Youth: The Hippies

  • Share
  • Read Later


(See Cover)

One sociologist calls them "the Freudian proletariat." Another observer sees them as "expatriates living on our shores but beyond our society." Historian Arnold Toynbee describes them as "a red warning light for the American way of life." For California's Bishop James Pike, they evoke the early Christians: "There is something about the temper and quality of these people, a gentleness, a quietness, an interest—something good." To their deeply worried parents throughout the country, they seem more like dangerously deluded dropouts, candidates for a very sound spanking and a cram course in civics—if only they would return home to receive either.

Whatever their meaning and wherever they may be headed, the hippies have emerged on the U.S. scene in about 18 months as a wholly new subculture, a bizarre permutation of the middle-class American ethos from which it evolved. Hippies preach altruism and mysticism, honesty, joy and nonviolence. They find an almost childish fascination in beads, blossoms and bells, blinding strobe lights and ear-shattering music, exotic clothing and erotic slogans. Their professed aim is nothing less than the subversion of Western society by "flower power" and force of example.

Although that sounds like a pipe-dream, it conveys the unreality that permeates hippiedom, a cult whose mystique derives essentially from the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. The hippies have popularized a new word, psychedelic, which the Random House

Dictionary of English Language defines as: "Of or noting a mental state of great calm, intensely pleasureful perception of the senses, esthetic entrancement and creative impetus; of or noting any of the group of drugs producing this effect." With those drugs has come the psychedelic philosophy, an impassioned belief in the self-revealing, mind-expanding powers of potent weeds and seeds and chemical compounds known to man since prehistory but wholly alien to the rationale of Western society. Unlike other accepted stimuli, from nicotine to liquor, the hallucinogens promise those who take the "trip" a magic-carpet escape from reality in which perceptions are heightened, senses distorted, and the imagination permanently bedazzled with visions of Ideological verity.

Hashish Trail. From this promise, possibly more exciting—and more dangerous—than any adventure offered by travel agents, was born the cult of hippiedom. Its disciples, who have little use for definitions, are mostly young and generally thoughtful Americans who are unable to reconcile themselves to the stated values and implicit contradictions of contemporary Western society, and have become internal emigres, seeking individual liberation through means as various as drug use, total withdrawal from the economy and the quest for individual identity.

Only last year, many sociologists and psychiatrists dismissed the hippie hegira with a verbal flick of the wrist. The use of mind-changing drugs such as LSD, said National Institute of Mental Health Director Stanley Yolles in 1966, was a fad, "like goldfish swallowing." City officials blandly waited for the hippies to go away; indeed, a year ago they had established scarcely half a dozen inchoate colonies in the U.S.

Today, hippie enclaves are blooming in

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. 8
  10. 9
  11. 10