The Youth Movement, Counterculture, and Anti-War Protests

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Why Did The Hippie Movement Start

Hippies - why did the movement start?

Im writing a paper on the hippie movement, I'm analyzing what reason there were for the movement to start.

Any useful inputs would be appreciated :)

Thanks

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The hippie movement coincided with the escalation of the Cold War. Many young people had a fatalistic attitude about the future. And it was strictly a young people's movement. They expected a nuclear holocaust that would destroy civilization, if it didn't in fact annihilate all life on the planet. The Americans and the Soviets were stockpiling atomic weapons in what seemed like a suicidal arms race. And then the Chinese Communists developed their own atomic weapons. It seemed only logical that these missiles and bombs would eventually be used. There had never been a time when nations engaged in arms buildups and mobilization and then didn't go to war. Many people were building bomb shelters in their backyards. Many were fleeing from the cities to the suburbs, hoping to put at least a little distance between themselves and the prime targets. Everybody knew that Vietnam was just one theater of the Cold War. The Communists could start such wars all over the world because there was so much poverty and Communism promised a solution. The hippies were opposed to the state of eternal war that seemed to be threatening the world. They wanted to opt out of the madness that seemed to be gripping humanity. They were not in sympathy with the Communists, but they were not in sympathy with their own government either. They believed that something positive could be done if their leaders really wanted to. Eventually the young people forced the American government to get out of Vietnam, where it had no business being in the first place. The so-called "Domino Effect" did not occur. The world is far from being stabilized yet, and there are still plenty of atomic missiles in good working condition, many of them in new locations such as North Vietnam, Israel, and Pakistan.

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Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I agree with most of what has been said in the posts above, particularly that the hippie movement was part of a "perfect storm" of desire for social and political reform following the end of WWII and the materialistic 1950s. One of the things that led to the movement was the fact that the 50s seemed like a prosperous time and yet racism was still rampant, making it hypocritical to say this was a "good time" in American history. I think, out of that complacency, a frustration emerged from a growing dissatisfaction with sluggish social progress even in the wake of increasing technological process. So, some people in America were benefiting during the decades running up to the hippie movement, but many weren't. This is a recipe for a social movement/revolution. 

I would only add that the anti-war movement was incredibly significant, as it has already been said. Remember that there was a draft, a mandatory enlistment to fight in the war. The hippie movement raged against this idea of the government forcing young people to fight in a war they felt was totally unjustified. So, the movement was against the war which was American imperialism abroad, but also domestically (McCarthyism occurring in the 1950s). 

The hippie movement gets a bad rap sometimes because, to some, it was an escape, a happy-go-lucky lifestyle. It was that for some, but many hippies were aligned with groups like the Black Panthers and the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), militant groups who were very serious about instigating social reforms. 

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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For many young people, joining the hippies was simply easier than working, being responsible and chaste--it was fun. They could smoke marijuana everyday and walk around the college campus as they dodged the draft into the Vietnam War wearing their blue glasses while mimicking the revolting group, spouting phrases, listening to Jim Morrison and the Doors  or other "head" songs ad nauseum, etc. Indeed, there were many "hippies" who fit this profile and really did not have the ideology of the true Hippies. 

The 1960s was a period in which more young people attended college than ever before. With closet Communist professors in the universities, these students were...

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