people of the counter culture movement. This welcomes the listeners open heartedly and gives them images of unity within the world.

“Imagine no possessions/ I wonder if you can/ No need for greed or hunger/ A brotherhood of man/ Imagine all the people/ Sharing all the world…” (Lennon).

This preaches the unimportance of materialistic goods, which was one of the main concerns of the hippies. Altruism is introduced at this time and Lennon imagines a world without “a need for greed or hunger.” He imagines people sharing all the world, instead of just looking out for yourself. At this time, the listener is beginning to warm up to the song and its message, for “sharing all the world” sounds pretty inviting and intriguing.

“You may say I’m a dreamer/ But I’m not the only one/ I hope someday you’ll join us/ And the world will be as one” (Lennon).

The ending again invites the listener to join Lennon and the rest of these people to come together and live in peace and harmony, as a dreamer. No longer are the every day worries part of your life, for you have become a “dreamer” and your troubles have washed away.

The counter culture movement: a revolution in itself that changed the lives of many Americans and altered their thoughts to pull them away from the conformist attitude America thrived on at the time. People were influenced to break away from the mold society created for them and live their lives the way they wanted to; the way they weren’t supposed to. New artists preached these new ideas in their work, making the transition even more appealing to the people. The music, the people, and the new dreams forever changed the people of America and influenced them to seek out their own future and to never settle for what you’re supposed to settle for. Life is a journey, and as a person it’s you’re right to travel on your journey any way you see desirable.

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